Real estate films could be next trend in Hong Kong luxury property market, as US sellers turn to moviemaking

Some agents in America are now spending thousands of dollars to produce extravagant films with storylines and characters to entice buyers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 August, 2017, 5:15pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 August, 2017, 6:02pm

A woman in black lingerie writhes on a bed. Another woman, almost naked save for a couple of nipple patches, a G-string and a layer of gold body paint, watches her. Outside, more women frolic in a pool. They drape themselves over a Lamborghini, and pose with bottles of champagne, but this is not an ad for a car or alcohol.

The unapologetically suggestive three-minute video is intercut with shots of a spacious, immaculately decorated home. It is this US$100 million house named Opus that is being advertised.

Built by developer Nile Niami, the 20,000 square feet home has made news not just for being the priciest house in Beverly Hills, but also for its provocative video, which, according to its Los Angeles-based producer Alexander Ali, has racked up some 1.5 million views across social media.

“We did it this way because sex sells,” says Ali, CEO and founder of The Society Group. “And we used sex because it’s a sexy property.”

These productions have become the latest tool in the arsenal of real estate brokers, developers and sellers of luxury homes in the US. They have storylines and characters. They can cost anywhere from US$5,000 to $50,000 – often funded by the brokers holding the listing. They are intended not just to showcase the specifics of a house – scope, views, amenities – but to convey an idealised lifestyle.

“We like to shoot videos for about 85 per cent of our listings,” says Eric Lavey, managing director of real estate company The Agency. Lavey believes he was at the forefront of the trend, making one of the first of these videos in 2011.

Among his latest creations, is a film showcasing a 11,000 sq ft home in California’s Palm Desert known as the Gucci House (built by the fashion family). The 90-second film shows the house being readied for a viewing – sculptures are polished and tennis balls are picked up from the on-site court. The visual then switches to the drive to the house, which some prospective buyers deemed as “too far from town”.

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“It’s not a negative,” Lavey says. “We decided to accentuate the drive, which is the road that every sports car company shoots its fancy commercials on.” A sophisticated woman driving an Aston Martin speeds up the road to the house – and then the video fades. Lavey and his team hold back on showing more than that, amping up the anticipation.

“You want people to root for the property before they walk in the door,” he says.

Lavey believes that videos have become the most important way of marketing a home.

It’s the best way to get a house out there. Videos are taking over the internet.
Shane Stanfield

“We are presenting probably the most expensive thing someone will purchase in their lifetime,” Lavey says. “[Real estate] videos have become more highly produced, intricate and complicated. It’s impactful and the best way to elicit an emotion. Everyone should be doing them.”

Real estate videos may be popular in the US market, but elsewhere the practice still seems like it is in its early days. In Hong Kong, homes worth hundreds of millions of dollars have very little video marketing, except for some stills strung together. Things might be starting to shift, though. A new development at Tsuen Wan has been given the full video treatment. Marketing for Cheung Kong Properties’ Ocean Pride development includes a two-minute clip showing floating bubbles, raindrops and attractive people moving around the city in slow motion.

Not only does it cost a lot to make, but the videos also take time. Stanfield Real Estate and Sotheby’s International in California, recently produced a video for a US$14 million Laguna Beach home. It took two days to shoot because the production team wanted the right light to capture the sunset.

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In the video a woman emerges from a sports car within the house’s automated garage, puts her expensive bag on a gleaming kitchen counter, and uses all the fancy tech features in the house while pouring herself a glass of wine. Finally, the camera pans to the glorious sunset and the 5,300 sq ft home.

“A lot of it comes down to creativity and what you put out into the market,” says Shane Stanfield, the broker who put the film together. “We like to focus on the property itself so people aren’t just looking at an actor or actress. But there are a lot of moving parts: music, time-lapse technology, drone cameras, a script.”

So, does it make a difference in how quickly the house sells? Ali says he was contacted by buyers from Russia and China after they saw the Opus video. Stanfield says the Laguna Beach property is now being looked at by “tech-savvy” international buyers who first saw the property via the film.

“It’s the best way to get a house out there,” says Stanfield. “Videos are taking over the internet.”