Your Home Can Be the Star of an Online Show

Your Home Can Be the Star of an Online Show

By ANNE EISENBERG

November 11, 2007

IF you’re shopping for a new
home, it’s easy to take a virtual stroll through the ranch house at 640
Hobart Avenue, San Mateo, Calif., asking price $1,049,000. The house
has its own Web site, complete with a soundtrack (www.640hobart.com).
Click on it and a real estate agent welcomes you in the voiceover, as
crisp digital photographs of the sunny rooms flow past on the screen,
with each photo neatly dovetailed to the narration.


A house in San Mateo, Calif., was sold within a week after its own Web
site was posted, using the VizzVox service to create a smoothly
narrated tour.

The commercial may make you want to move in instantly. But, too bad,
that house is sold. Joanne Norris, an agent at Alain Pinel Realtors in
Burlingame, Calif., who created and narrated the commercial, found a
buyer within a week of advertising it that way. She sold another house,
too, within a few days of posting a Web commercial, despite an overall
slowdown in the local housing market.

To make the commercials, Mrs. Norris used a new Web-based service, VizzVox (www.vizzvox.com).
For $149 a year, VizzVox offers a package that includes domain name
registration for the property, hosting of the commercial on the Web
site for a year, and the use of the Web-based software that lets real
estate agents create the presentation.

“It’s an affordable way to make and distribute commercials,” said
Robert W. Beth, co-founder and chief executive of VizzVox. “We think
this is an opportunity for individuals to create ads and level the
playing field with big companies.”

Real estate agents who use the service upload digital photographs
and video clips to the VizzVox site, turn on a microphone and talk
about the selling points of the home and the neighborhood. After they
describe each visual, software smoothly stitches together the images
and narrative. The program has a remix feature, so that agents can
create variations on each commercial, including views of dog parks for
one prospective buyer, and local schools for another. The presentations
can be made and viewed both on Macs and PCs, preferably with broadband
connections. Traffic is driven to the site with signs, ads and real
estate listings.

Drew Neisser, chief executive of Renegade Marketing in Manhattan,
who is in the business of inventive online marketing and Web site
development himself, was intrigued with the service. “It’s extremely
cost effective,” he said. He looked at two VizzVox commercials and
liked them: “They told a lovely story about each home — I was ready at
the end to call my wife and tell her we were moving to San Mateo.”

The service may provide an attractive alternative to more
complicated and expensive approaches used to sell homes, like
high-definition video or 360-degree panoramic photos. Creating a
high-quality video is fairly expensive. Mike Raspatello, director of
marketing at Richter Studios in Chicago, which does videos for real
estate brokers, said the cost for a three-minute high-definition video
of a single home typically ran $6,000 to $15,000.

Mr. Neisser says the VizzVox commercials “are a convenient way to
get a quick and reasonably accurate tour.” But however attractive some
of the commercials may be, he said, he doesn’t think do-it-yourself
programs like VizzVox are a threat to more traditional marketing
services.

“The problem with a technology like this is that you are putting
semiprofessional tools in the hands of an amateur,” he said. “One of
the reasons folks like us are still in business is that we are
professional storytellers. I can’t imagine that your average real
estate agent has the quality of voice and ability to draft a narrative
that is compelling and interesting.”

To meet that challenge, VizzVox offers professional production
assistance. For example, real estate agents can provide images and
notes on a property, and VizzVox will produce a script and a voiceover
artist to read it for $120.

In additional to real estate programs, VizzVox also sells a general
service for $149 a year that lets individuals create presentations,
store them on a company server and display them by way of a link.
Parents, for example, might use the service to create a narrative
celebrating the birth of a child. Artists might show off their
portfolios, and business owners might create commercials about their
products. Links to the presentations can be placed anywhere on the Web,
pasted into a MySpace page, for instance, or at the end of e-mail messages.

Another VizzVox service lets individuals create up to 10
presentations free at its site, but their creations will be shown with
ads: after the slide show, for instance, there may be an ad asking
viewers to shop at an online retailer.

ANOTHER new San Francisco company, Goldmail, at www.goldmail.com,
also hopes to increase the value of e-mail and Web pages by adding a
soundtrack to them. “This is a simple way to bring messages to life by
adding your voice to anything you send or post to the Internet,” said
Guy Longworth, the chief executive.

Goldmail programs can be created on PCs but not on Macs. Both types
of machines, however, can be used for viewing. Users must install
Goldmail software.

Goldmail is intended to be easy to use, Mr. Longworth said: “It’s
meant to be as simple as e-mail — but your voice adds another dimension
to the message.”

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