Real estate broker Gémma Leggett often produces videos for clients to help sell their homes, but her latest effort has gone above and beyond anything she’s tried before. For a recent listing – a luxury property in Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ontario – she hired actors, a videographer (with a drone) and even secured a luxury car for a cameo role.
The four-bedroom home had previously been on the market for a number of months and didn’t sell, so Leggett knew she was facing a bit of a challenge. “Being the second agent I needed to shake things up and do things differently,” says the Re/Max Hallmark York Group Realty broker.
Her method involved finding a creative way to showcase not just the house but the lifestyle and the neighbourhood that comes with it. And she was prepared to invest her own money in the process in the belief that “failure was not a possibility.
“I wanted to show a couple in a beautiful house, something cosy but luxurious too,” says Leggett. Her goal was to make “a big impact,” hence the appearance of the Lamborghini.
“I wanted her (the actress playing the homeowner) to come home in that car. I wanted to convey rich and famous.”
The visual garnered attention, including some pointed comments. “Some people said, ‘What are you selling, the car or the woman?’ But I’m sorry to say, sex sells as well. Showing her legs coming out of the car, I wanted that to happen. It got attention.”
The video, which runs just over three minutes, also includes a few eye-catching aerial shots of the 5,000-square-foot home, which sits on 1.238 acres. In another scene, a couple (she chose mixed race actors to reflect Toronto’s population) can be seen cosying up on the couch.
Leggett says her client was happy with the result. A previous video of the home – which she described as a “standard walk-through” had garnered only 140 views, while her production, she says, received 2,000 views within the first two days and climbed to more than 9,000 views by June 9, three weeks after it was posted on YouTube. By week two, it also brought eight showings and one offer, which Leggett considers particularly good, considering we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
The property sold conditionally with multiple offers and has now reached more than 10,000 views.
There were a few hurdles to overcome along the way, though. The original plan was to hire a company to organize the entire production, but when COVID-19 arrived, the marketing agency backed out and Leggett decided to organize the shoot herself.
Using a combination of previous contacts in the acting community, as well as social media, she managed to get much of what she needed, though she wasn’t sure where to find a luxury car. Placing a query on her brokerage’s Facebook page got a response from a colleague whose partner had a dealership and was able to help out.
Then, when everything seemed to be in place, she learned rain was forecast for the day of the shoot, so she busily rescheduled with all the participants. With a bit of luck she still managed to put it all together within a week.
Leggett essentially acted as both producer and director. This included sharing her vision with the videographer and telling the actors what she wanted from them in each scene. Leggett herself has appeared in previous videos but she says she prefers to hire actors, despite the additional expense because “the result is better.”
And what did all this cost? Leggett says it was $9,000. That includes fees associated with the video, as well as home staging, Matterport (the 3D capture platform) and marketing and advertising.
She had the listing for five months. Her contract with the homeowner stipulated that if the property didn’t sell or they changed their mind about selling in the next two or three months, Leggett would be reimbursed 75 per cent of incurred expenses. That could still have set her back financially, but she sees it as the cost of doing business.
For Leggett, getting a listing involves much more than simply putting a for sale sign on a lawn. She begins by asking herself a few questions: What are you selling, what is your vision? She goes beyond strictly focusing on the property. “You’re not buying a house, you’re buying a lifestyle, a neighbourhood, parks, restaurants, schools,” she says.
“The first question I ask the current owner is, ‘Why did you buy the house, what did you love about it?’” she says. “If I understand what you like, what the kids like about the school, anything that excites them, I want to know that, because I want to get the buyer excited about those things.”
Not surprisingly, a different approach is needed for each property. Last year Leggett listed a home that had nothing particularly notable about it, so she decided to film the opening shot of her video at a nearby beach. “I thought I need to sell the lifestyle. The house was three minutes from the beach, so I started with a shot at Innisfil Beach Park, then after that everything can be done in the house. You’re buying location.”
In another recent video promoting a century home, she hired actors to portray a multi-generational family scene with grandparents interacting with their grandchildren. “I look at the property, a century home, and say, ‘Who do I want to attract?’ In that case an older couple,” she says.
Her videos, which often feature someone living in the home, do not typically contain any dialogue.
Leggett is also a big fan of using drones but only to film properties on ravines or with acreage.
And she believes it’s important to show the property as it is without enhancements. “I try to show everything. I don’t want them (potential buyers) to be surprised. I want transparency,” she says, adding that she asks photographers not to use Photoshop. “I don’t want to hear people say it looked better in the picture.’”
Leggett says she thinks all agents should incorporate lifestyle marketing into their listings. “If I sell you an experience, you can envision yourself in the home. If I see a three-bedroom home, who cares? I sell the experience you have in the home.”
Is it worth all the effort? “I believe it or I wouldn’t do it,” says Leggett. “It separates me from my competitors, and my clients really like it and I believe I’m giving a better experience to my clients and the buyers.”
For a recent listing, Leggett made a video showing her children enjoying the home, playing in the backyard and at a nearby pond. It was designed to help sell the house, but as often happens, it attracts new clients.
When REM last spoke with Leggett she was just getting into her vehicle. “I’m going to an appointment now to meet someone who called me after seeing the video I did with my kids.”