Join QuantumDigital’s CMO Eric Cosway as he interviews Ben Bacal, founder of Roofshoot. Roofshoot’s mission is to make it easy and affordable for real estate agents to shoot video. Since entering the real estate business in 2005, Ben has the distinction of listing the most expensive property in U.S. history at $250 million. As a former film student, with a passion for creating content, Ben saw the need for a fast, simple solution that would make it possible for any agent, regardless of skill level, to produce high-quality videos to enhance their personal profiles and promote themselves as experts in their respective neighborhoods.
Eric: Ben, welcome to the podcast. Can you tell us a little bit more about Roofshoot and what you folks do?
Ben: I’ve been in the business since 2005. I was really an average agent in my office until I started shooting video. Because of all my video branding and marketing, I can say today I’ve sold almost $2 billion worth of residential real estate. And, I have the most expensive home listed in the United States for $250 million. This was really as a result of shooting video. What we discovered was that 73% of home sellers are more likely to list with an agent who offers to market their home or property using video, and 86% of consumers are wanting to watch community content about the areas they want to move into during the home process search. Obviously 92% of home buyers go on the Internet first. So, with all these amazing statistics, why isn’t every agent shooting video? Well, because it’s expensive and agents really just don’t know where to start. That’s essentially why we created Roofshoot. We make it affordable and easy for every agent in the United States to shoot amazing videos from their phone… then I can explain the templates and so forth.
Eric: You’re in high-end real estate in Beverly Hills. Is there a correlation that typically high-end properties… you need that video media to really tell the story?
Ben: It’s not just high-end. As much as I do homes that are $3 million to $250 million, I’m selling homes with my team that are 500… $200,000 condos, and million dollar assets all the time. All these sellers are asking… they want video because it’s evergreen and it lasts on the Internet. The more content, the more you put out there on the Internet, the more you’re going to notice. It’s kind of a no-brainer. Three-fourths of all Internet traffic in 2017 is from video. YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet. There are amazing tools on YouTube pre-roll, which we do on Roofshoot. You shoot a video on Roofshoot—a listing video. You don’t need to have a listing to use the app. For instance, I branded myself as a neighborhood expert, and the reason why I became successful is because I did more than just put it on a park bench, or send a flyer out or a mailer. I went out and shot video that said “I am the purveyor of all the best schools, all the best restaurants, all the best coffee shops.” I shot those videos, you go on Google, “I want to buy a house in the zip code of 90210”, or the few zip codes I focus on, and they see my videos of me being the purveyor of great things in that neighborhood. And they go, “Ben’s an expert. Ben also does neighborhood videos,” which is a template on the app that explains why this area is valuable, and I give specific prompts and reasons, so it shows my area expertise. And, all those videos you shoot on the app automatically go to the Roofshoot marketplace, where you have a profile video, and you can share those videos all over the world. And we also give you the ability to download those videos, so we’re not holding you hostage and saying “You need to be in our system.” Download the videos and push them to all your social media. That’s what you need to do. I always tell agents “You’re more than just an agent—you are a media company. You need to get out there and show everybody that you are a media company, which means you need to be producing content.” And producing content isn’t easy. All these technologies—Instagram, Facebook, Roofshoot—it doesn’t (do the) work for you. You’ve got to put in the hard work. And I always tell agents out there “Look, this business is hard. You need to get out there—put your shoes on, door knock, go meet people, prospect—pick the one or two things that you’re really good at. I was really good at door knocking. I literally burned the rubber on the bottom of my soles in Venice Beach. I knocked on doors in 2005, and said “Hey, I’ve got a buyer. I’ve got a buyer. I’ve got a buyer.” One out of 100 doors said yes, I got that deal, and then I wasn’t bogged down with the details of the contract. I learned that I’m a rainmaker, and I need to keep on bringing deals. That’s prospecting. Prospecting is what every agent needs to do, but then the whole other part of it—if you want to have longevity in your career—you’ve got to brand yourself. You’ve got to put yourself out there. There’s no better way to do that than with video. Because, first thing, it’s free. Second thing, it’s viral—you can push that content. For example, door knocking, I meet 20, 30 or 100 people, or I go to an event, or an open house—which is all something we should be doing, don’t stop doing that—but if you shoot a video once a week, or hopefully once a day, that video at the end of the week got maybe 500 views or 1,000 views.
Eric: It sounds like video allows your personality to come through as well. You started in real estate when you were 24, and you’ve been very successful. Tell me more about the merger of video and real estate. How did that come to fruition, to use both your passions and skills, but just apply it to the real estate market?
Ben: I went to film school, and I learned about the business of entertainment. And I realized really quickly, I need to make money. So, I became a Realtor—to make money to get back into… to make movies. But, I’ve just got a love for the art of the deal and doing business. But what I really figured out was “Wow! What if I could blend entertainment and real estate together?” And, there’s no better way than to show it with video. So, I figured if we can create really entertaining videos, let’s do that. I was the first guy to actually use a drone in one of my videos. First ever, in all of Los Angeles. I did a drone video and I got 20,000 hits. And everyone… obviously, drones became really huge. Then I started shooting videos with crews, and it cost anywhere from $1,000 to $12,000. Then I post those videos and some of them would go viral, because I had this $70 million house I sold to the Minecraft guy. That went viral, obviously. But then I would shoot a video with a crew for $2,000 to $3,000 to $5,000, and then I shot a video with just my iPhone—in selfie mode with me giving a tour of the property—and I A/B tested both of them on the Google display networks. And I saw that my video that I used with just my iPhone, before Roofshoot came out. It literally got the same amount of traction. I got the same amount of views. In fact, some of them got more views when I was in the video. And even when I kind of messed up and I wasn’t so confident—now I’m really good, it’s like a muscle, you’ve got to work it. The more I shot, the more I got better. But even the ones where I messed up in the video—explaining the opportunity of the property, the neighborhood or the cool spots, or my agent profile video—the more views I got. People like the authenticity.
Eric: Ben, the moment you found out you could do this in an affordable way, via your phone, was that the “a-ha” moment for Roofshoot? Is that what really spawned the idea of creating an app that makes this really simple?
Ben: Exactly. Because, I’d go home and I’d edit this. And I’m taking 2 hours to edit these videos, find the music, put the title in. An I was just like, “What if I had an in-app experience where literally it said: Talk here, give a brief description of the home, shoot a walkthrough, shoot 5 seconds of what you just talked about?” Same thing with an agent profile video—an agent profile video is what every agent needs. Basically, instead of having a business card you give to everybody, you send a video about yourself, and your experience, that says “For 25 seconds, give us a little experience about yourself.” Then, it says “Go get 3 testimonials.” You literally take your camera, put it in landscape position, and you tell the seller or buyer “Hey, will you just please tell me how great I was during this transaction?” Nine times out of 10—or 100%—they’re going to give you a great testimonial. And what better of a testimonial than to have it on video? And then you put that into the app. So yes, exactly, that was my “a-ha” moment. It was really the fact that, I can’t just be sitting here and editing video anymore. I need an easy, neat platform to shoot it. But then, I had to figure out “Where do I put it?” What I do is use YouTube, but YouTube is like millions of dog and cat… there’s every video in the world. I want this to be a platform just to promote Realtors and their business. So, agents can really explode and really embrace their career, and that… power of their career, by showing their personality, and who they are, and why they add value to their customer. So, not only did we create the Roofshoot app, we created the Roofshoot marketplace. It’s like an MLS for video. You have your agent profile video, you can add videos all the time, you can share them wherever you go. And the most important thing here? Two things I’m going to tell you: One is, the more content you put in a given zip code, the more we promote you. So, like I’m at Zillow, which is awesome—you need to pay to play. You’ve got to buy zip codes. On Roofshoot, the more content you put up, the more we advertise you. And, most importantly, what we did is we decided to give it away for free. We’re basically spending a million dollars this quarter coming up when we launch. Any agent in the valuable zip codes, the more content they put on, we’re going to be driving traffic to them on all the 500 million Google-approved websites, and Facebook, and YouTube—we’re going to be driving traffic to them as promotion for the company.
Eric: Is that where video is going to go in this industry? Giving more of a broad brush of zip codes and communities?
Ben: Exactly. Buyers—86% of homeowners, buyers—want to view community content before they’re looking for properties. So, what better third-person edification would it be from a Realtor who’s an expert in the area. And to shoot those videos with that template, or a cool spot, which is like you go to a restaurant and shoot a cool spot “This is my favorite restaurant. This is why I like this restaurant. This is why I like this school. This is why I like this park. This is why I like this beach. This neighborhood is going up in value because x, y, and z. And I foresee the future of this being this, because you’re going to make money here. And this house just sold for a million or $300,000, and then it’s traded again for $50,000, and here’s why.” And then when people are looking on a map, they’ll see that video from you. And they’ll see that home they’re interested in. And then, they’ll see all the community content around that home, brought to you by that trusted Realtor. And that Realtor who puts up more content is obviously going to get more exposure and get more business. It’s either you’re out there door knocking or meeting people, or you’re shooting video, or hopefully you’re doing both.
Eric: Is there a question you get asked over and over again, of agents who are new to video, and are just getting their feet wet?
Ben: They ask me how long should the videos be… the app tells you exactly what to do. So, literally, you can do it for 30 seconds or a maximum of 2 minutes. It tells you exactly where to talk, and how long to talk for. You can come back and you could cut the clips down, or re-edit it. And it actually just edits for you. It does the whole thing. It picks out a title. You can pick out fonts. You can make it really unique. And what I do—I just got a listing for $24 million, and now instead of using a crew to shoot the video, I literally just use the Roofshoot app to shoot the listing. I up my game a bit, and I got a little handheld Steadicam that my iPhone goes into, and it cost me $250. And I’ll shoot the b-roll with the Steadicam, and then I’ll do selfie stick to shoot my audio parts because I’m close to the camera. And I will actually just get a drone shot. I’ll spend $50, and I’ll get a guy to come out with a drone, go in the air, give me one shot. And then there’s a plus button on the timeline where you can add in exterior shots from your camera roll. So, you just get your drone guy to send you a DropBox and download it to your camera roll, then upload it right to your profile video. And my client for the $24 million house, 3 days ago, was like “Wow! I saw your video on YouTube. My friend sent it to me. I can’t believe you already got 2,500 views. It’s amazing!” And that video cost me nothing! It was free.
Eric: Sounds like you’ve really embedded those tips, and those templates, and that process in your application, where you don’t really have to think this through. Those best practices are already embedded for you.
Ben: There’s tutorials for each template, all set up for you. The hard work is you going out and actually shooting the videos, just like the hard work is prospecting, and getting out there, and meeting people. You’ve got to push against the world in order to get business. You’ve got to put yourself out there. I look at it as—when I fly into the city of Los Angeles from a different city, like I come into LA and see all the city lights, I see all those homes below me—I see them all as dollar signs and opportunities. How do I get to all those people the quickest way? And, honestly video is the wave of the future. Virtual reality hasn’t been there yet, but it’s going to be at some point. I think it’s just a little too dizzy, the process of it. But I do think, one day, it’ll be there. I’d love to be a part of that. We’re going to be. Most importantly, by the way, we made this for free. We decided to give this away for free, so if you put in “LOR” as your promo code… if you go to Roofshoot.com and put “LOR” we will send you the app for free, and you can use it for free when we launch in a month.
Eric: In closing, here’s a couple of quick questions for you. If you were to create a slogan for your life…
Ben: Never stop, never give up! That’s it.
Eric: What would be the greatest lessons you’ve learned over the years, that are just now part of your daily routine? What would those lessons be?
Ben: My lesson would be “You’re only as good as your last sale.” You are a rainmaker. Don’t get caught up in the details. Go get more business. Don’t chase people that aren’t real. Focus on converting real, genuine sellers and buyers. When you get a listing or you sell a property, don’t get into the minutiae of the deal. You’ve got to go out there and use that deal to go get other deals. Leverage. Another big thing is, if you’re a newer agent, I would strongly consider teaming up with a top producer. You don’t necessarily even have to join their team, you just have to say “Look, if I bring you a potential seller, would you join me on that meeting to getting that listing?” Of course, they’re going to say yes. You’re going to share that 50/50. You’re just leveraging their success to get in the door, then you can watch what they do and learn. And then, you’ll shoot a video before you sell it, you’ll promote it, you’ll promote area content, which is what we’re talking about, and that will get them out there. And then, if they keep on doing that, eventually they can just do it on their own.
Eric: That’s great coaching. Here’s another question for you, as you say that. What do you think your greatest accomplishment has been to date?
Ben: The biggest one was getting the most expensive listing in the history of the United States. It’s pretty amazing. We got a couple of offers, too. So, it’s incredible. That’s my biggest accomplishment. And another big accomplishment, I feel, it’s so simple, the fact that buyers and sellers are now calling me to list their property out of the blue, is really cool. When you get to a point in your business where… I’m still prospecting. When I go and show a property, if a buyer is late or a seller says I’ve got to wait for an hour, I’ll go up and down the street and go introduce myself to people. Every opportunity is an opportunity. Did that answer the question for you?
Eric: Yeah, you did. And I’m just thinking about relationships and doing it. As I close off our podcast, there’s a lot of future millennial entrepreneurs in the real estate industry who want to want to build something or start something new. What would your coaching be to them?
Ben: Are they building their real estate business?
Eric: Yeah, or they’re looking at an app that fills a gap in the industry or they want to build some technology out. So, you’re not only a Realtor practitioner, you’re also a technology… you’ve won a couple of awards at Inman, Realogy awards… so, you’re really a tech trendsetter. Someone who wants to mimic that, and also let’s say, create an app. What would your coaching be?
Ben: I guess really find out what’s missing in the marketplace that you can’t find anywhere else. And also, entrepreneurs, they’ll say things like “Oh, if we can just get 1% of that entire demographic, we’ll make a killing.” It’s not about that. Also, you have to learn how to pivot and move. So, if you go out there and test your product, if it’s not working you’ve got to change it and be nimble, and move quickly. If you’re not in the real estate industry, how can you really make an app for it? You’ve got to be in the business to really understand it. That’s why I built this. Because I really built it for myself, because I know it works. I’m making millions of dollars every year. And really, genuinely, it’s because I go out there and do the hard work of shooting content, and pushing it out there. I’ve decided to build this, give it away for free. And, you know, it’ll come back to me somehow.
Eric: I’m sure it will. Listen, what a pleasure, Ben, getting to know you better. I really sense your passion for both real estate and technology, and certainly for video. I want to thank you for your time today, and good luck with Roofshoot in the balance of 2017.
Ben: Thank you so much! And remember “LOR”—go to Roofshoot.com and put in “LOR” as your promo code and we’ll get you the app for free.
Eric: We’ll pass that on. Thanks, Ben.
Ben: Thank you so much! Bye for now.