It’s no longer glossy photographs splashed across double-spread magazines that are a rage with home-sellers or buyers. As the home-buying season gets underway in the US, drones may be a more common sight above homes about to go on the market. More and more real estate professionals are turning to drone photography and videos to better market their listings. In August 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration loosened its restrictions on the use of drones. Drone pilots no longer need an FAA pilot’s license—just a remote pilot certificate that costs about $150—and drones are now approved for commercial use. That has opened them up to a host of industries, but they’re especially appealing to real estate pros. More than ever, real estate professionals are now relying on unmanned flying machines to set their listings apart from the competition. Up until now, drone photos and videos frequently showed up on listings for mansions and properties in spectacular locations. But soon they’ll be showing up in listings for middle-class homes too.
Some experts say drones are just the thing to rise above the competition. Surveyors and civil engineers are beginning to take drone use very seriously, using it more and more for asset inspection work on properties, roofs, chimneys, power lines, pipelines, railways, bridges and anywhere normal access is restricted, time-consuming and dangerous.
In Florida, at least two or three times a month, out-of-state prospective buyers hire professionals who work with drones to shoot photos and videos of properties they are interested in. It’s a way for them to see a piece of property without getting on a plane and going there. The footage is sent to the prospective buyer without having ever met them in person. It is also a good way to tour an 80-acre property on a humid 90-degree day without having to walk all around. Home inspectors also hire drone photographers to assess damage to a roof four storeys high.
The use of drone services is also giving senior housing developers a new way to oversee construction, improve investor relations and boost marketing efforts. In the coming years, it appears certain that even more developers will start to leverage drones. The total civil, commercial and consumer drone market in the US is expected to expand from $2.8 billion this year to more than $11.8 billion in 2026, with the value of the commercial market exceeding the consumer market by 2024, as per a recent forecast from Teal Group, an aerospace and defence consulting company.
As drones become more technologically advanced, their usefulness for construction should increase. In fact, construction will be the fastest-growing drone segment through 2026, Teal predicts.
Already, there are some niche firms offering sophisticated drone services
for construction, such as measurements and scans. Before drones became accessible to real estate pros, aerial photos of properties were limited to either grainy satellite images (like those found on Google Earth) or those taken during pricey aerial photography sessions with a hired airplane or helicopter. But now, it has become affordable with drones. One of the biggest appeals of using drones in real estate right now is simply the buzz it brings to the listing. While this technology is novel right now, experts see it becoming an industry standard, much like professionally-shot listing photos are now.
Also, preparing for a drone photography session is no different from preparing the inside of your home for traditional listing photos. Cleaning and decluttering is always the first step. A dirty roof will look distracting. Pool toys, backyard clutter and cars in the driveway should be moved or put away. Try to identify problems that are visible only from the air. Drone photography is especially useful for large, unique properties that don’t photograph well from the ground. Drones are best useful for properties which have an indoor basketball court and a private lake-front, but there is no way to capture it all in the frame of a camera. With a drone, the photo will show the scope of the house, the court and the shore of the lake behind it.
Also, videos filmed by drones can help buyers get a better idea of what a property feels like before they visit for a showing. For example, a drone can record video while flying along a twisting, wooded driveway to give buyers a feel of the approach to the house and, as a closing shot, it can take off from the home’s backyard and fly over the surrounding neighbourhood to give potential buyers a better view of the area.
Real estate agents are also using drones to tell prospective buyers about the neighbourhood. Clients can see bodies of water, parks, golf courses and other landmarks and community amenities in a way they can’t by simply looking at a map or a satellite photo of the area. While this technology provides an interesting new perspective for real estate listings, it does come with a few issues, such as privacy concerns from neighbours and the possibility of the drone crashing and harming people or property. Drones do crash—especially if the pilot isn’t used to the technology. While drones are relatively new in the public’s consciousness, they have already caused several lawsuits after crashing into people or property.