Using Drones for Real Estate Photography
You might be asking yourself if using drones in your real estate business is viable — even necessary — to stay competitive or if it’s just a flash in the pan. Whatever you decide, drones are shaping up to be the next evolution in real estate marketing.
Here are a few things to think about if you’re considering drones for your real estate photography.
Drones have more uses than you realize.
Drones — also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) — are typically associated with military applications. For real estate agents, however, drone photography can show potential buyers a variety of details, including:
- Encompassing aerial views of the entire property and land
- What the drive home or the kids’ walk to school looks like
- The neighborhood and surrounding area, including the home’s proximity to amenities
- Civic developments or local improvement districts (LIDs) that the buyer’s property taxes might contribute to
- Property maps and surveys
Drones make elevated imagery affordable
Many real estate agents obtain elevated photography using airplanes and helicopters, which can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per flight and limit the number of properties you can afford to shoot. Drones can significantly cut the cost of shooting elevated imagery — viable models start at a few hundred dollars, and camera attachments are similarly moderately priced — and enable you to use their aerial footage on many more listings, regardless of price range.
Depending on the equipment setup, drones can shoot stills, video or both. The images can be edited and shared using a number of tools and without extensive experience or expertise. Drone operation mostly requires a steady hand and a cool head.
As the spring homebuying season gets underway, 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 a manned FAA pilot’s license — just an FAA remote pilot certificate that costs about $150 and requires the user to pass the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge test (same as for a manned pilot’s license) — 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.
Brian Balduf, CEO and co-founder of real estate photography company VHT Studios, said his company started offering drone photo and video packages to clients last year in addition to its other photo services.
“In marketing real estate, you’re trying to get people’s attention and get them to spend more time looking at the property,” Balduf said. “Drone photography and video is definitely unique and offers a cool, interesting perspective.”
His company uses professional drones that are sturdier than some hobbyist models that are used.
“You need them to be able to carry good camera equipment and also operate in all conditions, whether it’s windy or there are power lines or other obstacles,” he said.
That means drone photography might not be the best strategy for home sellers going it alone. It takes a lot of skill to maneuver a $2,000 to $10,000, 6 to 7-pound machine with four spinning propeller blades, Balduf said, and in the end hiring a pro is safer and more cost-effective.
The National Association of Realtors has set up a resource page to help Realtors and other interested parties navigate the government’s drone regulations as they incorporate drones into their listing strategies. “The NAR is well aware of this trend, and we will be working with regulators to make sure that people are responsibly licensed to use drone technology. We will also be encouraging our members to use it,” said Bill Brown, president of the NAR.
Drones are “streamlining the buying and selling process by providing more visual information at a reasonable cost. Any opportunity you have to further educate the buyer to the property they’re purchasing is a win-win for everybody,” Brown said.
Marketing a real estate property is one of the most difficult things to do in business today.
The competition is brutal, partly because online listings generate most of the leads. Almost every property buyer today begins her search online.
So, it can be really hard to stand out from the pack.
That’s why differentiating property listings through high-quality photography and video pays huge dividends.
Today, the latest marketing weapon in real estate is the use of dramatic camera drone photography & video tours in online listings.
Some agents claim that drones are the most important new technology to enter real estate marketing since the internet.
It’s easy to see why.
Using flying cameras, real estate photographers are producing dramatic, sweeping shots of landscapes, ocean and mountain vistas and seamless fly-arounds of gorgeous home exteriors…
They are also taking shots of homes never before imagined,
Like… flying down onto a property from 200 feet in the air; highlighting the details of a large, expensive property in dramatic form; then, flying fast 2 feet above a driveway right up to the front door…
Using drones for real estate photography will become increasingly common as agents ask the FAA to issue more permits and hash out the guidelines for commercial use. No matter what rules are in place, using drones will spark some degree of controversy, but there’s no rebottling that genie. Once federal, state and industrial organizations agree on the major points, drone adoption and operation will quickly escalate. If you’re considering using drones for real estate photography, be ready for it: You might be the first in your area to offer clients that service, making you stand out from the competition while adding a serious wow factor to your marketing.