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Real Estate and Drones – FAA puts a halt on Realtors marketing efforts

Drones and Real Estate

In a recent letter from the National Association of Realtors, it appears the FAA has temporarily banned the use of drones for real estate marketing.

I’ll address some concerns in this article from both home-owners, and as techie nerd myself who is a drone owner.

The main issue is over privacy. The secondary issue is safety. Not only can drones cause serious issues with airplanes, they can do tremendous amounts of damage to property and persons. If you’ve never seen a drone in person, in flight, it’s hard to understand how powerful these little machines are. Some drones weigh in at 7lbs while other average 3-4lbs and can fly at 50mph or more. Imagine standing on the side of a road and having someone lob a 7lb dumb-bell at your head out of car driving 55mph… that’s about 1/2 as dangerous as a drone is while in flight.

Is drone technology really useful for marketing real estate? In my opinion, not really. At least not the way most realtors are using them. I’m not THE authority on any of it, but believe that location and topography play an important role. I’ve personally photographed over 5,000 houses in the region I live in Prescott, AZ. For many years I was the single most sought after professional photographer for real estate in the area. Hundreds of agents came to me for not only photos, but marketing assistance as well. I was also the VP of Marketing for the last company I worked for…so, I have some idea of what I’m talking about.

There were many instances over the years where I really wanted/needed to get a better angle of a home; mostly due to its topography. Homes that sit high up on lots are troublesome to photograph due to the camera being mostly at ground level. Although not impossible if you’re creative, the drones could certainly come into use in these situations. Most of the time, the drones are used to photograph the roof, which in my opinion is a practice producing less than desirable results.

Because some/most Realtors are not photographers, and they likely are not videographers, they may lack experience and simply fly up and around. For them, the drone is a gimmick they use to lure a potential seller into listing with them. The claim is, “More people will see your house!” This claim is largely unfounded. Videos of homes have been around for years and for the money, I find the “lifestyle” tour a much better investment. A lifestyle tour is one where the Realtor hires actors and actually scripts live-action scenes around the property. This not only shows the home more accurately, but allows interaction in the home by people; lending to a much better representation of the property. Don’t get me wrong… I don’t dislike drones by any means. In fact, I’m a huge fan and owner myself. However, the public needs to get its perception correct on exactly what the benefit is?  If you live in a huge estate, the drone can certainly add advantage. If you live in a 2,000 sq.ft house in a subdivision, the technology is virtually useless. The very reason you likely hired your agent will be the reason no one wants to buy the house. Everyone will have an accurate visual of just how crowded your neighborhood really is. In the end, your agent could be driving potential buyers away from your property. Those same buyers viewing a lifestyle tour would be 75% more likely to go see the house in person than viewing a drone tour.

The Verdict
For the next two years NAR will be disseminating the ins and outs of drone use with the FAA. Until then, all Realtors are supposed to put the practice on hold. If your agent is currently using a drone to market your house, you may want to find a new agent. Currently, there is no one in Yavapai County with COE clearance from the FAA to operate in UAS.