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Benefits of Drone Photography in Real Estate

When we talk about the benefits of drones in certain industries, one of the first to accept and really take to the new technology is that of Realty. When the drone market was first starting out, realtors around the globe saw the need and potential that drones could provide.

Drones have now revolutionized the entire realty industry, with nearly every property being sold today including drone images to help in the sale of the property.

This is also an area where most fledgling pilots will start out, by learning how to set up their camera, and the best ways to capture the property of interest. Heck, it’s where I started and continue today, among more difficult types of projects.

This is where you, as a new pilot, will probably find your first paying drone job as well.

Drone technology changed how a home or business, a rural property, or a large commercial property is sold. Prior to drones, any aerial shots would have required a helicopter or small plane to achieve the same thing that we are able to get with our drones, and at no small cost.

It was due to that high cost that such aerial work would only be employed for very large commercial projects. Drones changed all that, providing that aerial perspective at a low enough cost that it became the desired way of doing things.

There is a bit of a rub to that, though. You, as a drone pilot, will most likely not just be covering aerial shots for your realty clients. One of the ways things have changed is that now most realtors will expect their drone pilots to be capable of doing ground and interior shots as well.

The point is, they don’t want to have to pay two people for what, to them, is the same job.

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Early Days

Let’s spin up the props on the good old Phantom 2 or the Inspire 1 and see what it might have been like in those early days of droning and Realty.

First off, back then, if you were requested to cover a property, there was no follow-up request for ground or interior shots as that would usually be done by another photographer.

In the early days of drones and Realty, you were generally hired for the unique perspective that only you were able to provide.

Not that being a ground or interior photographer is a bad thing. There is a bit of a learning curve, however, as shooting within a home or business is not the same as shooting with a drone from the air. You will find, as time goes by, it will be a needed skill to acquire.

Another thing was the limits of your flight times due to the batteries just not having the type of capacity they do today. Many of the actual flight times with the Phantom 2 or Inspire 1 were under 20 mins.

This wasn’t the best, but also not the worst, as it taught you to preplan your flights and think out things prior to even lifting off. That preplanning should always be done, even today with our more advanced systems and better flight times.

In those early days, pricing was a real issue. Sad as it is to say, back in the flowering of drones into the Realty industry, prices for drone photos or videos were through the roof, and you could pretty much name your price.

That may sound like a great thing to you, the pilot. It’s not, though, not really. It was a new market, and there were only a limited number of pilots that could perform those shoots. By charging too much, many realtors were put off the technology and the need for it.

Quick Story

I had one Realtor back in 2014 who hired me to shoot a property for him. He was one of those fellas that wanted everything done now, NOW! I told him, “Weather is going to be lousy, nearly 100% cloud cover. These systems need good lighting for the best shots”.

His response was, “I need this done on the day I want it done.” So, I did the job on the day he had scheduled it. It was not a good day; it was windy for one, and of course, the sun wasn’t to be found anywhere in the sky. I did get some good shots for him, thankfully.

Then it came to the invoicing. First, this was a company I had already done plenty of work for, even prior to having a drone. Those were also the days of virtual tours. Of course, that’s a whole other story.

Needless to say, I invoiced the job, and without looking it up, if I remember correctly, it was $350 or somewhere right in there.

I get a phone call a little later from the realtor. “I’m not paying that.” I reminded him that was the agreed rate prior to the shoot, and payment is due upon receipt and approval of the assets.

After all, I had a standing contract with this company where we had worked out nearly everything related to my services. Those shots had already been added to the listing. Meaning they must have met with approval.

He was adamant about not having approved anything, and he wasn’t going to pay. One of the things at that time was, since the use of drones were so rare, the cost of having those shots taken would come out of the sales commission for the realtor themselves.

Luckily today, most of the time, that cost is put on the seller, or the realty company itself covers that cost.

The end of the story was that I was indeed paid for the shoot. It required a meeting with that Realtor branch’s upper management, which I knew very well. We had all been working together for several years.

The company covered the cost and changed the policies about hiring and using drone pilots for these types of shoots. In this case, the realtor, being new to the job, didn’t believe it was fair that he was covering that cost from his commission.

I couldn’t blame him and had always felt it was unfair that they were expected to cover that cost basically out of pocket. That was in the early days of drones being adopted into the industry, and as such, there were some adjustments needed along the way.

The Numbers

Of course, you could just take my word for it, but you don’t have to. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers.

According to the National Association of Realtors, 5 percent of realtors are using drones themselves for property shoots, while 29 percent hire a Part 107 pilot for such a task. 16 percent of Realty offices have a dedicated person in their office for property shoots by drone.

All told, there are currently in 2022, 50 percent of realtors using drones daily for their property listings, with an additional 16 percent planning on doing so in the near future. You can see this shown in the NAR’s chart below.

Technological advances have made the use of drones in the realty industry more efficient and cost-effective for taking pictures and videos.

Realtors and other real estate professionals working with residential, commercial, and land parcels can all benefit from the images and information obtained from using drone technology.

This imagery is an incredible tool for potential homeowners moving to a different city, buying a second home, or trying to streamline the research process necessary to buy a new home, as it provides not only shots of the home but of the home’s neighborhood and surrounding area.

Many commercial properties or large parcels of land do not lend themselves well to traditional photography. Some such structures or parcels are simply too large to be captured whole due to the limits of ground-based cameras with their limited field of view.

Even the use of a 10 to 15mm lens can be insufficient to capture the whole of the building or structure. Of course, there are workarounds here, such as panoramas, for instance.

A drone, on the other hand, can achieve the distance and change its altitude allowing for a single shot of such a building or structure to be captured whole without the need for anything further.

There are other applications within real estate that drones are playing more of a part in, such as insurance inspections, appraisals, building management, and heat-loss imaging.

All of these will continue to be areas of growth for the drone industry, and will play more prominently in the Realty field as time progresses.

Once again, the chart above shows the impact drones are having in the realty industry. Let’s look at a quote from Tom Salamone, who was the president of the National Association of Realtors in 2017.

He stated, “One day soon, drone video or photography in real estate listings may be a minimum requirement in many markets. That’s because, from the top-down, the real estate industry is embracing drone/UAV photography as an important and valuable emerging technology.”

It was true then and it still remains true today.

He went on the say, “Drone technology offers a tremendous opportunity for the business of real estate and the broader economy. That’s why NAR continues to support the integration of drones into the National Airspace and a regulatory landscape that allows for the responsible commercial use of drones.”

These were bold statements in 2017, as we just received FAA regulation, and the days of the old west of droners were coming to a close.

Today the NAR even has a policy in regard to drones and their use. It states, “NAR is committed to working with the Federal Aviation Administration, and any other relevant federal agencies, during the regulatory approval process. The National Association of REALTORS® will continue its ongoing efforts to educate REALTORS® about the current and future regulatory structure for the safe and responsible operation of unmanned aerial vehicles.”

The NAR had a part in the FAA regulations discussions as far back as 2016 and still plays a large part in those discussions today. They are a group that can be followed to get some insight as to the direction of things to come since they have a high stake involved in the continued use of drone technology in their industry.

The Future

One of the most significant changes since the early days is just the number of pilots available. Where once a drone pilot was sort of like a pangolin, now drone pilots are more like red foxes. They can be found fairly easily and are not nearly as rare.

With 314,689 commercial drones registered in 2022, this number is only expected to increase in the years to come, in comparison with only 110,604 being registered in 2017.

Those sorts of numbers indicate that as a drone pilot, you will be meeting with even more and more competition in the realty industry as well as in all the other industries that are currently employing drone technology.

The other plus is that there is still room for growth within the Realty industry, with half of the market still being open to growth – and it will grow, as more and more home sellers will insist on having that unique perspective that only a drone can achieve.

Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!