Real Estate Photos from On High: the Next Big Thing?

Real Estate Photos from On High: the Next Big Thing? 

When you hear the word “drone,” you’re more likely to think military target than local residential listing.  But drones could be the Next Big Thing in real estate photography — that is, if they don’t run afoul of the law.

Technically known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), drones have swooped and dived into the public consciousness in a big way within the past year.  In addition to the amusing tiny  model helicopters that have been found under many a Christmas tree over the few holiday seasons, their more ambitious cousins, remote-controlled, lightweight flying vehicles have begun to be used by firefighters, filmmakers, and the military.  And as the technology becomes less and less expensive, everyone expects to see drones in more applications than you could imagine — for instance, CBS’s 60 Minutes report that previewed’s plans to test online purchase deliveries via driveway drop-offs by creepy four-rotor drones.

What’s the connection with real estate?  Just ask commercial photographers, who think the lightweight vehicles would be their key to the perfect high production value property shots.  Think of it: instead of chartering an expensive helicopter flight to photograph a site from the air, a real estate photographer could use a much cheaper and more easily controlled lightweight drone.  The result?  Dramatic, breath-taking shots that used to be only rarely seen in listing video tours (and then, only in million-dollar listings).  With more than 90% of prospective home buyers now using the Internet, those kinds of shots could make the difference between a stagnant listing and a quick turnaround.

But don’t hold your breath for the rise of drone-based real estate photography — at least not yet.  The Federal Aviation Administration requires a permit for each flight whose goal is the “commercial use of airspace” — even by small devices like photography drones. As a consequence, the National Association of Realtors® is advising real estate pros not to use drone-based photography until next year, when new FAA guidelines will be announced. Until then, a special FAA waiver has to be obtained for each flight (and you can bet a local property would have already been sold long before that came to pass!)

While we may heave a sigh over the exciting drone videos that might have been, the real possibility that drones will become a factor in residential real estate reinforces the importance of having your home sale-ready from all angles.  Imagine the fallout if drone photos revealed a leaky roof — or an unkempt backyard!

Bottom line: it’s always going to remain vital to prep a property to shine in more than just the “curb appeal” photo.  That planning can start with a call to my office for a no-obligation review of how to set into motion a proven marketing plan that gets your home sold! 

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Terry Reeves

Terry Reeves

Real Estate Professional
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