Real Estate Takes to the Skies with Drones

Photo by Tom Fisk

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as “drones,” elicit a wide range of emotions from people. Some think of the gadgets as a fun recreational activity for racing other drones or as a unique device to take photos or videos of special events such as weddings. Other consider them a pesky nuisance buzzing around public parks or even the cause of invasions of privacy when they cross over into personal property. Many readers also likely associate drones for practical services like food delivery or as military weapons. One thing is for sure: There is no escaping drones, and now that even includes in the real estate world.  

 

While the temptation may be to dismiss the trend of real estate agents using drones as yet another example of an industry jumping in on the latest technology fad, the benefits of using flying cameras in this instance makes sense. The aerial photography taken by drones offers unprecedented ways of capturing a property’s setting and a building’s features. With buyers interested in seeing as much of a home as possible in advance, drones can give them not only virtual tours of the house but also the surrounding neighborhood.  

Real estate agents aren’t the only ones getting in on the drone game; lenders are increasingly likely to send the flying devices to appraise a property rather than the old standby—costlier humans who can be susceptible to errors from time to time. Federal regulators are making moves to allow homes to be bought and sold without licensed appraisers by increasing the value of homes exempt from human evaluation to $400,000 from the current $250,000. This would account for more than two-thirds of U.S. homes, according to U.S. Census data and the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Banks and banking regulators support this change, claiming lenders and home buyers will save money and real-estate deals will be expedited, while—unsurprisingly—appraisers oppose it, saying gadgets and other such technology don’t measure up to human expertise.  

No matter where you stand on such debates, one thing is certain: It’s not that hard to get in on the drone trend. The typical rate for hiring a professional drone photographer typically runs somewhere between $100 to $2,000 per flight, but a real estate agent or broker usually covers the cost, not the seller.  

NAR has also started a page on their website for realtors interested in drones at nar.realtor/drones. As NAR president Bill Brown recently told CBS MarketWatch, “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.”

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