Beginner’s Guide to Using Drones in Real Estate

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Commercial drone applications are on the rise. With prices of drones becoming cheaper and more accessible, and more industries realizing the benefits of drone use, the commercial activities that leverage drone technology have continued to increase. Drone photography has been very commonplace nowadays to cover weddings and other big events, as well as for nature photography. But did you know that real estate advertising is one of the fastest growing drone service industries? Whether you’re a real estate agent who is yet to embrace this technology or a budding commercial drone pilot who want to find their niche in the drone market, then this article is for you.

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The benefits of using drone photography for real estate advertising

Drones have become such a popular tool for real estate advertising that it is estimated that around 71% of home sellers in the US prefer to work with an agent who uses drone photography. Aside from the novelty of using such an unfamiliar technology, drones allow agents to show off the property in a way and at a scope that traditional photography cannot. The main benefits of using drone photography are as follows:

1. Allows you to show off the entire property

Before drone photography, real estate agents had to be content with using photos taken from the ground. However, these photos just do not do justice to the grandeur of exceptionally large properties. No matter how many photos or videos an agent takes from the ground level, they cannot accurately the experience of looking around the property.

In the past, real estate agents resorted to showing satellite images of the property so that prospective buyers can see just how big a property is. Although satellite images are an accurate depiction of the property, they are just too blurry to be of any practical use.

With drone photography, you can capture videos that pan the whole perimeter of the property. With this technology, you can essentially provide prospective buyers a 3D virtual tour that shows the property from multiple angles. This means that nothing is left to the imagination of the buyer, making it easier for them to decide right there and then on the next steps.

Lastly, a drone video gives justice to just how beautiful a property is. In a single video, you can show off how well-manicured the garden is, or how pleasant the view is from the veranda. The buyers do not need to worry that shots were carefully posed, or some sections of the property were deliberately hidden – the whole property is virtually laid out in front of them.

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2. Gives buyers a better sense of scale

No matter what unit of scale you use to convey size and distance to buyers, there is no way that they can accurately visualize how big a 4-acre property is, or how far 2 miles is to the nearest school. With drone videos, the buyer no longer needs to visualize at this scale – you can show exactly how big a house, or a property is.

Humans are notoriously bad at estimating large sizes and distances. With drone photography, you can help buyers make sense of all these numbers that they are looking at.

3. Shows the condition of the roof

Perhaps you’re selling a house with a newly refurbished roof that you think increases its value. With drone photography, you can show the buyers exactly what you are talking about, and at an even better angle than if you yourself climbed up the roof and took a photo.

4. Shows the surrounding neighborhood

For most property buyers, the quality of the neighborhood is almost just as important the property. A neighborhood that looks good also increases the value of any property, so it’s essential that you communicate this to the buyer. With drone photography, you can go way beyond just the property that you are selling.

Is the property you are selling near a beach front? Then use an aerial video to show just how near the beach is. If the buyer wants to know where the nearest school or hospital is, then a drone video gives you the opportunity to point exactly where these places are in the neighborhood.

5. Makes more compelling virtual tours

A drone video allows you to make more than the usual stiff advertisement video. Add a voice-over, blend in some music, take dramatic shots and you can have a compelling story to tell. With drones able to fly along driveways, into large hallways, and around the whole property, you can have so many options to craft a video that highlights important parts of the house and tells of their significance or history.

6. Saves money

Before drones came along, the only way to capture aerial videos was to rent a helicopter and use old-fashioned video cameras. With helicopter rental rates, payment for a certified pilot, and fuel costs, the old way was so much more expensive. Drone technology has allowed photographers to do the same job cheaper, faster, and with even better quality.

With a good drone on hand, you probably won’t even need a fancy camera or other photography equipment. Professional-grade drones come with excellent onboard cameras that have all the capabilities of a high-end DSLR.

Limitation of drone-based real estate advertising

Despite all the capabilities of drones, they still might not be the all-around solution to real estate advertising needs. If you still have your old photography gear, then don’t let them go just yet for they can still be very useful. Drone photography may not be the best solution for all situations due to the following reasons:

1. Difficulty in shooting interiors in closed spaces

Large hallways and open spaces are not a problem for most drones, but even the most skilled drone pilot will probably be challenged by flying a drone in tight spaces. Although most high-end drones come with obstacle avoidance technology, this system will probably go haywire in an enclosed space. This means that maneuvering the drone will be completely up to the pilot.

Even in an indoor space, there is no guarantee that a drone will not drift a few feet for no particular reason. This means that a crash will always be imminent. In such a tight space, a crash will almost certainly result in property damage. If you need to shoot inside a tight space, then it is probably best to stick to using a good DSLR camera.

2. Cannot shoot property that is shrouded by trees or other buildings

The prospect of having a single video that covers the entire parameter of a house is one of the more attractive aspects of drone photography, but this is not possible if the surroundings of the property is thick with vegetation or with other houses or buildings. Even an overhead shot might now work if the trees form a shroud that covers the property. In these cases, you may have to go back to doing things the old-fashioned way and shoot from the ground level.

3. Cannot do fixed-position photography

Drone photography banks on being an innovative technology that does things in a different way, but some buyers may be more comfortable with more traditional shots: a static shot of the doorway, a simple photo that shows the hall, or the old-fashioned shot of the view from the veranda. For fixed-position photos, using a drone may be unnecessarily complicated. A handheld DSLR may still be the best tool for this job.

Requirements in starting a drone-based real estate advertising service

There is a lot of potential in a drone-based real estate advertising business, but there are a few things you need to do first if you want to be successful in this field.

1. Get a Part 107 remote pilot certificate

As of August 2016, all drone pilots who would like to offer their services for commercial activities need to get a Part 107 remote pilot certificate or drone license. This includes realtors using drones are part of their services. An important step in getting this FAA certification is to pass the Part 107 knowledge test: a 60-item multiple choice test, of which you need to get 70% correct.

There are tons of resources available online, both free and paid, that can help you get ready for the knowledge test. You will also need to pay $150 to sign up for the test. Take note that you do not get a refund should you fail, so try to pass the test on your first take! The drone license is valid for 2 years, after which you will need to take a shortened version of the knowledge test for your license to be renewed.

2. Get liability insurance

Drone flight is an inherently risky activity. Even the most experienced drone pilots flying high-end and sophisticated drones can figure into an accident every now and then. If you are flying your drone near people or expensive property, then an accident could end up costing you quite a lot.

To protect yourself from such expenses, you will need to get a liability insurance policy. This policy will cover the expenses equivalent to property damage or personal harm which may result from a drone-related accident. This may be especially important for real estate advertising where you will probably be flying around populated areas, or very near the property that the agent is selling.

Most liability insurance policies have a coverage of $1 million or more. It will be up to you to assess just how much risk your particular activity will be facing. A liability insurance policy has become a standard requirement for drone-based services. Nowadays, chances are a client will not even consider hiring a drone service provider that does not have a liability insurance policy.

The best drones for real estate advertising

Not all drones are made equal, and you definitely would not want to use a casual-use drone for real estate advertising. Drones for this purpose need to focus on superior image quality, ease of use, maneuverability, and a professional look. Below are the drones we recommend if you are thinking about offering your drone service for real estate advertising:

1. DJI Mavic 2 Pro

The Mavic 2 Pro has the best camera out of all the ultra-portable drones in the market today. The ability to capture 20MP stills and 4K video is enough for the Mavic 2 Pro to be discussed in the same breath as professional-grade drones such as the Phantom 4 Pro. Best of all, the onboard Hasselblad camera of the Mavic 2 Pro has a very wide ISO range which lets it get great photos even in low light.

What sets apart the Mavic 2 Pro from other professional drones is its remarkably compact size. Aside from making it easy for the drone pilot to bring it along on shoots, the Mavic 2 Pro can easily fly into hallways and narrow corridors.

2. Yuneec Typhoon H Plus

In the field of professional drones, the Yuneec Typhoon H Plus is definitely one of the top names. With a six-rotor design, the stability and reliability of the Typhoon H Plus is at least a level higher than its competitors.

The camera specs of the Typhoon H Plus can go head to head with the very best in the field. It has 1” CMOS sensor that can capture 20MP stills and 4K video at 60 fps. With a 3-axis gimbal, a top-of-the-line obstacle avoidance technology, and a 40% noise reduction from its predecessor, the Typhoon H Plus is the kind of drone you want to bring to let your clients know that you know what you are doing.

3. DJI Inspire 2

The DJI Inspire 2 is one of the most sophisticated drones from DJI and will feel right at home in your professional arsenal. It is built like a tank with its carbon fiber arms and aluminum frame that houses an amazing obstacle avoidance system. Despite its size, the Inspire 2 is unbelievably agile and very easy to fly.

Armed with a Zenmuse X5S, the Inspire 2 can capture video at 5.2K at 30fps and 4K at 60fps. This camera just takes drone photography to a whole new level, which may be just the thing that makes your real estate advertisement business stand out from the rest.

How much can I earn with drone-based real estate advertising?

Answering this question can be tough without knowing how much the competition is charging in your area. When in doubt, your competitors will always be the best yardstick to which you can measure your rates. If you are less experienced, you will have to charge few levels lower while you start to accumulate a nice portfolio.

If you really must have rule of thumb values, then you can consider a standard range of $75 to $150 for a photography package that includes 5 to 15 still images. If a client needs a photo and video package, you may charge between $125 and $350 for 1 to 3 minutes of videos on top of the stills. Take note that this will involve some post-processing on your part. With such a pricing scheme, clients can easily ask to scale up the job to increase the number of images or the length of the video.

Final thoughts

Real estate advertising using drone photography is fast becoming a well-known industry. With the quality of aerial photos and videos anyone can see online, it’s easy to realize the value of drone photography in the real estate industry. There is nothing quite like an aerial still or a footage that captures how majestic a large mansion or a huge tract of land is.

Being such a high-profile industry, you will need the very best drones to do the job. There are several good options for professional-grade drones, but none of them are cheap. Considering the costs of getting the drone license and the premiums of a liability insurance policy, starting a drone-based real estate advertising business will require a lot of capital.

Despite the huge costs involved, we think that real estate advertising can be a profitable business in the long run. The truth is that the industry is still very small, so finding your place should not be so hard as long as you strike early. We hope that the tips we have outlined above will be enough to get you on the right track towards starting your very own drone-based real estate advertising service.