Drone use takes off to sell homes

Real Estate Aerial pictures and video may seem cutting edge, but you should consider a number of issues before agreeing to have a drone flying over your home and neighborhood.

The Bulletin of Photography Volume 15 (published in 1914) includes an article about Des Moines, Iowa real estate agents contemplating a “scheme” of photographing homes. The photographs were to make touring homes easier for busy clients; agents were to have four photographs per home in their exclusive portfolios. Real estate photography has come a long way since 1914. Today, home sellers expect dozens of high resolution pictures and even video to market their homes. In addition to the typical media array, some agents promote aerial photography to capture different perspectives of large estates, farms, and acreage.

Aerial photography has been around almost as long as commercial photography. According to the Professional Aerial Photographers Association (professionalaerialphotographers.com), the idea of aerial photography was patented in 1855; however, the first known aerial photograph wasn’t taken until 1858. No one knows for sure when aerial photography was first used for real estate sales, but you can bet it that it probably coincided with the broad acceptance of real estate photography. Although aerial photography has been accomplished by helicopter, balloons, and even very tall poles, it is increasingly becoming the domain of drones (also known as “unmanned aircraft systems”).

Many tout the drone’s potential and value. However, as commercial and hobby drone use skyrocketed, many also began to see the threat to personal privacy and safety. There has been a dramatic increase in pilot reported close calls; compare the 238 sightings during 2014 to the 650+ sightings during 2015 – through August 9th (FAA.gov). Federal and local agencies have sought to regulate drone use by implementing rules for safe and ethical use. You may have read Rebecca Guterman’s article investigating this issue earlier this year in the Montgomery County Sentinel  (State explores new drone rules; February 25, 2015).

On February 15th, the FAA published proposed rules for unmanned aerial systems as a step forward to integrating drones in our skies. Jenna Portman and Josh Hicks reported in a June 30th Washington Post piece (New laws in Va., Md. and D.C. regulate drones, Uber, social media) that Maryland will propose drone use rules by 2018; and in the interim has prohibited counties and municipalities from legislating drones, giving “exclusive jurisdiction” to federal and state agencies.

Commercial drone use has soared, especially in real estate applications; such that Dronelife.com estimated that real estate drone use could generate $10 million by 2016. The National Association of Realtors® has been at the front of this issue, promoting and educating safe and ethical drone use to members. NAR President Chris Polychron stated in his testimony to the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet: “Realtors® have shown a consistent interest in the safe, responsible use of drones in the business of real estate… (realtor.org).

It may seem cutting edge to integrate aerial pictures and video into your marketing plan, however there are some issues you might consider before agreeing to have a drone flying over your home and neighborhood. You should ensure that the operator is experienced and authorized to operate the vehicle. Make sure the drone operator is insured, as accidents and property damage can occur. Finally, confirm that any aerial pictures and video publicized are worthwhile; poorly executed aerial photography could detract from your marketing efforts, and interfere with a buyer’s appreciation of your home’s qualities and charm. For more information, visit Know Before You Fly (knowbeforeyoufly.org).

Copyright © Dan Krell

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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