You've probably heard of curb appeal, but what about a home's air appeal?

You've probably heard of curb appeal, but what about a home's air appeal? It may not seem necessary to consider what your property looks like from above, but if current trends involving the use of drones in real estate are any indication, it may be much more important soon.

Drones are making it easier to get a unique look at a home.

If you're not familiar, a "drone" is a term that generally describes a small, remote-control aircraft, usually in the shape of a miniature helicopter. Thanks to recent advances in technology, drones that are small enough to be carried with one hand but big and powerful enough to support a high-quality camera are now affordable. This has led to an explosion in drone use in a very short amount of time, with amateur hobbyists flying them anywhere possible. The NPD Group's Retail Tracking Service estimated that sales of consumer drones increased 224 percent between April 2015 and 2016, allowing the market to grow into a multi-billion dollar industry1.

Drones may be fun to fly, but they are increasingly being sought for professional applications like aerial photography. Since they are easy to operate and much cheaper than contracting a helicopter or plane, many in the real estate business have begun using drones to take photos or videos of listing properties from above.

The technology and ways in which drones are used change rapidly, in many cases faster than standards and regulation can keep up. Real Estate Agents need to be prepared before making the decision to add a drone to their repertoire.

Law of the Land

The first thing any professional, including a Real Estate Agent, needs to know about using drones for their work is the regulations surrounding it. As of 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration mandates anyone flying a drone for commercial purposes to register the aircraft. However, some new rules taking effect August 2016 will change stipulations slightly2. Commercial drone users will no longer need to file for an exemption to FAA Section 333, as long as their drone weighs less than 55 pounds. This should cut down on time and paperwork considerably. Still, agents must pass certification for any small remote-control aircraft, called a Part 61 pilot certificate. These can be obtained at several approved testing centers.

Once going through the proper channels, agents can purchase a drone that works best for them and get started with flying. Before taking off, though, it's vital that new pilots understand laws and etiquette regarding drone use.

  • Drones may only fly during daylight hours

  • A drone may not exceed an altitude of 400 feet

  • The aircraft are prohibited from certain areas, including a five-mile radius around airports, the entirety of the District of Columbia, over sports arenas and many other sites. Consult the FAA for a full list of restrictions.

In addition to these laws, drone pilots should follow some basic rules to keep everyone safe and prevent misunderstandings with homeowners, neighbors or law enforcement3.

  • Always ask homeowners or property owners for permission before flying

  • Gain enough practice flying in a wide-open area before graduating to more congested airspace

  • Never let anyone get too close to a drone in flight, especially children or dogs.

In less than 2 weeks, commercial drone rules take effect. NAR reports from White House.

— REALTORS® (@nardotrealtor) August 18, 2016 

Using Drones for Real Estate

After practicing enough to feel confident in flying abilities, Real Estate Agents are ready to use those skills to take amazing aerial footage of listings. There are many possibilities for unique ways these photos and videos can be leveraged, beyond just giving potential buyers another viewing angle4.

Getting a view of the area from high up can also help buyers tell a lot about the home's surroundings. Nearby tree cover and vegetation can be easily seen. A little maneuvering may enable viewers to see local amenities like schools, grocery stores or hospitals. Especially with more rural properties, drone photography could provide an excellent way to get a lay of the land. That's not to mention giving buyers and inspectors a great view of one of the home's biggest and most important assets: the roof.

Drones are a new addition to the Real Estate Agent's arsenal, and with the right knowledge and creativity, they can potentially revolutionize the profession.


1NPD via Marketwatch

3National Association of Realtors