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Drones for Real Estate Marketing. Are They Really Worth It?

In the last three years, drone technology has rapidly evolved.  Four years ago, if you wanted an aerial image, you either had to hire a professional helicopter pilot or had to know how to assemble electrical components, solder wires, set up a flight computer and integrate a camera.  Today, with a few clicks on your iPhone X, you can have a flying professional camera and supercomputer on your doorsteps within 48 hours.

With this major leap forward in technology comes a change in the way that people are marketing and selling products and services in all types of industries, but one of the most prominent is real estate.  Now that more and more real estate agents have access to aerial photos and videos through drones, homebuyers and sellers are changing the way they expect to interact with real estate listings.

According to MLS Statistics, homes with aerial images sold faster than homes with standard images.  Video tours that incorporate drone footage are also a great way to make your property stand out and to attract new listings.  A high percentage of homeowners say that they are more likely to list with a real estate agent who uses video to market their home; however, only 9 percent of agents create listing videos.

Are Drones Worth It?

Some of you might be thinking, “Is it really worth it for me to pay someone to take aerial photos and video of my listing?”  Let’s look at some numbers.

Let’s keep things simple and assume that the price of the average home you sell is $350,000, the total commission is 6 percent, your brokerage gets 3 percent, and you end up with 1.5 percent (half of the 3 percent). That’s $5,250 for you per transaction.  Let’s also assume that you close 11 transactions per year.  That’s an annual salary of $57,750.

Now let’s say you begin to incorporate aerial photos and videos into your marketing plan for your listings.  If we go off of the statistic that homes sell 68 percent faster when using aerial imagery and that 73 percent of homeowners prefer to list with an agent who uses video, we can be conservative and say that you could attract 50 percent more listings and close 50 percent more deals.  Pushing the 11 transactions to approximately 17, which would result in an annual income of $89,250 in our scenario, an increase of $31,500.

The average cost of hiring a drone pilot to shoot and edit varies by the size of the property and the area you are in, but the average cost is about $500.  If you used a drone pilot for each of the 17 listing, it would have cost you approximately $8,500.  That is a net increase of $23,000 per year ($31,500 minus $8,500) from deciding to incorporate drones, a return on investment of 270 percent.

I know those numbers might sound high, and of course the actual results of deciding to use drones in real estate marketing will be impacted by a large number of factors, but let me give you a real life case study to illustrate how powerful using drones can be for real estate.

The Dallas Photographers is a real estate photography studio firm based out of Dallas, TX., run by Eric Scott.  Eric uses drones and handheld cameras to create video tours of listings for local real estate agents. The Texas Investment Real Estate Team office began to extensively use The Dallas Photographers to help market its listings.  After integrating drone shots and video into their marketing, that Texas office (Karina & Jeff Cassell) shot up to be the number one producer in the DFW area.  The CEO of Texas Investment Realty, Jeff Cassell, had this to say about their new marketing strategy:

“We have quickly taken #1 market share in the DFW area  and I truly believe that a portion of that is due to the amount of video marketing we are doing, and how it is changing the way people view and do business now.”

So You Want to Hire a Drone Pilot.  What Should You Look For?

It seems like every day there is another company popping up that offers drone photography and videography services.  When searching for the right person for the job, it’s important to look for the following things:

FAA-Issued Commercial Drone License
The FAA released new regulations (July 11, 2017). And in August of 2016 the rules require that anyone who is using a drone for commercial purposes (defined as anything other than recreation) to hold a “Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating”, also known as a Part 107 License.  If you are going to hire a drone pilot, make sure they have this license.  Not only does this ensure that the drone pilot knows the rules they need to follow, it protects you from being associated with any illegal operations.  The FAA has handed out hefty fines to people flying drones illegally.

There are a number of insurance options out there for drone pilots.  Make sure that your hired drone operator has liability insurance in the event that something goes wrong and they damage that beautiful house you are trying to sell.  Standard liability policies cover up to $1,000,000. This is something that The Dallas Photographers allow you to  purchase in hourly increments for different levels of coverage.

Experience and Quality
If someone is offering their drone services, it’s a given that they should have a demo reel of properties they have photographed and filmed.  Go to their website, check out their work, and make sure it measures up to your standard.  Not all drone operators are created equal.  It takes practice and skill to get those smooth drone shots that make or break a listing video.

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