How Drones are Revolutionizing Real Estate

by Steve CookMarch 28, 2017

Drones are giving real estate buyers a whole new way to see potential homes online — from the top down. The availability of drones for commercial uses has added a new dimension to portraying real estate online that is changing the ways many agents and their clients are marketing their homes.

A drone’s eye view of a property can include dramatic video footage that introduces a home from above or takes viewers on a breathtaking aerial tour to give a feel for a home in its neighborhood setting and surroundings. Drones can take panoramic aerial shots from up to 400 feet up or zoom in for close-ups to feature a home’s exterior details and off landscaping features like ponds, pools, outbuildings, scenic approaches, expansive lawns, woodlands, and fine gardens.


In spacious homes, drone operators have even used drones indoors to capture impressive spaces inside homes, such as exhilarating descents past chandeliers that continue through cavernous living rooms and drone shots that take viewers straight out windows to soar into the sky.

Still a novelty, drone videos make listings stand out from the competition. Sellers are using drones to attract buyers to their listings and to convey excitement and quality. Drone footage adds a wow factor to properties that can translate into higher prices and faster sales. For real estate brokers, having a drone in their real estate arsenal signals that they are on top of the latest technology and offer something cool and unique to sellers, even to sellers who choose not to use drone photography.

In the luxury category, drones are having the greatest market impact. Buyers of multi-million dollar homes often shop online first, so they expect high-quality photography and video in the online listing. Luxury homes also are more likely to have the external features and photogenic surroundings ideal for drone videography.

Adding drone shots to a video tour is remarkably reasonable, and much less expensive than the alternative — aerial photos from a helicopter or a fixed-wing aircraft — and easier to arrange. Where drone services are available, drone prices add from $125 to $300 to the costs involved with shooting and editing a video tour for posting on a property listing.


Effective August 29, 2016, real estate professionals can operate drones for a host of real estate-related purposes, such as capturing aerial imagery of property listings. Drone operators must have a remote pilot certificate with a sUAS rating. Operators must be at least 16 years old and pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test. Drones must be registered with the FAA.

The FAA approval is less than a year old, and crashes and fines associated with real estate drones have been relatively rare. The National Association of Realtors has produced educational materials for its members and joined the Federal Aviation Administration’s Know Before You Fly Campaign

As the user of drones for commercial purposed takes off, real estate drones may become an industry standard. The FAA has estimated that 600,000 commercial drones could be registered by the end of 2017, up from about 19.000 in August 2016.

No doubt many will be used in real estate. Drone videography may soon become an industry standard, available to sellers nationwide. Drones may find additional uses, as a safe and cost-effective way to assess property condition and gauge property damage after a storm, among other things.

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About The Author
Steve Cook
Steve Cook is editor and co-publisher of Real Estate Economy Watch. He is a member of the board of the National Association of Real Estate Editors and writes for several leading Web sites, including Inman News. From 1999 to 2007 he was vice president for public affairs at the National Association of Realtors.

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