9 ways drones are changing real estate

  • Photo courtesy of VHT Studios

    What's that buzzing above the neighbor's house?

    As the spring homebuying season gets underway, drones may be a more common sight above homes about to go on the market. More and more real estate professionals are turning to drone photography and videos to better market their listings.

    In August 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration loosened its restrictions on the use of drones. Drone pilots no longer need an FAA pilot's license -- just a remote pilot certificate that costs about $150 -- and drones are now approved for commercial use. That has opened them up to a host of industries, but they're especially appealing to real estate pros.

    Brian Balduf, CEO and co-founder of real estate photography company VHT Studios, said his company started offering drone photo and video packages to clients last year in addition to its other photo services.

    "In marketing real estate, you're trying to get people's attention and get them to spend more time looking at the property," Balduf said. "Drone photography and video is definitely unique and offers a cool, interesting perspective."

    His company uses professional drones that are sturdier than some hobbyist models, he said.

    "You need them to be able to carry good camera equipment and also operate in all conditions, whether it's windy or there are power lines or other obstacles," he said.

    That means drone photography might not be the best strategy for home sellers going it alone. It takes a lot of skill to maneuver a $2,000, 4.4-pound machine with four spinning propeller blades, Balduf said, and in the end hiring a pro is safer and more cost-effective.

    The National Association of Realtors has set up a resource page to help Realtors and other interested parties navigate the government's drone regulations as they incorporate drones into their listing strategies. "The NAR is well aware of this trend, and we will be working with regulators to make sure that people are responsibly licensed to use drone technology. We will also be encouraging our members to use it," said Bill Brown, president of the NAR.

    Drones are "streamlining the buying and selling process by providing more visual information at a reasonable cost. Any opportunity you have to further educate the buyer to the property they're purchasing is a win-win for everybody," Brown said.

    While this technology provides an interesting new perspective for real estate listings, it does come with a few issues, such as privacy concerns from neighbors and the possibility of the drone crashing and harming people or property.

    Click ahead to see nine ways drones are changing the way people buy and sell real estate.

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    Ilyce R. Glink is an award-winning, nationally-syndicated columnist, best-selling book author and founder of Best Money Moves, an employee benefit program that helps reduce financial stress. She also owns ThinkGlink.com, where readers can find real estate and personal finance resources.