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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Droning On And On

Droning On And On ~ by Paul Roberts

Sometimes the right thing to do is blog about something that will help Realtors without your necessarily having an "interest in it." It's just the right thing to do. This is one of those posts. The “new” fad in Real Estate Photography seems to be the use of drone photography of properties. Here are my thoughts on the merits vs downfalls of using drones from various aspects. As an added bonus, if you read until the end, I'll give you a hint how you can get the shot ANYWAY … for FREE.

I consider myself a “new technology early adopter” in almost all respects. At the same time, I recognize fads, at least when I believe I see them, and I looked into drones TWO YEARS ago. I am friends with several photographers/videographers WORLDWIDE who are using drones to capture stunning images of downtown scenes, meadow landscapes, lakes, volcanoes, hard to reach river beds and other endless views and landmarks ~ they're truly stunning images. I have a bucket list of subjects I'd photograph should I opt to get one.

However, with Real Estate photography for clients, after careful analysis, I don't see their worth for the photographer, the Realtor or the client he/she is representing in order to SELL that property.

We have many “country club” properties here in Palm Springs & surrounding areas like Palm Desert, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells & La Quinta. Often these are in a “tract.” The Realtors won't use that word, LOL! Sorry … “community” or “country club.” They are cheek by jowl with other homes. Taking the right angle of the home to the property line, front & back, with well lit balanced interiors will show that home nicely. Now … let's say we shoot it with a drone. Pool, jacuzzi, backing on to a golf course fairway, lake on the fairway, nice interior that shows even in the exterior shot(s), blue sky reflecting in the bay window. Nice! Right? That'll work. Now put a camera 100-150 feet in the air, bother the neighbors, get a roof shot.

  • How will that be cropped
  • What's on the roof (leaves, palm fronds, dead rat, dismembered hobo skeleton from the 70s, dust, bugs, little Johnny's kite). Happy air-brushing.
  • How do you isolate that property to the seller? An arrow saying “this is the one I'm selling” ~ ?
  • What are HOA rules for flying a drone within grounds airspace? I'm guessing forbidden.
  • What are the neighbors doing? #SkinnyDipping Next door? Again with the airbrushing, and hopefully no lawsuit.
  • If a golfer misses a tee shot because you buzzed him/her, there'll be hell to pay :)
  • Neighbors won't want THEIR home included, especially if doing dishes in the kitchen naked. Many modern drones (as of this date June 14 2015) DO HAVE the resolution to show what's inside a neighbor home.

Further liability issues: There are TWO sets of batteries; one in the magic flying machine itself and another in the CONTROL unit. If either of those batteries run down (average flying life is 10-12 minutes at present) ~ and that thing gets “squirrelly,” it's going down. So is your reputation. What if it takes out a bay window? Straight into a neighbor's pool and electrocutes Mrs. Nesbitt?

Aerial shots, especially if it's a very large property, are indeed nice, and dramatic. Since I believe “dramatic but accurate” PROPER photographs (not computer generated layered litho nonsense) sells homes, drones might have their place. I'd make the rule of thumb 5 acres. If the property is 5 acres or larger, and therefore you can operate the drone WITIN the property lines, and there isn't a noise or neighbor privacy factor, then go ahead. Battery failure and the other concerns outlined above wouldn't be an issue. But what to do with properties smaller than 5 acres? How many properties that large are you realistically going to list? The answer, folks, is free and the images are good. It's called Google Earth. Believe it or not, the Google Earth app for your PHONE is often a better, more “tweakable” one than Google Earth on a computer. As long as you DO NOT REMOVE the Google Earth watermark / logo from the image, and CREDIT Google Earth for that image, you can use one. After searching for the address and perhaps putting the “street view little golden man” icon on the street if necessary, you're “right there.” By placing two fingers on the screen you can not only rotate the angle (go higher); you can swivel around to show front, back, side view of the home/property and position it just how you like it. You will not have exposure control since you're using an existing library image of the property taken by Google. On average the clarity & sky conditions are quite good but you may not get a perfect blue sky. However, it will show layout, bushes, landscaping, the home, the pool, golf course, even the street if you want it as a reference.

Problem solved. I would say in 80% of the cases an aerial won't do much to promote the property; in fact you're probably taking away “visual value” because all you'll effectively show is how close the neighbors and the dumpsters are, and a dirty roof. I'd recommend letting clients assess that for themselves in PERSON when you show it. Let the fantastic, natural interior/exterior ground level shots show the beauty & appeal of the home. After all, that's how you'll see it when you're living there, unless you're 200 feet tall.

The bottom line is this: Good photos, an aggressive agent, longer hours open houses, advertising including social media and “sense of urgency” sell homes. Not cutesy sales pitches about “I'll photograph it with a drone.” If you're approached by an agent who offers “cutting edge” 50 year old remote control plane technology to “get” your listing, ask “How many have you actually SOLD using drone photography.” Giggle and wait for the long pause. I have no aversion to providing equipment & photography (and charging a LOT accordingly) to help Realtors sell a home. I just don't believe in risky gimmicks that afford little or no return. You shouldn't either.


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