That's a good question. They certainly offer dynamic and technology-forward possibilities for marketing homes. And they will give potential buyers a lot more insight into a property, before they even step through the door. Of course, it's not just about providing stunning photos—though you have to admit, with the sweeping vistas you get in Texas Hill Country, Austin real estate can really take advantage drone photography. Drones will have the very practical application of letting agents and prospective buyers see things they might otherwise miss.
So, What's The Current Situation?
At the moment, the FAA is only allowing drones to be used for commercial purposes on a case-by-case basis. Browsing through real estate images on the Internet, it's obvious that drone photography is already being used commercially in the industry and with the sorts of exciting visuals like those taken by local photographers CVSherman's OverAustin you can see what Realtors® can't wait to incorporate drone photography and video in their marketing packages. However, doing it legally now is complicated. The FAA fined a photographer from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville $10,000 in 2013 for using his drone for commercially.
A Realtor® With A License ...To Use A Drone
A Tucson area Realtor®, Douglas Trudeau, became the first person authorized to use a drone for real estate purposes in February of this year. Requirements he must comply with include needing a FAA Private Pilot certificate to operate the vehicle, as well as an observer nearby. The pilot also needs a current medical certificate. Other rules include not allowing the drone to be out of sight any time it is in the air. Douglas, by the way, doesn't like the term drone. He thinks it's derogatory and prefers Small Unmanned Aerial Systems, SUAS.
What To Expect In The Future
The FAA is required by law to produce legislation for drones by September and earlier this year, it released its proposed framework. The new regulations will apply to drones weighing less than 55 pounds and requirements will include the operator needing to be a licensed pilot and that flights only take place during the day, within direct sight of the operator. While the NAR has supported the proposed framework, there is definitely interest in the industry for an expanded scope for flights. For instance, night visuals will be useful to Realtors® and for larger and rural properties, the ability to fly beyond the sight of the pilot would be useful. It's possible this last restriction could be lifted, as the FAA has said they are currently studying the issue.
Are Drones Going To Be Everywhere After September?
Currently the FAA is estimating that within five year of the regulations coming online, 7,500 commercial drones could be in operation. But the rules the FAA issues will not be the only legislation to affect drones. Agents will have to look into other local laws governing privacy and safe operation of drones. Even without intending to violate anyone's privacy, an agent using a drone to take panoramic videos of a listing might accidentally capture the neighbors through a window or in their backyard and in some states, this could put you in violation of the law. Some states require signed permission if someone is going to appear in an image used for commercial purposes. Other states allow people to sue if a drone is flown over their property at less than 400 feet. In the state of Texas, the Texas Privacy Act has a number of clauses that apply to drones. So, it will be important to do your research before getting your drone airborne.
Will Drone Photos For Real Estate Be Worth The Effort?
While the new rules will come into effect in September, there will probably be appeals and changes to the rules over the next few years, so it will be some time before we see what the real potential is. And for denser urban areas, the pictures might not be as exciting as you think, you'll get a lot of rooftops and power lines. That being said, with our breathtaking, rolling landscape, drone photography and video should make a big splash in the Austin real estate market.