As a residential real estate agent you have many responsibilities when you take on a listing. You coordinate and direct everything from home staging to showings to paperwork and closings. And each element has a set of professionals you work with.
And as you consider your listing marketing options, in today’s market, especially with high-end listings and rural properties, a drone-aided aerial video/photo shoot must be considered.
But before you jump into shooting your own drone aerial footage or hire a drone operator to do the job, you need to avoid the pitfalls that go with this new evolving visual marketing channel.
So to get you up to speed I asked my network of drone operators…
What should residential real estate agents know before hiring a drone operator for an aerial video on a home listing?
That question generated 47 answers.
As you can imagine many of the responses covered similar territory…as they are the core elements of a good operator screening process. But beyond the easy ones there were also some valuable nuggets uncovered along the way that are worth the price of admission (What? You didn’t pay at the door? Well that person’s fired!)
To help you out this article is grouped into two sections. The first, for you overachievers and those with short attention spans…squirrel…are the key takeaways.
Then you get the unadulterated and uncensored answers from each of the 47 drone operator contributors. These are the heavily-involved group of drone operators who regularly deliver the goods with their drones in the residential real estate aerial photo and video niche. As the National Association of Realtors ® recognizes, they get the cool overhead shots of properties for sale. The agents get their home listings sold faster and for more money than the competition.
So lets dive in…
Part 1: Top 7 Takeaways
Current FAA Part 107 License
Before you hire any drone operator to do a photo/video shoot check their license. The best way is to go online to ensure it is in place and current.
As a real estate licensee, especially as a Realtor ®, using an unlicensed operator could be putting your real estate license at risk. Don’t do it. Confirm you’re dealing with a licensed professional.
$1,000,000 Aviation Liability Insurance
So you confirmed they’re licensed. That is the first must do step. The second is confirming insurance. $1,000,000 is the standard. Make sure it is aviation insurance, not just your typical general liability insurance. Get a copy of the insurance binder. For more information, or if you’re a drone operator who needs to get that insurance in place, check out Evan Garmon’s drone insurance plans at Harpenau Insurance. He’s the “drone insurance guy”.
Get Work Samples
You can have an operator who is licensed and insured. But if they can’t fly their drone well and get the shots you want, then they’re not worth hiring. So check out their work product. Often you can find it on YouTube or their website. But don’t just stop there, get a sample that closely represents the type of shot they’ll need to do for your subject listing. Anyone can do a cool landscape photo or video. But to do a creative and compelling real estate aerial photo or video that draws in buyers and gets them clamoring to submit offers, that is a talent that only a select few operators have. Now for that high level of skill you might pay thousands. Which may be fine for a high-end property. For a mid-range home you may be fine with a more standard shot and operator skill level. Because in those price ranges fewer properties have drone shots so yours will stand out from the competition.
What Services Do They Provide?
Are you hiring a photographer and drone operator in one person? Will they shoot the interiors and exterior and aerials? Or are they only doing a portion of the photos and video you’ll need to market this specific listing? Do they just do the raw footage? Or do they do the sometimes extensive post-production work on the photos and video to get you the best product? Post production is often the most expensive portion of a project. So set your budget accordingly.
Setting the stage for the actual shooting, as in staging the inside of a home, requires careful planning and coordination. As with the interior you want clean and clear of distractions. Your drone operator should be able to provide you with a checklist you can use with the property owner to get the home ready for the shoot. In addition to that prep work, given the aerial element, weather and neighbors play a role. Preparing neighbors properly for a shoot (so they don’t call the police or cause issues between you and your client) must be addressed up front. Make sure either you or your drone operator are addressing that.
How quickly do you need the work done? How extensive is your request? Does it need to be perfect? Or is speed more important? Make sure you’re clear with your expectations and get confirmation on that timing.
With the huge influx of drone operators moving into the residential real estate drone aerial photo/video services market, prices have come down. For a low end shoot you can get a good raw footage video for a couple hundred dollars. For higher end quality you’re closer to $500. And for post production work or higher-end shoots you could spend thousands. But when you consider the home price, the commission you receive, and the edge your property has over similarly priced comps, spending a small percentage by getting top quality drone footage can be your best marketing investment available.
In particular, if I was looking to set myself apart from other real estate agents at a listing presentation, being able to say, “And as an added benefit, in addition to our traditional print and internet based marketing that all agents do, we pay for a drone-based video shoot to ensure you get the edge over similarly priced homes. And we pay for that so you don’t have to. It is our gift to you.”
Want to get started in the drone business either full time or as a part time side hustle? Check out how these people did it…How to Get Your First Paid Drone Gig – 18 Brief Case Studies
Part 2: The Inside Scoop
107 qualified, 1080p or 4k shots, lighting and quality of work.
Is the drone operator FAA licensed. How they want their deliverables delivered. Ie flash drive and is subject to taxes unlike over internet like google drive or Dropbox. Communicate your ideas of how you want it to look give examples of what you like. When do you expect it to be finished take in account for weather and getting any airspace authorization needed. As well the drone operator should also have some sort of list they expect done like having a clean unobstructed lawn preferably manicured too. Let the operator you choose have freedom from micromanaging so they can concentrate on task at hand.
They must be Commercially licensed to do so.
Commercial operators license I think it’s a part 107.
One thing that should be understood, is that they are paying for the equipment you use, the editing software, the time on the job, the time on the computer (possibly even the computer), and the time and money you invested in getting the part 107 certificate. Sometimes people want things cheap, and it seems like you aren’t working because you are just flying a quad around. But the work comes in the cost of equipment/software, mastery of skills in the shots and editing, and the fact that you earned the authority to legally do the work.
So basically it’s just a justification of the cost. A lot more goes into the operation than they will see. So 100 bucks doesn’t cut it, especially if it’s a multi million dollar house with a huge advertising budget.
They don’t ask for ANYTHING… BUT, they should ask for to see a Part 107 ID Card.
They NEVER ask for liability insurance, but probably should.
They NEVER ask if you can notify the neighbors on both sides that there will be a drone operating for the purpose of marketing the home.
They NEVER ask if you have ATC authorization to fly in that area. But probably should.
As the pilot I will ask questions like “what’s the address so I can research airspace. is the back and front yard staged properly? What type of video are you looking for? Can you show me an example?
And i ask that the home owners leave for the hour while I’m flying. As well as the agent.
I won’t fly with someone hovering over my backside.
Or I will have them wait in the car or inside if they have to be present. Which 90% of the time they won’t be.
And I ask how many days do they need everything finished by.
$1,000,000 liability insurance
Ask for examples of what they’ve produced. Like it, buy it, Simple.
Phantom 4 or higher.
They should know the pilots Part 107 certification # and have it verified as it is illegal to sell or use a drone based photography that one may profit monetarily from without having the certification.
Make sure that they are also insured. Drones are flying pile of zero redundancy a small failure can do anything from dropping straight to the ground to burning down a building. Not all pilots have the same regard for safety or legality.
Must have the appropriate license to fly commercially. Certain locations could be difficult or not possible to obtain permission to fly. Professionals who do good work and are license will charge accordingly, but the slight upcharge is worth the risks of using someone unlicensed / uninsured.
* Like any other creative professional, see their past work. Portfolio of photos &/or video reel
* Are they only aerial or do they also shoot traditional, ground-based photos & video
* Are they a photo/video professional who added a drone to their offerings or are they someone who bought a drone and is now trying to monetize it? Either is fine but the work quality and price may be quite different
* Ask for copies of FAA Certificate & Insurance binder prior to executing the contract
Pilot must be FAA licensed. I show my realtors,I work with license. Tell them we, like Realtors, have to be licensed, except ours is federal, their license is from the state. I make sure they know that so they can understand that they wouldn’t want someone to hire a Realtor who wasn’t licensed.
C. I. R. FAA Certified. Insured for Liability. Registered drones w/ FAA.
Insurance should be considered and I would be happy to help with a piece so realtors know what policies apply and how to read the certificates of insurance.
If it’s even feasible to hire a drone operator, if the property is in a no fly zone (airport nearby) it’s usually a no go. William Renegar 107 can fly within NFZ airport boundaries. They know what should be done. William Renegar This is another area where it hits the fan. How many people(aside from dronies), have any idea WTF an FAA part 107 represents? This is where self regulation is most relevant. The pilot has a much better chance of being acquainted with the legalities.
They should be able to provide their certificate for Part107 and proof of insurance. Most companies that are hired carry $2 million in liability for aircraft and premise($1 million for each) which is industry standard from what I have researched.
Part 107 certification,insurance,thorough airspace knowledge and probably most important……enough experience to pull off the money making,eye-popping maneuvers for the best aireal experience
Find out if they are a photographer first or an RC pilot first. In a single photo a real estate photographer should be doing the following POST SHOT edits.
+ Color cast removal
+ Noise reduction
+ Exposure, Lens & vertical corrections
+ Contrast, saturation, brightness & sharpness adjustment
+ Straightening & cropping if needed
+ Window Detailing
+ Removal of Flash
+ Removal of Sensor spots
+ Removal of Tripod
+ Reduction in Glare & Reflection
+ Sky Replacement
+ Vertical Correction
+ Straightening and Cropping
+ Simple retouch like simple wire removal
All manualling done with photoshop without any usage of automatic software like enfuse to give you natural beautiful images.
You should also get:
+ Quality Consistence
+ Ontime delivery
+ Unlimited re-retouches
It’s interesting that none of the responses focus on the actual work product. The ability to get the right shot based on experience, editing, knowledge of MLS requirements, etc.
The main thing you want to look for is experience behind the sticks….Any shmuck can go down to Best Buy and get a P4 Pro and study up for a couple weeks and pass a 107…..That does not mean he has the experience behind the sticks to capture the shot you are looking for.
That it actually costs something and you get what you pay. $50 video will be a $50 video, $50k will be a $50k video.
Basically real estate agents should look to hire a licensed professional as the number one point. Just the same way they would hire a licensed qualified builder/plumber they need to hire the right person with the right tools and skills to do the job well. Aviation liability insurance (not general liability) is a must and a good portfolio or demo shots shot in high resolution are usually a guide to a quality provider.
The pilot must be FAA Part 107 licensed and they should be asked to provide proof of insurance.
The real estate agent should specify if they want any post-production processing or unedited photos/videos for their own processing. While most will want post-processing, there are some that want to do their own post.
The real estate agent should specify what format they want the photos or videos, if they have a preference. Also, do they want the video in 1080p or 4K.
The real estate agent should provide details of any particular photos or videos they want. They may want something that the drone op/photographer wouldn’t normally shoot because they don’t think it’s a good shot, but the realtor may want something specific and they are the customer.
The real estate agent should provide information for anything that could potentially prevent or delay a session, such as house is next to prison, power plant, airport, heliport, military installation, national park, etc. In the beginning, information on location is not always given.
The real estate agent needs to be aware there are regulations that prohibit flying over people and certain precautions need to be in place. Also, some photo/video angles may not be possible due to certain restrictions.
Here is a bit of info to consider. I would be cautious about quoting too many stats/surveys compiled by drone business. Instead look to their own industry stats like National Association of Realtors® (NAR®), and Market Share Statistics (MLS). And an article about using drones to market real estate.
Understand There are limits. Weather/time of day, privacy laws, local law enforcement, power lines, pilots comfort level.
FAA license, insurance, experience.
Another angle is the liability associated with using an unlicensed pilot. It’s like using an unlicensed contractor to do home repairs.
Check the national database for licensed drone operators. FAA 107 licensed pilots are the only people by federal law allowed to film or photograph commercially.
When I presented to the local real estate board, I put much like others have above. The local board has a code of ethics that they operate by and knowingly hiring a non part 107 certified pilot is breaking their code of ethics. They seem to understand that very well.
Does anyone sell anything other than their license?
Yup, a 107 certificate is not a substitution for experience. Used to tell that to my customers back in the day before the FAA went nuts and all but shut guys like me out of the industry.
I agree with most of the stuff here, one point to mention. The company or person that hires an unlicensed drone operator is just as responsible if not more than the Drone operator if they get fined.