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Drone use surges in real etate agents despite FAA issues

real estate agents use drones more despite warnings from the FAA
real estate agents use drones more despite warnings from the FAA
Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Real estate agents in some parts of the United States seemed unfazed by the Federal Aviation Authority’s recent crackdown on drone use among New York City realtors as they increasingly employ the use of the device to show off properties to home buyers.

In a piece titled How real estate companies use drones that was published on The Des Moines Register, writer Joel Aschbrenner detailed ways real estate agents are using the novel technology to document their properties.

Chris Albright, one of the agents featured in the article, shared that at the start of his remote tours, he flies drones towards his listings to “give people the experience of driving home.” He then steers the drone around the property to provide potential buyers a look into the neighborhood.

Kurt Mumm, president of NAI Optimum, an Iowa commercial real estate brokerage, also relies on drones to market commercial properties to investors.

"For somebody sitting in Atlanta, Georgia, making that [million-dollar] decision, it's important to be able to show them just how quickly some of these markets are expanding," Mumm told The Des Moines Register.

In Fallston, Maryland, Re/Max Components agent Robert McArtor also uses drones to shoot aerial videos of his listings. “A buyer today wants to see a stunning Hollywood trailer experience,” he told The Baltimore Sun. “We have created the wow factor.”

The National Realtor Association has prohibited agents to use drones until the FAA has issued its guidelines.

The FAA’s ban over the use of drones was challenged by an administrative law judge Patrick Geraghty, according to a report on USA Today. Geraghty ruled in favor of one Raphael Pirkir who was fined by the FAA for flying a drone, stating that “there was no enforceable FAA rule that applied” to the drone Pirker was flying. Pirker flew the unmanned aircraft to gather videos of the University of Virginia for Lewis Communications.

The FAA in turn filed an appeal to the National Transportation Safety Board reiterating its authority on regulating “all aircrafts including models” and that citizens are not allowed to fly these models until it has passed its regulations.

The report stated that the agency has been ordered by Congress to pass the rules by September 2015. However, Transportation Department inspector general Calvin Scovel III doubts that the FAA will meet the deadline or that drones will make it to the airspace in the near future.

"It's a very important decision, because I think it's created some chaos out there because of the (judge's) interpretation of the situation that we have no authority to regulate model aircraft," said FAA assistant chief counsel Peter Lynch.

To steer clear of the legal pitfalls of drone use, real estate agents can always resort to virtual tours, which also allow them to showcase properties at a lower cost.

According to an independent report on Gant Daily, using virtual tours is actually the “norm in real estate marketing.” The report cited Nestbuilder.com as a primary example of a website promoting the use of virtual tours and information-rich videos among real estate agents. Some 350,000 real estate agents are currently using the portal to remotely market their listings to clients.

Nestbuilder.com was developed by Florida-based digital media company RealBiz Media Group, Inc.’s (OTCQB: RBIZ). The company is also known for creating proprietary video marketing systems such as the Microvideo App, a platform which agents can use to create dedicated pages for their listings, as well as videos, events and news entries that they can cross-post on their social media accounts. The platform is also equipped with an analytics dashboard that agents can use to monitor and customize their campaigns.

Several studies suggest that potential home buyers watch virtual tours before visiting a property. Realtor.com found in 2006 that 54 percent of home buyers “will not look at a property unless it contains a virtual tour.” It also found that listings were visited by 87 percent more “if they include a virtual tour.”