Banking low over the trees, the small quadcopter slows and begins a gradual climb. Rising above the roof, it hovers in place for a moment before flying over a fountain in the courtyard and sweeping along the edge of a swimming pool.
Welcome to the modern world of real estate.
Drone photography and videos and sophisticated software programs are seeing increased use among Realtors looking to up their game with eye-catching visuals that will help sell homes.
“Drones can be used on all kinds of properties,” said Bob Gonsalves, president and CEO of the U.S. Association of Unmanned Aerial Videographers, a membership association focused on the needs of commercial UAV operators.
“It allows real estate agents to show off properties in a very unique way that you couldn’t have done several years ago,” he said.
Actually, it could have been done it back then.
“You would have hired a pilot to fly a helicopter, and that would have probably cost $2,000 for a couple of hours,” Gonsalves said. “What has changed over the years is the affordability of drones. Now you can buy a DJI Mavic Pro Quadcopter with high resolution from Best Buy for about $1,000.”
About half of his association’s 6,000 members use their drones for real estate purposes, Gonsalves said. It’s no wonder because Multiple Listing Service statistics show that homes with aerial images sell 68 percent faster than houses that are marketed using standard photos.
Industry research firm RIS Media additionally notes that 73 percent of homeowners say that they’re more likely to list with a real estate agent who uses video to market their home.
Chad Z. King, who owns a Los Angeles-based aerial photography business called A Bird’s Eye, got in on the ground floor, so to speak. In fact, King figures he was among the first to utilize drones to showcase homes.
“I started doing aerial photography with a miniature remote-controlled helicopter in 2009,” he said. “We mounted a Nikon D7000 camera on it. Back then that was the best that Nikon offered. We didn’t have a downlink, so we just sort of winged it. We’d land it and take a look at the footage and say, ‘OK, we need to get further out,’ or ‘we need to angle it down a little more.’ We did it that way for about three years.”
The company has since refined its aerial productions, which now serve both the real estate world and the movie industry. These days, King’s drone videos are used to showcase high-profile homes like the sprawling Playa del Rey estate once owned by the late Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss.
King recently shot aerial footage and still shots to showcase a 22,000-square-foot home on La Cuarta Street in Whittier which is priced at nearly $5.5 million. The property is co-listed by Jason Gonzalez, who manages First Team Real Estate’s offices in Whittier and Fullerton, and Dean Lueck, a Realtor with the company’s Newport Beach location.
Gonzalez said aerial footage and photos have become an increasing bigger part of the mix.
“In our company’s luxury division, it has become a necessity,” he said. “You get more offers, but that’s really the result of all the things we do. The key is syndication. Our listings go out to as many as 2,000 industry and social media sites.”
But this new way of marketing doesn’t come cheap.
An aerial video combined with moving interior shots typically runs anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 according to Gonzalez, whereas a traditional non-aerial photo package costs $300 to $500. Still, he thinks it’s money well spent.
“It’s really a reflection of your work and when future clients look you up they’ll find out how you marketed properties,” he said.
Lueck said his office uses drone footage to promote most of its listings.
“It works great on large properties with a lot of acreage,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s the only way to get a really good idea of how big a property is. We even use it on less expensive homes. We just did this with a $900,000 property in Dana Point to show that it’s just a few blocks from the beach. People don’t know how close a home might be to a beach or harbor and a video like this can show that. And it really builds emotion.”
Lueck offered an example.
“We had a woman who wanted to buy a home for $8.8 million in Corona del Mar,” he said. “Her husband was out of the country and said, ‘I’m not spending that kind of money on a home I can’t see.” Well, she told him to watch the video. He did and they ended up making an offer.
“We have multiple examples like that. We’ve even had homeowners almost decide to not sell their homes after seeing the videos. It almost brings tears to their eyes.”
Realty companies are also turning to Matterport, a Sunnyale-based company whose 3D software program takes viewers on a virtual tour of a home. Richard Heintze, Matterport’s director of client services, explained how it works:
“You set up a 3D camera in a room, hook it up to an iPad and push the button and it rotates in a circle, giving you a 360-degree view of the room,” he said. “You can do this in multiple rooms, and when it’s finished you upload those images to our website and we process that into a 3D space that allows you to virtually walk through the home and spin in any direction.”
Justin Potier, vice president and broker associate at Boardwalk Properties in Long Beach, said his office relies on Matterport’s sophisticated software in addition to aerial videos and photos.
“Matterport gives you a doll house-like rendering of the home online,” he said. “You can break it apart and walk through the various rooms. It’s extremely impressive.”
Jordan Levine, a senior economist with the California Association of Realtors, said consumers have come to expect the kinds of visually stunning and interactive experiences today’s technology can provide when they’re shopping for a home.
“They are doing their research online to see what the market is and they expect to see more images and more Matterport-like stuff because that’s becoming more and more commonplace,” he said. “And from a seller’s standpoint you want to put your best foot forward … you want something that will lure them in and bring more foot traffic.”