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6 Ways Drones are Changing Real Estate - CBS News

1. Budget-friendly aerial photography

Before drones became accessible to real estate pros, aerial photos of properties were limited to either grainy satellite images (like those found on Google Earth) or those taken during pricey aerial photography sessions with a hired airplane or helicopter.

VHT Studios, based in Rosemont, Illinois, offers drone photography sessions starting at $379 for up to 10 still photos and $479 for photos and a one-minute video. Open Homes Photography, based in California's Bay Area, offers almost identical aerial drone photo packages for $275 and $575, respectively. In Brick Township, New Jersey, photography and video company Osprey Perspectives offers a "basic" aerial drone photo package for $250 and a "basic" aerial video package for $425.

"It's all about budgeting your marketing dollars," said Liza Mendez, a Realtor with Pedro Realty in Miami. "Before drones, you might use a helicopter for million-dollar homes, but this is a different animal. As it becomes more affordable, I could see using this for just about any type of property."

2. Buzz for listing agents

One of the biggest appeals of using drones in real estate right now is simply the buzz it brings to the listing, agents said. Drones are new and trendy, and they can raise an agent's profile.

"It really sets you apart and shows you're trying to do something different from the pack," Mendez said.

While this technology is novel right now, Brown said he could see it becoming an industry standard, much like professionally shot listing photos are now.

"I think in the future, listings not enhanced with drone technology will stand out negatively because everyone else will be doing it," Brown said.

3. Better views of bigger homes

Drone photography is especially useful for large, unique properties that don't photograph well from the ground.

John Morrison, a real estate broker with @Properties in Barrington, Illinois, recently used drone photography to showcase a large lakefront property that had previously been on-and-off the market.

"It had an indoor basketball court and a private lakefront, but there was no way to capture it all in the frame of the camera. It just looked like an ordinary two-story house from the front," Morrison said. He used a drone to take a photo with all of those selling points in the frame: the large house, the basketball court addition and the lake.

"I found a buyer in two weeks," he said. "The biggest thing that helped close the deal was the fact that the main photo showed the scope of the house, the court and the shore of the lake behind it."

4. A look at the land

Drone photography won't work for homes in all areas, Morrison said.

"I probably wouldn't use it in a town center where it's on a 60-by-120 (foot) lot and surrounded by lots of neighbors' houses," he said. Likewise, downtown high-rise condos aren't great candidates for drone photography.

"It's great if the property is expansive and has something like stables, lots of land, farmland, second dwellings or additional buildings on the land," Balduf said. "You can fly out and give a tour of the entire estate."

5. A more personal view of the property

Videos filmed by drones can help buyers get a better idea of what a property "feels" like before they visit for a showing, Balduf said.

For example, a drone can record video while flying along a twisting, wooded driveway to give buyers a feel for what the approach to the house looks like and, as a closing shot, can take off from the home's backyard and fly over the surrounding neighborhood to give potential buyers a better view of the area.

Morrison said this appeals to the emotional aspects of the homebuying process.

"In real estate, you're not just selling homes -- you're selling a lifestyle," he said. "People buy on emotion, and these videos really pull them in."

6. A tour of the town

Broad Street, Downtown Southern Pines, NC
Southern Pines, NC

Morrison said he had also used drones to give potential buyers a way to investigate a new town.

"We've started to do town and village drone videos," he said. "It's really nice for transferees who have to move to a new town they're not familiar with. It's a nice, welcoming snapshot of what we have to offer here."

From the air, clients can see bodies of water, parks, golf courses and other landmarks and community amenities in a way they can't by simply looking at a map or a satellite photo of the area.

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