Real Estate Marketing Academy

Drones for Real Estate Marketing: The Future, or Just a Fad?

By Matthew Bushery

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Drones real estate agent marketing

Drones have been in the news quite a bit lately. Usually this pertains to their use in overseas spying and tactical warfare. Recently, though, they’ve come to the consumer forefront.

First, Amazon reported it planned to test drone delivery systems. Then, some farmers noted they intended to use unmanned aerial devices to monitor their crops. Now, drones have made their way into the real estate industry as high-tech marketing tools, and there’s been an extraordinary amount of buzz about this seemingly far-fetched form of marketing.

What’s all the hype?

Search “real estate drone” in YouTube and you’ll find countless videos showing agents all over the country using the devices to show off glamorous listings, hard-to-see home exteriors, amazing landscapes, and a number of other unique property features that would be difficult (or even impossible) to highlight without the flying contraptions. This drone video from the New York Times, for instance, shows just how simple it is for real estate pros to navigate the devices around and above residences:

Despite the ease (and seeming enjoyment) in using drones to catch glimpses of previously unseeable aspects of homes and other buildings, it’s proven difficult up to this point to accurately determine if the unmanned devices actually improve real estate website traffic and agents’ bottom lines. Moreover, the National Association of Realtors has even stated it’s not too keen on agents using drones in their real estate marketing just yet, noting the haziness around laws about using the machines for commercial purposes.

Given these issues surrounding the monetization and legality of drones, agents would be wise to take a step back and evaluate if it’s worth the risk to use them to film and photograph their real estate listings. Some agents don’t even have a say in whether they can use the instruments in their marketing: NRT, one of the biggest residential brokerages in the U.S., has banned its agents from using drones to market properties until the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gives the okay.

FAA downs drone usage for real estate marketing.

As Mashable recently reported, the FAA isn’t happy about these real estate professionals using the gadgets to shoot unique views of homes for sale and apartments for rent.

The agency cites safety issues and false use as main concerns and has begun investigating agents’ and firms’ use of drones, with some even receiving subpoenas forcing them to relay their exact uses of drones in their real estate marketing. Many agents claim they can use the devices because they’re using them for “hobby or recreational purposes,” which technically makes drone usage legal. However, the FAA indicated it will reexamine that legal definition and other regulations for unmanned devices given the vast use of photos and video taken with the devices to promote real estate listings.

Is drone marketing just another passing industry fad?

As agents wait on the FAA to finish its investigation into drone use among real estate agents, a modest debate has emerged about the marketing tactic: Is it really something real estate pros should care about? Will drones really make an impact on real estate marketing?

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

— Andy Warhol

Regarding drone usage, Bill Knapp III, co-owner of Des Moines-based high-end real estate agency Ironwood Homes, told USA Today, “There’s a cool factor,” adding that homebuyers are “enamored” with being able to view listings from high above. Similarly, Cushman & Wakefield industrial brokerage services director Julia Rettig told the Tampa Bay Times, “With drones, there’s that wow factor. You get a camera in corners you couldn’t reach and … you’ve elevated your ability to sell something a thousandfold.”

While agents across the country seem to enjoy the fun aspects of drones, there’s been very little public data to emerge that shows they really make an impact in real estate marketing for agents small or large. Companies in America, China, France, and elsewhere are making big bets that commercial drone usage, including in the real estate industry, will take off (pun intended). However, it’s this lack of hard data, along with the FAA’s concerns, that could put a damper on how widely the gadgets are used in the next few years.

Focus on core marketing methods in the meantime.

The bottom line is that the industry will deal with the FAA and its investigation into the merits and safety of drone use for the foreseeable future. So, it’s best that these professionals and companies remember what’s been proven to produce results for their real estate marketing in the first place — not a potential flash-in-the-pan marketing tactic, but tried-and-true marketing methods.

Your real estate website, your social media accounts, your email marketing campaign, your blog: These are the places you need to focus your marketing efforts. Online marketing has the statistics to back up its validity. Search-optimized websites bring in traffic. Social networks allow for lots of efficient lead engagement. Blogging regularly improves your brand awareness.

It’s this kind of marketing that will continue to dominate for years to come and help you take your real estate business to the next level — not a small, pricy, unproven tech widget that may never become legal to use in marketing anyway.

Learn where you should be spending your marketing dollars by checking out our post The Real Estate Agent’s Guide to Setting an Advertising Budget.

Do you believe drone usage will become widespread among the real estate agent community? Share your views below.

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