There’s a perception that expansive, beautiful aerial photos are the exclusive domain of the highest of high-end properties. So if you are marketing a huge house on a giant lot with a view to die for, you’d arrange for an aerial shoot using a plane or helicopter, but otherwise, you wouldn’t bother.
The introduction of prosumer-grade drones with high-resolution photo and video capabilities smashed this truism. Now, real estate professionals and homeowners alike can get high-quality aerial photos for less than the cost of the traditional method. Plus, drones are much more versatile, giving you more options in terms of how aerial shots can really highlight the property, the neighborhood, or the view.
So aerial shots are becoming more and more popular, but just because something is fashionable doesn’t mean it’s worth the cost (pet rock anyone? How ‘bout a complete Beanie Baby collection?) As a drone services professional myself, I wanted to know if aerial photography adds real value to a property listing or if it’s just necessary sometimes (like food at an open house).
Fortunately, real estate sales are something that is well documented and tracked, so I was able to find an answer to this burning question.
Using data I pulled from Redfin about houses sold in Seattle, I determined that of all the properties that sold for $800k+, those that added aerial pics sold for 18% more and sold 8.5% faster (15 fewer Days on Market (DOM) on average). This held even when I only looked at houses with a size of 2,000-4,000 Sqft and lot sizes of 4,000- 10,890 Sqft. For those, listings that featured aerial shots sold for 10.7% more and sold 7.8% faster than their conventional counterparts.
On an $800k home, that 10.7% sales increase translates into a $2,568 increase in gross commissions. That’s a substantial ROI for a service that costs $300 on average.
I didn’t include houses below 800k, as I discovered that aerial photo usage drops off dramatically as sales price goes down (from 15% for 900k+ to only 4% for 900-800k homes).
In any case, the more listings an agent sold, the more likely they were to use aerial photos- 28% of brokers that sold 2 or more $800k+ houses last year used them while only 13% of single-sale brokers did. In other words, the more active a broker is, the more they recognize the merits of aerial photos.
So now you’ve seen the value of aerial pics to you (and your client’s) bottom line and want to try them out. But what if your favorite photographer (that you’ve been working with for years) doesn’t offer drone photos/video?
Flying a drone for commercial purposes involves getting a UAV pilot’s license, purchasing additional insurance, keeping a flight log, regular maintenance, passing a background check, etc., so it’s not surprising that most photographers won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.
If this is the case, you have two main options: find another photographer who’s comfortable with drones or hire an independent drone specialist in addition to your usual photographer. There aren’t that many of either group, but they do exist if you look for them.
A drone-friendly photographer can be a good option since you only need to deal with one vendor and you can be certain that they know how to take great real estate pics. However, this might not be the best option for you if have a regular photographer that you like and trust. In that case, a drone specialist is probably your best bet.
Drone specialists are advantageous in that you can continue working with your favorite conventional photographer. Plus, while regular photographers are well-versed with traditional cameras, drones are entirely different animal with different capabilities and limitations. UAV specialists live and breathe aerial photography, which means they are likely to produce a higher quality end result.
Whichever way you go, I recommend that you start using aerial photography sooner rather than later. Adding aerial shots provides a tangible benefit for both you and the seller and widespread adoption of drones has decreased prices while increasing utility. Before long, drone photography will become the norm for active real estate professionals everywhere. The question is, will you ride the wave to increased profits or struggle to catch up after it passes you by?
You can download a copy of the data used for this article here: