John N. Frank is former managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine.
Flying Through Your Listings
Want to enhance your online walkthroughs? Learn how to prepare a property for an indoor drone tour.
May - June
- Drone tours may appeal to sellers who are leery of a high volume of foot traffic as the pandemic persists.
- Drone tours help buyers reduce the number of homes they physically visit.
- Drone sessions typically cost $500-$1000, including video production.
The pandemic popularized virtual home tours, and some real estate professionals turned to drones as a coronavirus-safe method of capturing video indoors. Client interest in these polished video walkthroughs is expected to remain high. When deciding whether hiring a drone video service makes sense for your listings, it’s useful to weigh a variety of factors.
At typically $500 to $1,500 per drone session (including video production), you’ll want to assess which properties show best with this marketing treatment. If you go forward, make sure you can clear a safe path through the home for the drone. You also should hire an experienced drone operator who can maneuver indoor space constraints. Avoiding damage to the home is paramount.
Why consider an indoor drone tour? It may appeal to sellers who are leery of a high volume of foot traffic as the pandemic persists. It also helps buyers reduce the number of homes they physically visit. Though properties listed with drone tours tend to draw fewer in-person walkthroughs, Ryan Young, leader of The Young Team at Keller Williams Greater Metropolitan in Cleveland, says buyers who do visit are offer-ready and have a good sense of how well the home meets their needs. The result has been that “they sell faster and for more because the buyer had a truer representation of the property” from the drone tour, Young says.
Showcase the Right Properties
Indoor drone tours work best for homes with dramatic features, such as cathedral ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, or large doors that open to impressive outdoor vistas. “When you do a drone tour, it’s more for the ‘sizzle’ of the property,” says Thomas Wasinski, owner of Cleveland-based drone company Aerial Agents.
Waterfront properties or homes with dramatic views also are good candidates for indoor—and out-door—drone photography, says Wendy Alper, a sales associate with Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Rye, N.Y. Alper has used indoor drone tours for upscale listings in the million-dollar range and above, spotlighting such features as palatial spiral staircases and an indoor basketball court. For properties with large yards and impressive outdoor features, she combines exterior and interior drone footage for virtual tours.
But there’s reason to consider an indoor drone tour even for homes that aren’t aesthetically distinctive. Kara Keller, an associate broker with Baird & Warner in Oak Park, Ill., says she’s used indoor drone tours to help condo listings stand out. The tours offer unique views and seamless walkthrough experiences not available for similar condo listings. Zach Dulla, CEO of Chicago-area real estate video company Indoor Drone Tours, says he has real estate pros who hire him to produce drone footage for homes selling for as little as $250,000.
Find the Right Vendor
Choose a drone operator with the appropriate equipment for an indoor tour. Indoor spaces require smaller drones that can maneuver in confined areas. (Indoor Drone Tours uses custom-built drones the size of a person’s hand.) The smaller the drone, the easier it is to control and the less likely it will be to cause damage. Be sure the vendor uses guards on the drone’s propellers, and ask about how their pilots are trained. Someone with experience flying outside may not know how to adjust for being indoors.
The more information you can get people, the more they get excited and the more committed they are.
Discuss with your vendor what you want the video to look like: Will it be a continuous, one-shot fly-through of the home, or will it highlight features in each room? Will you use background music, or do you want to narrate the tour? Also, be sure the vendor can edit your tour for different lengths. A one-minute video is sufficient for social media, but you will likely want longer versions for your YouTube channel and the property listing site.
Clear the Way
For the most part, you’ll stage a home for an indoor drone tour as you would for a traditional photo shoot—but with a few added touches. Secure any hanging cords from ceiling fans, overhead light fixtures, or blinds so they don’t get entangled with the drone’s propellers. Make sure all interior doors are open, especially shallow closets or small storage spaces the drone can’t fit into.
Get as much light as possible into the home. Turn on all interior lights, and bring in natural light by opening blinds and shades. Good lighting is key to a good video. Some operators may bring in lighting for particularly dark rooms. “Everything has to be perfectly set,” Keller says.
Thanks to the hyper-evolution of technology during the pandemic, consumers now expect dynamic, detailed home tours online. You may soon find that indoor drone tours are a helpful part of your marketing toolkit. Potential buyers gain the feeling of being inside a home and seeing it from angles conventional photographers can’t easily reach. Because drone tours aren’t yet commonplace, they also can convey a sense of exclusivity around a property.
“The more information you can get people, the more they get excited and the more committed they are” to buying, Young says.