Drones have been in the news for years. They are an integral element of modern warfare and are now being used for everything from agriculture to aerial footage in filmmaking, search and rescue missions to humanitarian aid. (And you might have heard about their potential for less serious uses, like delivering pizzas.) Maple Grove resident and Realtor Brandon Doyle is a leader in the Twin Cities when it comes to using technology, and, specifically, unmanned, remotely controlled aerial devices—drones—to find his clients the best possible buyer for their home.
Doyle began using lightweight radio-controlled copters soon after they came on the market, photographing properties with lots of acreage, and waterfront settings that would otherwise be difficult to capture. “Technology advances very quickly, and I’ve had to upgrade multi-copters many times already, but being on the cutting edge of technology is one of the core drivers of our business,” he says.
Grabbing the attention of the buyer, especially the one couch surfing the net for listings, is key to separating a property from the rest of the pack, and Doyle’s aerial photographs do just that. An entry-level multi-copter starts at $1,000 and can run well over $10,000; the larger, more expensive systems being able to lift heavier cameras, with more advanced features.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently restricted all business use of unmanned aerial vehicles. So Doyle currently uses his equipment for recreation until reasonable guidelines are announced. Initial proposals require aircraft to stay in the user’s line of sight (sorry, no pizza delivery), to fly below 500 feet and at less than 100 miles per hour during daylight. Additionally, the operator would need an unmanned aircraft operator certificate.
So, how has Doyle remained on the cutting edge of technology when it comes to selling a home? He continues to champion the use of 360-degree photo galleries on his real estate website. These photos, taken by a professional photographer with a 3-D scanner, allow Doyle to offer what he calls a “digital showing.” You can sit in front of your computer and see every inch of the house you are interested in. Think of it as Google Street View for home interiors. It not only allows you to “click-through” a property, but you can also click into a “doll house” view, and get a sense of the entire layout, whether the house is located next door or in Hawaii.
If this new way of picking a home isn’t “techie” enough, Doyle has more ways to search, after which you may swear you’ve actually been in the house. Doyle is beta-testing an app that can be accessed via a smartphone. When placed inside a viewing headset, the phone becomes a 3-D device, allowing you to actually “experience” a property—turning your head from left to right to see the virtual environment.
“No matter how many photos the listing agent uses, it’s still challenging to get a real feel for a home and, thus, make a decision as to if it’s worth a buyer’s time to view it,” Doyle says. Technology helps a buyer better evaluate which properties to visit.
Even if you are not in the market for a new home, you can have a bit of fun with the technologies the real estate industry is helping introduce to the masses. And it might be the closest you come to a Star Trek Holodeck for at least a decade.