Canadian real estate agents are embracing the use of drones to help sell homes and properties, especially useful for "showing" them to potential out-of-town buyers.
Agents say the aerial photography technology gives people a better look at properties for sale, giving them a feel for the lay of the land without being there in person.
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As well, drone technology costs only a few hundred dollars compared to the thousands for hiring a helicopter and photographer.
Paul Rouillard, a Windsor, Ont.,real estate agent, uses a drone to make video tours of his listed properties.
After seeing footage of a drone tour of a California home four months ago, he just had to have one.
"The moment I saw it, within one hour I ordered a drone online. It was at my door within five days," Rouillard said. "I had all my camera set up within one week, and I was flying and did my first tour by then."
Rouillard says aerial footage can showcase a home like nothing else.
"We want to feature it. We want to highlight it. We want to make sure that when somebody does see it, their first instinct is, 'Wow! I want to come take a look at it,'" Rouillard said. "We get that 'wow factor' all the time."
Freeman Aubin didn't know what to expect when Rouillard offered to record a drone tour of his property.
"But once I saw footage of it, I was really amazed, and I said, 'Well, yeah, for sure,'" Aubin said.
Drone 'exciting for us'
Jim Williams specializes in commercial real estate in Windsor.
He says an eye in the sky will help him identify development opportunities. He wants a drone by early next year.
"To be able to fly downtown Windsor and look for vacant sites, potential buildings that could be repositioned, redeveloped, to do it from the air gives you a whole different perspective," Williams said. "So those are the real specific reasons the drone will be exciting for us."
Rouillard said the drone has helped make out-of-town sales — and quickly.
"I did it for another client. By Day 2, we had an offer on the property and it was from a buyer in Toronto who's never seen the property. They'd seen the tour, which is a complete aerial footage of the property and an inside tour, and it was sold within one week and they didn't even see the property," Rouillard said.
Here's a sample of Rouillard's work:
Most drones range in price from a few hundred dollars for personal aircraft to up to $200,000 for commercial grade units, and can be operated with a controller, similar to ones used for video games, or by a tablet or an iPhone.
Drones began cropping up in Canada's real estate market over the last few years.
May be a downside to drones
Summerside, P.E.I.'s Michael Poczynek told CBC News in July 2013 his remote-control drone quad-rotor helicopter provides a whole new perspective, and is relatively easy to use.
"It has a built-in GPS, built-in compass, it has built-sensors to tell when the helicopter is shifting. So it does a lot of the flying for you, which makes it a lot easier and a lot better for aerial photography, because if you let go of the controls it just hovers there until the battery dies," Poczynek said back then.
Last year, Transport Canada issued 945 Special Flight Operation Certificates (SFOC), a more than 500 per cent jump from 155 certificates in 2011. The certificates are required to fly unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes and typically detail where unmanned aerial vehicles can be flown, by whom, and during what time period.
Drone use in the real estate industry isn't infallible.
A 50-year-old Australian woman told the BBC she was humiliated when a drone used by a real estate agent captured an image of her sunbathing topless in her backyard.
By mistake, the image of her wearing nothing but a thong while face down on her lawn was used a billboard outside the suburban development near her home.
Number of real estate drones unknown
Pierre Leduc, spokesman for the Canadian Real Estate Association, said the association doesn’t track the number of drones used by its members.
Leduc did say the association has noticed a spike in media stories covering real estate agents who use drones, and that the most notable area of increase is in rural and agricultural property.
He also noted more chatter and stories being shared on a blog hosted by the association and used by its members.
“But we have no serious numbers,” he said.
He called drones “another tool in the tool kit” for real estate agents.