The year 2020 impacted the real estate market in a unique way. Appraisers and lenders were trying to find ways of inspecting properties while also practicing social distancing. In terms of utilizing aerial inspections there was a decline in drone use among real estate appraisers and brokers. But don’t let that fool you. Lenders are always trying to find inexpensive ways of making loans and drones are currently considered to be an additional cost that is not required. While some real estate businesses may have been pulling back on using drones, other real estate industries were beginning to find that they were a cost effective way of gathering data. It is only a matter of time before lending institutions will be requiring aerial inspections of some properties.
Drones offer a more cost effective way of gathering valuable information on properties from a unique perspective. Not only can they showcase features that can’t be identified from ground based photography or GIS mapping but they can also be used as an aid to identify conformity to the neighborhood, ingress and egress, and the surrounding infrastructures, namely shopping, schools and employment. In addition, other things such as easements and excess and surplus land can be more easily identified from the air in some cases.
One of the great features that some drones can perform is measurement. With the correct sensory equipment, the accuracy can actually be better supported than ground based measurements for some improvements. With accuracy levels being within a centimeter of actual, the approval of using a drone for measurement is around the corner. The only thing that is holding it back is market acceptance. Using a drone to measure properties is not valid for all properties such as residential homes with finished attics and finished mezzanines in industrial buildings but for the majority of properties a drone with the proper equipment can quickly and efficiently measure a property.
Development and construction companies have found that the use of drones aids in the scope of work. Drones have also helped to improve the allocation and use of resources. Weekly flyovers have shown that the scope of work can be more accurately assessed and that the time of completion can be more accurately estimated. Unused resources are being repurposed for other projects instead being left to deteriorate on the site. Problems are being identified earlier and resolved before they become financial nightmares. Cost is the major component in construction and any way of creating a more effective use of resources can curt those costs dramatically.
Insurance companies are implementing programs for using drones to gather assessments on properties. The companies are furnishing pilots with preprogrammed flights around a property to be able to photograph and document the features. Since appraisers are already giving cost estimates for insurance purposes it is only a matter of time before insurance companies begin to ask for appraisers with remote pilot certificates. One day some appraisers will be chosen on their ability to be able to use a drone for aerial assessments. Appraisal companies that have the ability to aerially inspect may actually gain new clients.
Drones are similar to the day that digital cameras were introduced. Not only can they gather data from a different perspective but they can also gather a lot more data. But don’t think that the use of drones is all that a client may need. The need for high quality ground based photography will always exist. In fact, most of the pilots I interviewed view drones as an additional component that sets them above the competition. However, it is their focus on ground based photography that brings them the work.
The FAA made a major step toward the implementation of drones with the remote identification tool which will be required on all drones in 3 to 5 years. The remote identification tool will show who’s in the air, where they are and what they are looking at. This is a necessary component to creating a safe national airspace. It is also the first step towards other aspects of drone technology such as delivery. If the time frame sound a little far off then think again. There are major companies trying to gain a foothold in aerial photography and inspection today. These companies recognize that the cost of learning up front will pay dividends in the long run. As market acceptance of using drones becomes more recognized so will the opportunities to use the technology. Whether for use, investment or just curious, drone technology is here to stay and will impact appraisal in a broad way in the future.