What Is The Cost vs. Value In Hiring Drone Photography?

What Is The Cost vs. Value In Hiring Drone Photography?

In our last blog, we took an in-depth look at why a real estate agent or agency may or may not hire aerial (drone) photo/videography services. We looked at the legalities of having a non-FAA certified drone operator perform the photography and some of the consequences. We also touched on some of the benefits as well as a step-by-step on how to engage professional drone services. We had a tremendous response to that article, with many bringing questions about further definition to the overall cost vs. value of engaging a professional drone photographer. Today, this will be a continuation of the previous blog and address these questions by conferring with qualified experts, as well as offering my own real world experience and humble opinion. Also, just to note, this article excludes the legalities that I outlined in the previous article.

My Friends Cousins Husbands Brothers Son has a drone, how ‘bout we just get him to take some drone pictures of our multi-six-figure real estate listing!?

man with a droneYes, I’m being a little facetious for effect, but believe it or not, this is a typical scenario among real estate agents. I promise, it is not my intent to berate anyone, so please stay with me. I understand all about risk vs. reward.

In making calls out to real estate agencies and agents, I have heard many times that they have a drone photographer, or they do it themselves. Of course as a sales guy, I realize that they see me coming a mile away, being in sales themselves. I maintain a sparkly smile and respond with “ah! that’s great! Do you have your FAA certification too?” On one hand, perhaps now we have that in common, but on the other hand, everyone I have asked, reluctantly replies they do not, or they are not aware of the FAA part 107 certification, or the FAA requirements

I will go into more depth on this topic later in this article, but I typically continue these conversations by encouraging them that for a nominal cost, they can outsource this service to a professional, which allows them to focus on the most important tasks at hand in managing their property listings. And I go further to mention this reduces any risk relating to being penalized by the FAA.

Do I ask my auto mechanic to help me with my dental work?

Or a better example might be, would I ask my brother-in-law to paint my house? I often ask my clients this question; “what is your specialization?” or “what is your primary role within the organization?” Sure, my brother-in-law can certainly go to the local hardware store and purchase paint and all the necessary accoutrements to paint my house. But there are some real questions you might want to consider before going with the bro-n-law scenario.

  1. Cost – the assumption being that your brother-in-law is not a professional painter, is he painting my house for free or am I paying him. In either case, you will be paying a cost. Is he doing all of the proper prep work, scraping, sanding, repairing rotted wood, on and on? There is much more to painting than just buying a brush and slopping on the paint and if he’s doing the work as a favor, he may not be doing you any favors. Have you ever heard the phrase “you get what you pay for”? Worse, if you are paying him, perhaps as a favor to him, unless he is doing the work properly, you may be looking to pay considerably down the road to have it done again, sooner than you would have if done properly, or even worse, have structural issues due to ignoring the rotted wood, and/or neglecting to make the necessary repairs before painting.
  2. Value – by hiring a professional painter, and yes they can be expensive, but consider the long term value. An honest professional painter will do a proper inspection, make recommendations for repair or detail the steps to prep for paint. This gives you assurance that the house maintains its structural integrity long term and the paint is a true protectant as well as a cosmetic finish. Additionally, a professional painter will provide a warranty to his work that will provide long term value compared to the cost of the project.

Finally, in answer to the above question, I certainly would not hire my auto mechanic to perform my dental work, which leads to the primary topic of this article. Stay with me, I am about to get into the real goodness!

real estate agent lots of question marksI understand that these expenses come out of pocket on the front end of a listing. I also understand that if the property you are selling is in a tightly situated neighborhood that aerial photography might not be appropriate. So let me provide some definition to what we are talking about. Ideally, for the cost to make sense:

  1. Your list price should be a minimum $150k and up.
  2. The property should be on its own lot or acreage.
  3. The property should have good landscaping and features to highlight.

Otherwise, aerial photography may be a little overkill or can even be unappealing to your marketing media and content.

Let’s Talk Value Proposition

In the same way that I described the brother-in-law painter scenario, let’s discuss hiring a professional drone operator.

First of all, I am a commercially certified drone operator, so you may consider me biased and one-sided on the matter. You may think that I am gaming for a sale, and perhaps if we’re all being transparent, aren’t we all looking to close more business? But, in the following, I will bring you a mix of industry expertise as well as my own expertise within and outside the drone industry.

Just to highlight some national statistics…as of July 2018, there are more than 95,000 FAA Certified drone pilots across the U.S. The use of drones across industries such as Construction, Transportation, Telecommunications, Power and other Utility Services, and numerous other applications already become standard practice. Depending on the industry, safety and costs are the driving force bringing the use of drones to the forefront. In the last several years as drone technology began to evolve, there were limited applications for drones in the business market. Real Estate was probably one of the first to see the value of good quality aerial photo and video.

Cost vs. Value | Understanding of Airspace and Safety Regulations

As the technology improved and the cost of drones decreased, suddenly we have a lot of consumers purchasing drones and looking to turn their hobby into a money making proposition. I for one was one of these individuals who originally bought a drone as a means of recreation and discovered a passion. I like many others who take this craft seriously, invested my time and the cost to go through the course studies, prepared for and passed the certification exam. This segues perfectly into the initial value of hiring a certified drone operator. As part of the study and FAA requirements to pass the exam, we had to undertake learning aviation charts to understand airspace and how we fit into the scheme of other aircraft, both manned and unmanned. A non-FAA certified pilot may not understand the rules of airspace. There were many components to understanding the requirements and regulations that may not apply to a hobbyist pilot, yet the incidents in the news, are nearly exclusively related to non-certified drone operators flying outside of regulated parameters and causing accidents and even fatalities.

As part of our certification there is a tremendous responsibility to follow the guidelines and regulations to operate safely at all times. We wouldn’t put a 10 year old child behind the wheel of a car for the same reasons. When you hire an FAA certified drone operator, you are engaging a consummate professional who cares about the safety of those in proximity, and respects the airspace and other aircraft.

Cost vs. Value | Creative and Artistic Skills

Especially for aerial photography, videography and cinematography, hiring a professional in the area of expertise that makes sense to you, this pilot will demonstrate a skillset based on his or her day to day experience. The saying “practice makes perfect” is so true in this example. I’ll give you a personal example. I was out on a real estate shoot where the house was tightly surrounded by gorgeous trees. Earlier in my drone career, I would have certainly played it safe and hovered safely above the tree line which would give us any real shots of the home. However, that not being acceptable to me, much less the client, I have learned by hours and hours of flying how to weave my drone in and out of the trees and get very strategic shots that add remarkable content to the marketing portfolio. I’m not saying I’m the only guy that does this, but it’s safe to say that a non-commercial pilot may not have these skills at the ready to provide you with a premium quality photo and video content. Needless to say, the client was super pleased and I get repeat business from this agent over and over again.

Cost vs. Value | Professional Gear and Ability to Use It

Also, it is important to mention that the quality of gear that a professional aerial photographer will bring is above and beyond, pun intended, that of a novice or hobbyist drone pilot. I have multiple drones that I deploy to capture various types of photo and video as well as a plentiful assortment of lens types, filters combined with a strong understanding to how to operate and maximize my gears full capabilities to get the best quality output. I realize that I may sound critical, but nothing urks me more than seeing photos in a real estate listing that were obviously shot by an amateur. The property is beautiful and deserves to be presented as beautifully as it appears naturally. The photos are more often than not, blurry or washed out simply due to a lack of a good camera or the know-how to take good photos. There are substantial costs involved in deploying with the best equipment available. On a given engagement, it is more than typical that a drone operator will have in excess of $10k to $20k in gear alone.

Cost vs. Value | Production Quality

Another key element to the overall cost vs. value conversation is production. When hiring a professional drone operator, he or she will have production resources that will provide beautiful and dramatic content that presents so much better as part of your marketing portfolio. Some organizations have internal production talent while other smaller operators either outsource or perform their own production. In any case, the production value is equally as important as the pilots photography capabilities. A hobbyist may not have the production resources that you will find with a professional or commercial drone operator. I pride myself on the quality of the output and work tirelessly to maintain the best quality possible. As in equipment, there are also extensive costs involved in performing the production component to the client. An organization is either incurring the cost of hiring resources and providing production equipment, or the cost to outsource the work, which can save the service provider some, but can also affect the quality of the production. All to say, whether we are performing a 3 minute real estate video or inspection and survey content, the operation costs are a real cost to doing business.

What do these Services Cost?

You may be pleasantly surprised to know that this expense can be nominal in contrast to the value of including aerial photography as a consistent component of your marketing strategy. I could get really granular on cost structures, and variants that are calculated in pricing a project. But over the years, I have established a rule of thumb that I go by when doing quick, over the phone or on the spot estimates.

List Price – for every $100k multiply by $100 = a good estimate. So for a $350k listing, you can expect to pay roughly $350 for a standard aerial photography package. Depending on the provider, this should give you a good set of still photos, a 2 to 3 minute video, very well produced and ready to build into your marketing campaign. I also provide the media with and without your logo and any other information you like to be included.

In Summary

So far in this article we have discussed the cost vs. value reasons why it makes the most sense to engage professional aerial photographers as opposed to having a hobbyist perform the work. It is all about adhering to the legalities, the FAA regulations, as well as the overall quality of the content. Aerial photography, as flown by an experienced drone pilot and skilled photographer, will result in a content deliverable that you will be proud to place across your marketing platforms. No doubt, this will enhance and improve the sales cycle, getting more audience to view your properties and getting “at list” offers!

This philosophy can apply to all of your business. Remember, “you get what you pay for” is such a TRUE cliché. Why short cut to save a few bucks, when you can leverage these services consistently, outshine your competition and continually bring new clients to your door? Buyers and Sellers are very savvy these days. They have unlimited resources at their fingertips. Differentiate yourself in the market by providing the best marketing strategies and results.



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