Unmanned aircraft allows Port Washington real estate agent to show prospective buyers their future dream homes from a whole new perspective
For the military, drones quietly gather intelligence and conduct stealthy attacks.
For companies such as Amazon, they could become the newest way to deliver packages.
For ranchers in the Southwest, they’re used to find cattle grazing on massive tracts of land.
But for Tom Didier of Re/Max United in Port Washington, they are the newest addition to his arsenal of marketing tools.
Didier has been experimenting with a Parrot quadricopter drone, which he bought in January to take photographs of houses and land he is selling — primarily lakefront homes with expansive views.
“People want to see how the house relates to the view,” he said.
The drone, which comes with specialized hulls for indoor and outdoor use, is equipped with a high-definition video and still camera that has a wide-angle lens and can shoot 30 frames per second.
“It’s pretty cool,” Didier said.
Didier said he read about real estate agents in Miami using drones to capture videos and photos of oceanfront properties and was intrigued by the potential.
“It just piqued my interest,” he said. “We have all these tools available now. We may as well use them.
“I thought we could try this as an experiment. We have a nice lake, so I figured there are some similarities.”
A drone can offer unique views of a house, he said.
“A photographer’s not going to jump over the house and show you the views there,” Didier said. “A drone can.”
Didier purchased what he referred to as a starter drone for $500 and practiced indoors with it during the winter.
“You really couldn’t do much with it (outdoors) in winter because it was too windy and cold,” he said, noting more expensive drones can be flown in higher winds.
The drone, which is charged by plugging it into a wall socket, is controlled via a WiFi connection.
Didier uses his phone to control the drone, which can hover or move smoothly through the air, traveling as high as 60 feet — enough to travel over a house and into the back yard to capture the views.
Didier, who is a licensed pilot, said he thought that experience would give him an edge in piloting the drone.
“Not at all,” he said. “These kids who play video games could probably walk in and fly it better.”
Photographs and videos are central to a real estate agent’s business, Didier said, noting their use has exploded since he started in the industry.
“When I started, we used to just take one picture of the front of a house,” he said. “The next thing you know, we had pictures of the interior and exterior.”
Videos of the interior of a home, often taken as someone walks through the house, are becoming the norm today, Didier said.
“With virtual tours and photographs, people can go into every single room,” he said, noting these Internet experiences are replacing traditional open houses.
Real estate agents today use Google Earth to show neighborhoods, he said.
“As you’re flying down, you can see the neighborhood, see if you’re near schools or an industrial park,” Didier said.
Aerial photography can also be used for houses on larger lots, such as estates and hobby farms, to give a complete picture of what’s there, he said.
But there are limitations to these tools, Didier said.
“If you use Google Earth, it comes to a point where you can’t get any closer,” he said, and a drone can bridge that gap.
Didier said he doesn’t know of any other real estate agents in the area using drones, and he’s only used it for a couple listings so far. But that’s likely to change as he gets more comfortable with the drone.
“I don’t know if it’s a fad like talking houses or something that’s here to stay,’ Didier said. “It might just be a fun marketing tool.”
Image information: Port Washington real estate agent Tom Didier of Re/Max United used his cell phone to direct a drone as it took photos of a house on Port’s Lake Michigan bluff last week.
Photo by Sam Arendt