Drone photography is changing the way Howard County homes are sold

For Howard Magazine

Howard County homeowners and real estate agents have embraced a relatively new, increasingly valuable high-tech tool for selling homes: Drones.

Drone photography and videography, featuring aerial shots of sprawling estates, picturesque views of expansive, well-landscaped yards and pleasant images of inviting, tidy neighborhoods, is all the rage these days.

Several drone companies offer their services here, and some of the larger real estate companies supply drone photography and videography in-house.

Patrick Buesing, an agent and videographer for the Bob Lucido Team of Keller Williams Integrity in Ellicott City, says Howard County is ideal for using drones remote-controlled cameras akin to miniature helicopters to sell homes.

“It’s a beautiful place to live,” says Buesing, who lives in Columbia, noting the county’s many well-laid-out neighborhoods, rolling countryside and multitude of parks. “And with our aerial [photography], we can really showcase that beauty.”

While drone photography can be used for houses of all sizes and styles – and even to shoot interiors – it is most regularly used for exteriors of high-end homes with large yards.

“It’s really effective for projects that are larger and have land, where you need the perspective to appreciate how grand the property is,” says Tyler Minsberg, a full-time Realtor for the Lucido Team.

“It’s a great way to highlight houses with water or houses on golf courses,” agrees Creig Northrop, head of Clarksville-based Northrop Realty. Northrop has been using drone photographs to help sell homes for some 10 years, he said, and more recently, tying them to drone-shot videos. He said his company uses the technology to market about one-third of their properties.

“The advantage is you can see the lifestyle associated with the home,” he adds. “It’s like having a wide-angle lens on your back yard.”

David Kivioja, a retired Air Force colonel and test pilot, operates his company, Eagle Eye Imaging, out of his Woodbine home. Eagle Eye provides a range of drone-related services, among them agricultural (assessing plant growth and detecting bug infestations, for example), construction (assessing progress), and real estate sales.

Kivioja started his company about two-and-a-half years ago, and his timing was not incidental. He launched Eagle Eye Imaging shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration loosened restrictions on commercial drones, simplifying and speeding up a permitting process for flying in what is known as “controlled airspace” (around airports, for example) that previously took months to complete.

Although parts of eastern Howard are in controlled airspace because of their proximity to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, the process for acquiring the necessary authorization even there has become fairly quick and easy, Kivioja said. And, he added, the more stringent restrictions on flights near the nation’s capital do not extend into Howard County.

Still, Kivioja said, lingering confusion over those restrictions has slowed the use of drones here. “I think other parts of the country, this technology has taken on a lot quicker,” he says. “But it’s growing. Each year, it’s betting busier and busier.”

Another drone pilot and businessman with local connections said drone photography is almost expected now for many properties.

“A few years ago, it was more of a novelty,” says Dan Edmonson, whose company, Dronegenuity, does work in Howard County. “Now, especially for larger properties, people want to see the entire scope and scale of the property.”

What his company shoots, he said, depends on what the agent or the homeowner is trying to demonstrate. “If they want to show that this is waterfront property, on a lake or whatever, that’s hard to show effectively with plain old ground photos.”

Amanda Koehler, who operates Charm City Virtual Tours, an Ellicott City company that specializes in architectural, commercial and real estate photography, has been using drone technology to help agents and homeowners sell property since 2016. Business, she said, has grown steadily.

“It seems sellers really like having aerial photos taken of their property,” she says. “It has that ‘wow’ factor.”

Increasingly, Koehler said, buyers like it as well. “It gives them an overview of the property, and the neighborhood, the proximity of schools, that sort of thing. I think it’s just going to continue to grow.”

Koehler said that while drone photography will show those homes in a good light, it can be the opposite for other types of homes. Images of a run-down neighborhood or a dilapidated neighboring house with a messy yard can scare off would-be buyers.

For those very reasons, drones are increasingly used to supplement home inspections, according to Eagle Eye’s Kivioja. “They can reveal things like stains on the roof, things you can’t see from the ground,” he explained.

Drones and real estate are now considered a match made in home-selling heaven.

“Drones can do a lot of great things, for different kinds of videos, movies, maybe TV shows with car chases,” says the Lucido Team’s Buesing. “But what they’re really suited for is real estate. … It just gives a whole new look to a home, any home.

“We’re seeing drones everywhere,” he adds, “and I think we’re only going to see more of them.”

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified a drone company as Maryland Drone Service. The company's correct name is Dronegenuity. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.
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