Aerial Photography & The Law

Aerial Photography & The Law

Know Before You Fly.

Aerial photos and video are great for real estate listings, but did you know YOU and the drone pilot can be fined up to $11,000 by the FAA for each illegal flight?

Now that the FAA rules around aerial photography for commercial purposes (including real estate listings) are fairly clear, it is extremely important to only work with FAA licensed pilots – either a pilot that holds a Section 333 exemption or a person that holds a Part 107 remote pilot certificate.

If you are using someone that does not hold one of these certificates, you could be subject to fines up to $11,000 per occurrence and possible jail time!

However, just having the right credentials does not mean you can fly.  There can be local restrictions, either imposed by the FAA airspace classifications, or even the city.  Read below for specific detail of the situation in Seattle, currently the fastest growing city in America. The same situation is likely very applicable to your area.

Seattle Airspace Example

To illustrate the complexity and reason you need someone that knows what they are doing, let’s look at Seattle. The Seattle area has many airports that carve up the airspace between class B, C, D and E.  Certain high value residential areas, like ALL of Mercer Island and all much of the Seattle-Lake Washington waterfront are actually restricted areas.  If you fly here without approval, or meeting the rules, you are flying illegally and subject to fine, or worse…if something goes wrong, you could be looking at potential jail time too!

If you are using someone that has no knowledge of these airspaces, that is your first clue.  So do a test and ask them about airspace and see what they say.  If they have no idea what the solid blue, dashed blue or other lines means in the picture above, you should not use that person. Or, even what the orange circle means and why it is strictly prohibited to fly there. It is not worth the risk to you and your business. As part of getting a Part 107 certificate, you learn about these airspaces and why it is important to pay attention to them.

So let’s look at a couple of specific areas that are prime candidates for aerial imagery.

Mercer Island is a very affluent area where the average home is over $1 million, since it is 10 minutes from downtown Seattle, yet it has it’s own village like community.  ALL of Mercer Island is in a Class D airspace, because the Renton airport, and a Boeing plant, are just south of the island. The second a drone takes off, you are in Class D airspace.  That means you need FAA approval to fly there in the first place – before you fly!  To get approval, the remote pilot in command must fill out a form with the FAA and wait for approval. They say it can take up to 90 days!  Obviously this does not work well for real estate photography.

To speed the process, we have applied for an exemption from the FAA for the specific purpose of real estate photography on Mercer Island and the Seattle-Lake Washington waterfront, so we are waiting to see if we get approved.  If we do, then we should be able to do aerial photography on a much more timely basis and this will be an advantage over other providers as we will be 100% legal!

However…there is more. The City of Seattle has its own rules, of course!

Real estate photography comes under the Film Office jurisdiction. In order to do any kind of photography or video legally in the Seattle city limits for a commercial purpose, you MUST hold a Section 333 exemption, you have to have a permit (3 day period to get that at a minimum and $25 fee) and you need to meet their other rules.  A couple of onerous ones being you have to notify all people in the neighborhood 72 hours in advance AND you can’t fly within 500 feet of any nonparticipant unless they are under cover of a structure.

How is this practically applied for a real estate shoot?  Not very easily…

Per discussions with city employees, they are actively looking at how the Part 107 certificate holders (what FloorPlanOnline people have in most cases) can provide services legally.  Let’s hope they are smarter about this than other things the city does…  Until then we are not flying within the Seattle City limits.  If you are using someone that does, and they do not hold a Sec. 333 exemption specific for the purpose of filming (which I highly doubt anyone in Seattle has given it is public info and only 3 people have an exemption in the whole area), then you are doing it illegally.  Buyer beware!

So what is the risk of just doing it, either using someone not licensed or without FAA approval? The FAA is now handing out fines, that can reach up to $11,000 for each occurrence.  One guy that did not receive monetary compensation, yet the FAA viewed as a commercial purpose, received a $55,000 fine for 5 different events he filmed.  If a drone pilot has to land and change batteries, that is 2 occurrences, even if it is the same property.  You can see how this could add up.

Plus, the City of Seattle has prosecuted a drone operator that had a drone crash and knock out a lady during a parade.  He was sentenced to 30 days in jail.   Finally, what if a drone went rogue, hit an airplane or car and caused a catastrophic event.  You and others would be sued big time, not to mention you would likely be put out of business.

How would the FAA or City of Seattle find your aerial photos?  All they have to do is look on Zillow and view the images.  You as the listing agent will be listed.  So it would not be difficult for them to pursue this easily just by viewing photos people post online.  If they come knocking and you do not have the proof of legally being able to fly, you face fines or more penalties.

The bottom line is not to scare you.  But it is to educate you to make the right business decision and hire the right people for the job.  It is not worth you saving $50 or $100 to hire a college kid or unlicensed drone operator. We do have licensed pilots in WA, NJ, NY, CT, and TX, and more to come down the road. But as you see, just because you hold a valid license does not mean you can fly in all areas.  So be smart and know before you fly and hire the right company for the job!

Introducing the FloorPlanOnline Area Manager Program

Introducing the FloorPlanOnline Area Manager Program

I am very excited to announce the next step in the evolution of the FloorPlanOnline service offering with our new “go to market” strategy called the FloorPlanOnline Area Manager (“FAM”) program. Photographers, please read more about the program here.

In the past, we have contracted with local photographers who would accept jobs and have little engagement or incentive to expand the market beyond them accepting a job.  They would leave all the sales and marketing to FloorPlanOnline.  The problem is, real estate is a local business, and having local sales people means less money can go to the person doing the actual work and engaging with the customer on a weekly basis.  With our new FAM program, we are taking a different approach in how we work with local photographers to help them build their business on top of our platform and our brand. While we continue to do top level marketing such as national tradeshows and vendor programs, the billing and even the centralized technical customer support, we are looking to the local FAM to do the local sales and service work.  In exchange, the local FAM has an opportunity to make much more money and build their own business leveraging a national company, but on a local basis.  This creates a win-win-win for both FloorPlanOnline, the local provider, and our joint customers because the customer gets a person engaged in, incentivized by and tie to that local business!  Churn in the photographer base is greatly reduced and customer satisfaction is greatly increased!

We know many of our competitors churn through various photographers very quickly.  This creates service issues, potential distrust and a costly retrain each time. In contrast, we have had people working for us for 12 years!  With the FAM program, we are looking to build lifetime relationships with the local provider and our customers.

We need your help.  If you know of a photographer, appraiser or other highly motivated person that has a passion for real estate, we would love to talk to them about being a FAM!  You can direct them to our Photographer page to get started!


What Millennials Want in Real Estate

What Millennials Want in Real Estate

Here is a great post I saw today of what Millennials want out of the real estate process.  Why should you care?  Zillow says they make up 55% of buyers!

An Open Letter from Millennials to the Real Estate Industry

Let me summarize it.

  1. They want to use technology to simplify things, like electronic documents and file sharing.
  2. They want to screen properties BEFORE they ever visit them.  This means lots of photos, aerial images, virtual tours and we think floor plans to help people visualize how their family can live in the property, not how the seller currently is living in it. Lots of research out there that says 70% to 90% of buyers want to see floor plans when they search.  Leverage this and market it at the listing appointment to get the listing every time!
  3. Be the expert on the process and help people understand it.
  4. Be creative.

Great advice.  We can help.

HomeDiary Claim Home

HomeDiary Claim Home

Introducing Claim Home, powered by HomeDiary


Now every buyer can claim their new home right from the FloorPlanOnline virtual tour.  With the click of a button, the buyer sends a request to you as the listing agent to approve giving a copy of the photos and floor plans (including the 3D Space planner) to the buyer in their own private HomeDiary account.  Now, that great content created on the “For Sale” side of the transaction can live on with the “For Living” side!  No other virtual tour platform has this capability because no one else has their 2016-10-04_1202own 3D floor plan tool that can do the amazing things the FloorPlanOnline tool can do!

Right now, the Claim Home feature is live on the Full Screen tour.  We will be working to add it on other tour versions.  If you want it on your tour now, simply go to Edit Details from the Manage Tours page and select the Full Screen tour option, then save at the bottom.  The Claim Home button will then show under tools as you see in the above screen shot.

Then just look for the approval request from the buyer.  You can also point out this feature to the buy side agent as a courtesy to them and their client.

We are currently working on some market research as part of our participation in the NAR REach program around HomeDiary options and integrations with some of the tools you already use, such as transaction management platforms, CRM systems and even some larger regional brokerages.  So stay tuned for some interesting things to come as we approach the National Association of Realtors’ annual convention.

FloorPlanOnline’s service selected by NAR’s REach Program!

FloorPlanOnline’s service selected by NAR’s REach Program!

We are very excited and honored to be part of a group of companies selected to REach® Real Estate accelerator’s class of 2016 by the National Association of REALTORS® (“NAR”), the largest trade association in North America. The REach® program is run by Second Century Ventures (“SCV”), the technology fund and strategic arm of NAR. The goal of the program is to help companies refine their product, strategy and process and to accelerate the exposure across the more than 1 million REALTORS® in the United States.

reach logoAfter a detailed selection process that included more than 200 company applications, HomeDiary, powered by FloorPlanOnline, was one of 8 companies chosen for bringing it’s 2D & 3D floor plan virtualization platform and digital recordkeeping tools to any home. You can read NAR’s press release here. Through the FloorPlanOnline platform, REALTORS® have been able to differentiate their listings and themselves by focusing on the top 2 things buyers want to see – big HD photos and interactive floor plans. Through a sponsored HomeDiary, REALTORS® will now be able to stay in touch with their clients in a relevant way for years to come as the homeowner manages their home.

“HomeDiary is bringing HGTV-like 3D tools to any homeowner, making it simpler to create a 2D and 3D floor plan for a room or a whole house,” said Alex Lange, operating partner of SCV. “We are excited to introduce HomeDiary to more than a million NAR members while providing the company with access to experts and influencers in the real estate industry to help accelerate their already-amazing toolsets.”

“Over the course of the next few months HomeDiary will be refining the go to market strategy and product options for the Closing Gift, a new product that will bring 3D floor plans to any newly purchased home,” said Kris Cone, CEO of FloorPlanOnline & HomeDiary. “Our focus is to make it easy and cost effective to get a 3D floor plan for any home, starting at free! We will also be leveraging our FloorPlanOnline infrastructure to be able to visit virtually any home throughout the US to create a floor plan, complete with our drag and drop RoomPlanner tool, as well as other tools to enable homeowners to document and manage their home.”

Homeowners can get started for free at Options for REALTORS® will be coming soon, so stay tuned!


3D Drawing Trainging

3D Drawing Trainging

If you missed the training session for drawing 2D and 3d floorplans, you can view this video that goes over many of the things discussed.  Its a lot of info to absorb but hopefully it helps you draw faster and more efficiently!

The FloorPlan created during the training is below