using drones to inspect houses and roofs is a hot new real estate investment trend

My new buddy called me up the other day with a problem. You see, he’s trying to buy a distressed multi-family complex in northern New Jersey and the property inspector he hired refused to take a look at the roof of all things! It’s true that inspectors will generally only take a look at areas of the property that are accessible. Many bring a ladder and check the roof but some will claim it is unsafe and inaccessible. So, how are real estate investors supposed to get a decent idea of what they’re buying if the inspector can’t (or won’t) take a look at an essential and costly-to-replace part of the structure? Well, that’s where drone technology can help, with no ladders required.

Now Legal, Drone Inspections Can Help Accelerate Your Buying Process

Property inspections were previously limited to visual evaluations. Many were performed by inspectors who were not keen to inspect harder-to-access areas such as the roof. But new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules have currently opened up the possibility of using drones. Prior to an FAA ruling, drones had to be operated by a licensed pilot with another “spotter” observing the flight. But the new drone rules, which took effect in August 2016, do not require a licensed pilot; you just need a person with a drone-piloting certificate. This makes drones far more accessible for commercial use, and property inspectors with drone capabilities are beginning to pop up as the newest real estate inspection trend.

This is good news for real estate investors who must move rather swiftly with inspections to formally get distressed properties under contract. Even if you make an offer and the seller accepts, it does not mean that either party is obligated to go forward with the deal. You will need to review the property’s records and get an inspection performed before finalizing a contract. But, this takes time and, during that period, the seller can consider other offers. You may lose out on a valuable investment opportunity if your inspection takes too long.

Drones Improve Property Inspection Abilities

Drones can help speed the inspection process for tough-to-access buildings. Inspections of a tall building’s facade or high balcony, for instance, are usually done from a building across the street. But now inspectors can fly a drone within feet of the structure, capturing close-up photos or video that can subsequently be examined. Other tech tools can be attached to the drone as well, such as thermal imaging cameras to detect insulation problems, roof leaks, and even HVAC problems in the ducts. Finding these issues through a visual inspection alone would require more invasive—and costly—methods.

When selecting a property inspector, it’s important to choose a professional who is aware of the regulations surrounding drone use in your local area. For instance, the FAA regulations currently specify that drones cannot be operated within a five-mile radius of airports. Your inspector should be able to tell you if your prospective property is a candidate for a drone inspection.

More Resources for Making Investment Decisions

My friend felt relieved to hear all of this news about how this trend of getting a drone-aided property inspection could help him snag his first real estate investment, without incurring unrealized risks. He wanted to be his own boss and recently became a HomeVestors® franchisee so he could get leads on distressed properties to rehab and sell with the We Buy Ugly Houses® national brand. And, as a novice franchisee, he now has people to call upon when he encounters bumps in the road. As his Development Agent, I’m available to offer insight and help when the need arises. I can share useful been-there-done-that insight and recommendations as he works to achieve his investment goals. Whether you’re buying or selling, I can do the same for you. Feel free to reach out to me today.


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Photo Credit: Flickr CC user Peter Linehan.


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