Drones Doing Appraisal Inspections?

“Yes Ma’am, that is correct. Next Tuesday at 9:30 AM. Our drone will be at your door at that time to do the visual inspection. Typically, it will fly around the exterior of the home first to measure and take photos. After it is done, the drone will need access to fly through each of the rooms in your home taking video and still shots of what it sees.  Someone will need to be available for a few questions before the drone leaves. Will that work for you?”

This conversation may seem like something out of a science fiction show, but it could be coming to the appraisal world.  In a way, it is already here. There are rumors of companies in some of the more metro areas who will fly a drone past a property and take a video of it for you for a small fee. What kind of implications does that have for the appraisal world? I can only imagine.  

What is to say that, in the future, drones would not be used to make a full inspection of the exterior (laser measuring while simultaneously taking photos) and then fly right through the front door to hover through each of the rooms on the inside?  DRONE

Of course, a drone does not necessarily need to replace a human being at an appraisal inspection.  What if it could be used to enhance it? Head and shoulders inspection of the attic and crawl space?  How about a full attic and crawlspace fly through? Need to get a better look at that roof? You could pull the ladder out and risk your neck or just fire up the drone to take a closer look.  

Naturally, there are many issues that come up with new technology; not the least of which is legality. Currently, it is illegal to use drones for commercial purposes. That is not keeping some real estate professionals from using them anyway. Of course, there are other issues at play here as well. Can something as important as an inspection for an appraisal reasonably be delegated to a toy helicopter with a Go-Pro® camera mounted to it? What about privacy issues? It is one thing to allow a stranger to walk through your house taking notes and a few pictures as she does. It may be much harder for a homeowner to wrap their minds around a robot flying through each room shooting video. What about liability when the drone crashes into the vase holding the remains of Great Aunt Matilda?  

So many question and so few answers, but these are issues that may need to be addressed in the near future. Times, they are a-changing and technology continues to affect the appraisal world.  

Originally posted in the Appraisal Buzz HERE

Dustin Harris is a super-successful, self-employed, residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc., and is a popular author, speaker and consultant. He also owns and operates The Appraiser Coach where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth.   He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.  He is helplessly addicted to Swedish Fish.  

20 thoughts on “Drones Doing Appraisal Inspections?”

  1. I can see it used for the roof only on home appraisals. I can see it’s use for large acreage appraisals as a very useful tool for aerial photos.

  2. Drones doing appraisal inspections has to be the stupidest thing I have ever heard. How is the drone going to open a closed door, like a closet or cabinet. Is the drone also going to interview the occupant for damages noticed on the inspection. Or will it be able to turn upside down to take pictures of the water damage to the ceiling. Then just wait until one of the kids in the house decides to hit with something, or play with it & gets hurt. Not a good idea at all.

  3. Some good thoughts in your fourth paragraph! Can or should they replace people? Of course not, but every tool has its uses.

  4. Great, I say have at it. If someone thinks they can do an adequate inspection with a drone, more power to them. This will place the entire burden on the lender to make a decision, no blaming the appraiser. They will still need an analyst, without field experience how will they know what they are looking at?

  5. As with all new ideas and technology, there are those who are critical and those naysayers. I suggest we embrace the opportunity the use of drones presents to appraisers. I suggest we figure out safe and reliable ways to make these tools useful to us and our clients. Our profession faces many threats from external market sources – the fastest way to lose control of the valuation process is to fail to respond to market demand. Others have commented on the applicability of drone use; lets continue the conversation and develop protocols for drone use in our profession so we stay on top of the issue rather than have others write the rules we must follow.

  6. I think robotics will be the least of problems in the future. The appraisal is becoming a commodity. Algorithms and AVMs will soon set a new paradigm for valuation. Instead of a “number” to be had by a traditional grid approach there will a range for value with a much more sophisticated AVM model (much more than today’s model) that will give a very accurate value range and reliability score. Condition (MLS pics), views, location will all be factored in to an acceptable variable probably by a Google type view and/or map. We are about to become dinosaurs.

    1. This is the smartest response as far as relating to the residential appraisal business.

      AVMs of some sort will make the typical residemntial appraiser obsolete in the lending world within 3-5 years and you can book that.

      As far as this silly flying helicoptor idea goes, there is not a homeowner anywhere that would allow some flying contraption anywhere near his house taking video.

  7. Can a drone see the cracks in the foundation wall? Can a drone navigate around the surrounding trees in the forest setting of a property? Can a drone see the erosion on the embankment that threatens a property? Can a drone see the real condition of a property? Can a drone know the neighborhood problems?

    If I am purchasing a home, I am hiring a “boots on the ground” appraiser. There is a future for us in this profession as any tool has limitations. Only an appraiser can know when the tool works and when it doesn’t. Only an appraiser can really determine value.
    The future of the profession includes new technology but appraisers will be the one’s utilizing it in the long term. In the short term the foolish and penny pinchers will try to circumvent the appraiser harping on the new technology but their failure will be swift and steep.

  8. Our firm is currently in the very early stages of planning deployment of a drone. We appraise very large, and sometimes inaccessible properties. It will be a while before we are ready, but it’s going to be a huge tool for us.

  9. We have some large estate size homes in our area and our drone greatly enhances the inspection for the appraiser. We get great pics from the air and actually spot things we could possibly miss from our ground inspection. The drone upgrades our inspections, especially on larger properties. The drone does not replace our ‘hands on’ inspection.

  10. When the lenders get 100% control of the appraisal process, they probably will not bother with drones. That step will come closer on January 26th.

  11. It is presently illegal to use a drone for commercial uses without using an approved drone and an approved pilot, and the FAA has not yet approved a drone for such use, nor the pilot requirements. As one of the team who helped write our government policies on UAS (unmanned aerial systems), there is only hope that the FAA will make a decision on the requirements (which are required by executive order from President Obama) by 2015 or try to push it down the road. While many are using drones, be careful n the product since it may not meet requirements for commercial use in the future and the penalties today are pretty significant, but may be more in the future.

  12. The idea of drones performing inspections or taking comp photos needs to be tabled for another 20-30 years. I can’t wait to start hearing about drones being shot down when they invade someone’s privacy. Just try using one in some of the hill towns that I cover!

  13. The FFA at this time wont allow these things flying around buildings, and GPS doesn’t work well enough when the drone is blocked by homes. The best ones Ive seen on the internet have only a 20 minute range.

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