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Are Drones in the Future for Real Estate Appraising?

The National Association of Realtors recently published a blog encouraging real estate appraisers to use drones as a part of the appraisal inspection. Is this in the future for appraising? My son is considering starting a drone business so I thought I would ask this question on a few appraiser forums to see the interest for appraisers. Here are some items of consideration regarding drones and appraising that many appraisers shared: Reasons why appraisers would not use a drone:

  • Privacy Issues: If an appraiser is using a drone in high-density subdivisions where homes are located very close to one another, the neighbor may take issue with a drone flying in or around their yard. Many believe that although it is a crime to shoot a drone, there would be those that wouldn't think twice about it if they felt violated or threatened.

  • Feasibility: The cost of a drone or drone service would outweigh most of the benefit. A drone would allow a better visual of perhaps a roof or interior of an attic but there are problems with flying around trees and power lines which can make it difficult.

  • Liability: Real estate appraisers are not roof inspectors so many do not see the need for an additional roof inspection rather than visual observation from the ground. Including drone imagery might imply a larger scope of inspection beyond a natural observation increasing the liability for an appraiser. There may also be added liability if the drone crashes or causes any damages to a property.

  • Unnecessary: Many appraisers believe that with all of the aerial imagery available to them a drone would not be necessary.

Reasons why appraisers might consider using a drone:

  • Commercial Appraisal Use: Many appraisers could see how a drone would provide a better inspection of larger commercial properties that might be difficult to view from the ground.

  • Large Acreage Tracts: Some appraisers believe that a drone could assist them in viewing large tracts of land such as 100 acres or more. The ability to fly over and get a closer view of the land would be valuable.

  • Rural Properties: Some appraisers could see using a drone on rural properties that may be on large acreage with many other buildings or structures such as barns, workshops, guest houses, stables, ponds, etc. If you are appraising a farm with Brahma Bulls on the acreage a drone would be a great way to safely inspect the land (remember we appraise in Texas).

  • Comparable Sale Inspections: Some appraisers thought that drone use might be useful for viewing comparable sales. Many appraisers have stories of difficulties of driving by a comparable and taking a picture. Some think that using a drone would be safer. At the same time, others believe that a drone would draw more suspicion and could cause privacy issues from homeowners.

  • Hard to Access Places: Some appraisers could see how a drone might be useful to view hard to access spaces such as attics. FHA requires a head and shoulder inspection of attics and some spaces are hard to access.

I also created a survey for appraisers for some statistical data. There were 54 appraisers to respond to this survey. Based on the survey, 62.96% of appraisers do not see the need for drone use in appraising. There were 22.22% of responders that did see a use for a drone in appraising and 14.81% felt that it is not needed now but perhaps in the future.

Of those that completed the survey, on 5.56% currently use drones for their appraisal business and 94.44% are not currently using a drone for appraising.


The current use of drones for appraising is very small. The use of a drone for commercial properties or large land tract may assist in providing a quality appraisal. The use for typical residential properties is not as accepted. Key issues hindering drone use are privacy and liability.

As far as my son who is considering a drone business, he has determined that he has potential clients with marketing services for real estate agents or businesses, event aerial photography, surveyors, inspectors and perhaps a few appraisers. We currently do not use a drone for our appraisal business. We are always looking for ways to improve our appraisal quality and might consider using a drone for appraising commercial properties, larger land tracts or rural properties with large land tracts.

What did I leave out? Do you have other ideas regarding the use of drones for appraising? Feel free to comment below. We would love for you to subscribe to this blog at the top right of this page or like us on Facebook. If you have additional questions regarding appraising or a need for appraisal services contact us at

Additional Resources:

National Association of Realtors- Drones- The Appraiser's Next Great Tool

Housingwire - NAR - Real Estate Appraiser Should Use Drones

Popular Science- It is a Federal Crime so Shoot Down A Drone, says FAA

FAA- Summary of Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule Appraiser Coach- The Dangerous Job of Comp Photos Forsythe Appraisals - A View from the Clouds: The Appraisal Industry and Drones

Hobby Help- The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Flying Drones

#drone #appraisalinspection

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