How Can an Appraiser Use Drones?

Appraisal, Blog

Appraiser Drones

For some, drones are pesky annoyances. But in many industries, they are considered to be labor-saving technology. A real estate appraiser, for example, can benefit from the extra vantage point offered by a drone. Here are five ways drones can make real estate appraisal more enjoyable and efficient.

What’s On the Roof?

Not all properties have easily accessible roofs. The appraiser needs to know the roof’s condition, and a drone, in the hands of a professional with proper Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clearances, can show you any roof.

We mention the FAA because most real estate appraisers are too busy earning rewarding livings to pursue licensing and Section 333 exemptions with the FAA. Better to enlist a licensed drone operator to survey any commercial or private property. If you insist on operating your own drone, be sure you have the FAA’s Part 107 waiver in hand before sending your drone aloft.

From a drone’s camera, any roof becomes accessible. Whether appraising a gymnasium’s domed roof, the seven gables of a mansion, or the high, flat roof of a warehouse, drones provide instant feedback on roofing material, roof condition and drainage, and rooftop features like HVAC units.

Survey Says …

Getting a sense of the layout of a commercial property is easy with a drone. The drone flies high enough to give an almost map-like view without resorting to outdated satellite imagery. As a scout, the drone guides your efficient, quick walk-through of any property.

The drone can survey along fence lines, to compare the physically extant property with the latest surveyor’s plat. The drone allows you to see above and beyond thick trees and undergrowth, possibly avoiding nasty run-ins with resident coyotes, raccoons and other forest (and urban) creatures.

Even with residential properties, that sky-high downward view can uncover hidden gems. Such as the overgrown pond in the backyard, a little-used garden shed behind bushes, or a filled-in swimming pool that could boost home value.

A quick neighborhood overview is helpful to any appraiser, too, since the home’s value relates to the quality of surrounding homes. The drone can provide that quickly and in real time.

High Angle

A drone is not simply for looking directly down on a property. With a drone, side-directed photographs can reveal details of multi-story buildings without the need for ladders. Is the mortar work on the apartment building as intact on the 37th floor as it is on the third? A drone can tell you that very quickly, with little to no safety risk.

Complex industrial structures, too, can yield secrets to drones, saving countless hours of climbing or moving around catwalks and increasing your efficiency. The ability to change your drone’s perspective is valuable; if a feature is unclear viewed straight on, you can move up and over to get a high, oblique angle, recording video or successive still photos.


Not only is your time on a property site more efficiently used when you incorporate a drone, your personal safety increases, too. We have already touched on possible run-ins with larger mammals, but appraisers can also avoid insect nests by checking out roof lines and eaves with drones, rather than from ladders.

The chance of a fall is less, too, when it is the drone, and not you, thirty feet up a ladder looking at a roof’s condition.


Most commercial drones today use 4K photo imaging, providing extremely crisp, clear evidence of a property’s condition from foundation to rooftop. The appraisal becomes unassailable, leaving less wiggle room for the seller to cast doubt on the appraiser’s work. The photos show all.

With drones, the quality, efficiency, and safety of your appraisal work can greatly improve, while your costs are likely to drop. Getting in one or two extra appraisals a week — because of the time you save appraising properties — can pay for the drone service or your own drone. Once you’ve got drones figured out, check out how else you can wow your clients.

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