Drones in Real Estate:
Not so Fast
Some real estate companies are champing at the bit to incorpo- rate drone photography into their
marketing, as news reports make clear.
(See page 34–35.) But the commercial use
of drones is currently permissible only on
a case-by-case basis. So unless you have
a certificate of airworthiness from the
Federal Aviation Administration, you should
keep your drone on the ground, NAR says.
“The FAA, in a 2007 statement, very
clearly stated that any commercial
use of drones without a permit is not
permissible,” says NAR Senior Policy
Representative Russell Riggs.
In a closely watched case, a photographer for the University of Virginia in
Charlottesville was fined $10,000 late
last year by the FAA for flying his drone
for commercial purposes. The court
has since thrown that case out, raising
questions about whether the FAA has the
authority to take enforcement actions.
But caution remains the prudent course.
The FAA is slated to issue rules on the
commercial use of drones next year. To
that end, the agency has authorized tests
around the country to help it determine
what restrictions are needed to ensure
safe operation and to protect national
security and people’s privacy.
In the meantime, NAR says, members
should not use drones for real estate
marketing purposes or hire companies
to do so.
By Robert Freedman
Visit REALTOR® Magazine’s You Tube
channel to watch our video about drone
use. Find it in the News & Commentary
An Issue of Fair Housing?
MLSs have instituted a policy to highlight
accessibility features for a myriad of
reasons. For the Dayton Area Board of
REALTORS® in Dayton, Ohio, it was an
issue of fair housing. DABR began including accessibility information in its listings
in April 2009 after being approached by
the local Fair Housing Administration,
says Jeff Ullery, director of DABR’s MLS.
“If somebody was handicapped and
they needed to have home adaptations,
there was no way for them to know if
we had that in our MLS,” Ullery says.
“Our local Fair Housing Administration
approached us about doing a disabilities
Ullery says the Fair Housing Adminis-
tration pushed DABR’s MLS committee
to make completing the form a require-
ment for members. DABR pushed back,
agreeing to supply the forms only if it were
optional. Had they been required, “next
thing you know, agents would be getting
violations for doing it wrong,” Ullery says.
Despite the advantages of highlighting
accessibility features, some practitioners
haven’t bought in. For Stephen Beard,
ABR, e-PRO, a practitioner with Better
Homes and Gardens Mason-McDuffie
Real Estate in Berkeley, Calif., inconsistent usage among real estate professionals is the problem.
Beard, who specializes in accessible
housing and is living with cerebral palsy
himself, says that his local MLS, East Bay
Regional Data, has offered listing fields
for members to check off accessibility
features “for at least the 10 years I’ve
been in business.”
“Practitioners don’t use these fields in
any kind of consistent way,” Beard says.
“For example, you can check ‘no barriers
to entry,’ which is highly misunderstood.
They’ll say there’s no barrier to entry
when there’s a four-inch threshold at the
Some agents don’t bother to check
off accessibility features even when
they are available, Beard laments.
“Some agents simply feel that it is a detrimental feature of the home, because a
lot of clients will want to tear out a ramp,
for example. I won’t find these listings
if they are not specified as accessible,”
What’s in Store
The impact of the aging population, along
with political advocacy, may well drive the
decision toward including accessibility
features in MLSs. But it won’t happen
overnight. Gary Arnold, a spokesman
for Access Living, a Chicago-based
nonprofit advocacy group for people
with disabilities, says municipalities are
opening the door for universal design.
“It seems that there is an increase in
accessible design because there are
more codes governing it, and a focus
on sustainability has raised awareness
about aging in place,” he says.
In Austin, Texas, the City Council
passed a measure in January requiring all new-construction homes to be
designed with accessibility in mind.
Among the provisions: New homes
must have a ramp or nonstepped entrance and a full or half bath on the first
floor. The Austin Board of REALTORS®’
MLS, called AC TRIS, has included a
“Disability Features” section in its listings since August 2012. These efforts
are expected to increase the number
of accessible listings, a strong sign that
the march toward fairness for disabled
home owners is gaining traction.
By Graham Wood P H