Cedar Rapids Real Estate Company Taking to Skies with Drones

By Dave Franzman, KCRG-TV

SHUEYVILLE, Iowa — Look. Up in the sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane. And it’s not Superman either. Rather, it’s a realtor with a flying drone.

About a week ago, one Cedar Rapids real estate office took to the skies to market properties for sale with aerial photography via a small, lightweight drone. And that’s despite the ongoing question about legally flying drone aircraft for commercial purposes.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) insists it’s a violation to fly drones for commercial purposes. There’s even a potential $10,000 fine for violators. But the FAA lost an important court case on this issue earlier this year. And a number of commercial users began testing the limits by operating remote control aircraft under 400 feet above the ground.

JJ Johannes, owner of I-A Homes for Sale, is one of the early adopters in Eastern Iowa. And he thinks it could become a useful, standard tool for selling real estate offered by any larger office in three to five years.

Johannes said he was never a personal interest in radio-controlled aircraft before. But as he looked at the possibilities of video flyovers of client properties, he plunked down $2,000 for a lightweight drone helicopter. He’s flown over several of his listed properties now and put the finished, edited video on the real estate Web page.

He said there’s already a growing interest — for the “wow” factor alone, if nothing else.

“It presents the property in a way they haven’t seen before. It presents in a way nobody else can market it for them,” Johannes said.

I-A Homes has both a traditional real estate service and limited help for those who want to sell their own property. Sellers getting the full service will get drone video for free. Those selling their own homes will pay extra.

Johannes said flyovers of large acreages is one area where drones beat ground level images.

Suzie Johannes said her husband is a cousin of the reality office owner who has the drone. They recently listed their Shueyville property with I-A Homes and wanted to try the new aerial views because they believe it will draw in extra buyers.

“It gives prospective buyers an opportunity to see what our neighborhood looks like,” Johannes said adding “it’s a different view of our neighborhood and what that has to offer.”

JJ Johannes said that possible FAA fine for commercial drone use doesn’t bother him. He feels so many people are doing it now the FAA will have to eventually make it legal.

“We do hope they do something along the lines of what other countries have done. That’s where you get a permit, a license and insurance,” he said.

Realtors like Johannes point out the FAA already allows hobbyists to fly radio controlled, or drone, aircraft up to a height of 400 feet. They simply want the same opportunity to fly remotely and make a profit.

l Comments: (319) 368-8611; dave.franzman@sourcemedia.net

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