Real Estate firms face a variety of professional liability exposures while operating their business. That is why it is important for them to partner with insurance specialists that understand these exposures and can help manage the risk.
In an industry as competitive as real estate, agents are always looking to keep one step ahead. In today's market, that means high-quality aerial photos, like those obtained from drones. While the marketing effect of drone photography is undeniable, there are several things real estate agents must consider before investing in this hot, new technology, including the need for adequate liability insurance.
Buying vs. Hiring
Real estate agents have two options when it comes to drone photography: doing it themselves or hiring a vendor.
In 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lowered the regulatory standards for flying drones to allow more drone operators to enter the market, but this does not necessarily mean drones are easy to operate safely. Additionally, purchasing a drone with an adequately high-quality camera for real estate showcasing can also cost upwards of $1000. Crash that drone once, and you might lose that investment entirely.
For these reasons, working with a vendor is still a popular choice. When going with a professional photographer or drone operator, agents can pay as little as $100 to get aerial shots of each property. Still, agents with more than 5 to 10 listings per year might want to consider learning how to operate a drone camera on their own.
Obtaining a License
If you choose to purchase and operate your own drone, you must be licensed. The FAA no longer requires a pilot's license to operate a drone; however, commercial drone operators (those doing so for a profit and not for hobby) must still obtain a remote pilot certificate, often referred to as the “Part 107 certificate” or “drone license.” This requires operators to pay $150 and pass a written test. The FAA offers an online course that teaches test subjects like safety, weather, emergency procedures, and other relevant issues.
Getting Insurance Coverage
While drones are an exciting—and even fun!—advancement for the real estate industry, these futuristic flying machines should not be taken lightly. Drones can and have caused damage and personal injury. Regardless of whether real estate agents choose to use a drone themselves or hire someone else, they must make sure they have the correct insurance policies in place in the event the drone crashes. There have also been cases where neighbors sue the real estate agent claiming a violation of privacy when they appeared in the background of the aerial photograph.
Conventional Commercial General Liability insurance may not cover drones. A qualified and experienced insurance agent may need to work with the insurance company to ensure the policy will cover drone accidents. It is also possible to get individual insurance for “unmanned aircraft” that will cover the real estate agent's business even if a vendor is hired. An Errors & Omissions policy as well as a Personal Injury Liability policy may also be able to offer the right coverage.