For Nilyne Saintvil, the regional director of marketing and leasing at Fieldstone Properties, drone footage gives her company higher engagement with her website, as well as an ability to market properties from a broader point of view.
“People want to be visually stimulated, and it’s not just going to go by looking at pictures all the time,” she said. “We pay to draw people to our website, but once they get there, we have to keep them visually stimulated, and we are finding that people are staying and looking on our website and intrigued because of this drone photography.”
Fieldstone Properties specializes in renovating Class B through Class C properties into luxury properties, according to Saintvil. For her, drone footage allows her company to tell a much bigger story, which focuses on much more than simply the interior of the property.
“We have a property, The Crossings at Plainsboro, where the property is right on a river,” Saintvil said. “So, when you look at that video, you can say ‘Oh, my God, it’s so beautiful,’ you’re literally right on a river that you can go canoeing, you can go walking and jogging on trails that are right on it. They can actually see what the community has to offer from a different perspective.”
The company maintains a footprint of more than 4,000 rental units in the state. It also maintains a strip mall property at 7 Mill Road, Irvington.
Saintvil was able to obtain aerial drone footage through VHT Studios, a real estate photography firm that uses drone photography and videography as a medium to market to older and newer generations.
“The more experienced people know that they have to do something to get people’s attention, and they’re more apt to speak out and find new stuff,” Brian Balduf, the CEO of VHT Studios, said. “They may not understand it, but that’s one of the reasons we exist. You don’t have to know how to fly a drone, you don’t have to know how to edit and distribute video. You just need to see the end result. … The younger generation is used to seeing everything. They’ve got Snapchat, they’ve got Instagram, so if you can’t show them a video or a photograph, you’re nothing, you don’t even exist.”
VHT Studios has about 215 independent contractors nationwide, and nearly 15 in the state. The firm has worked with almost 75,000 agents nationwide, and sees drone footage the same was as Saintvil of Fieldstone.
“It’s so easy to just scroll through homes and quickly move on,” Balduf said. “So, you need something to grab their attention, and drone photography is different. It’s dramatic, it catches people’s attention. It’s a perspective that people are not used to seeing. When you have drone photography or video, it’s much easier to capture a buyer’s attention.”
And, while drone photography has grown substantially from 2015, when, according to Balduf, the technology was not usable, to 2016, when it became one of the most sought after photography services, both VHT Studios and Fieldstone Properties have seen it have less of an impact in the commercial markets.
“That’s probably 90 percent of our business, it’s residential, the other 10 percent is business,” Balduf said.
And for Fieldstone, who only owns one commercial property, the jury is still out on how drone photography will fit into its marketing model.
“It’s one of those things that, because we only have this one little strip mall, we don’t know,” Saintvil said. “It may be something we look to do, as well, but right now, we’re pretty well full in that space, so we really don’t focus on the commercial spaces that much. It’s more of our residential and we only have one (commercial) property as of right now.”
Despite this drawback, however, Fieldstone claims a significant increase in the time potential buyers spend on its website, with Saintvil saying visitors have increased the time they spend on listings by 35 to 40 percent.
“If the home sits on an interesting piece of property or the surroundings are part of the value of that particular listing, you need to be able to show that, and a great way to do that is drones,” Balduf said. “So, if your home backs up to a golf course or a river, or a body of water or a forest reserve, this is the best way to give people that perspective.”
Video by VHT Studios