Sarnoff: Want to boost your property's value? Send in the drones
How do you lease a floor of high-end office space before the building ever breaks ground? Show off the views.
Developers planning downtown skyscrapers increasingly are hiring photographers to fly camera-mounted drones several hundred feet into the air to take panoramic photographs from different heights.
"They use them for leasing," said Robert Youens of Austin-based Camera Wing Aerial Photography, which has worked for several commercial real estate developers in Houston.
This kind of marketing requires a substantial budget.
A multilevel photo shoot for a downtown site, Youens said, can cost as much as $4,000.
Photographs shot from remote-controlled aircraft are being used to sell other types of real estate, too, like high-end residential homes and master-planned communities.
The Johnson Development Corp. recently contracted with Youens' company to fly a drone over three Fort Bend communities to take video footage from 65 to 200 feet in the air.
The videos give potential homebuyers an overall sense of the communities by presenting a bird's-eye view of their swimming pools, athletic fields and housing subdivisions, said the developer, which hired Wing Aerial to shoot above Sienna Plantation, Riverstone and Cross Creek Ranch.
Youens said his drones stay out of controlled airspace, which can be as low as 500 feet.
Courtesy Of Butler Brothers
"For most real estate, that's fine," he said.
The longtime remote control aircraft pilot will be opening a Houston office next month and has hired a retired Air Force pilot to run it.
"The ultimate thing is safety," Youens said. "The way I can best assure safety is to hire very skilled pilots. I can teach the photography side of it, but I can't teach 10 to 20 years of flight experience."
Spring Branch luxury
The Spring Branch area has lured another high-end housing developer to the rapidly changing neighborhood.
Houston builder Butler Brothers is planning to replace a 1970s apartment complex with a collection of luxury homes, the company recently announced.
Courtesy Of Farb Homes
The project, called Maravilla Court, will be at the southwest corner of Wirt and Long Point. It will have 28 patio homes that start in the $700,000s.
The project at 1717 Pine Chase is not far from a flea market property recently purchased by David Weekley Homes. The builder plans to develop 105 homes on the 8-acre site off Long Point at Hillendahl. Prices are expected to range from around $400,000 to $700,000.
Both projects are trying to appeal to families by incorporating parks or pools in their designs.
The new Butler project will be influenced by Santa Barbara architecture, incorporating Spanish-style design elements, the company said. The units will range from 2,900 square feet to 4,300 square feet, and the finishes will include Thermador kitchen appliances, gas fireplaces and outdoor living spaces.
Sudhoff Cos. is listing the project.
Apartment developer Jonathan Farb is aiming to build his newest project on a prominent commercial corner along Montrose Boulevard.
The grandson of a local apartment legend, the late Harold Farb, is seeking approval from the city to reduce the building setback lines on the site - the southeast corner of Montrose and Fairview.
Farb said the additional land he would gain with a narrower setback would allow him to keep the building height to under 75 feet and avoid having to build a high-rise.
Conceptual renderings of the project's streetscape show bike racks and people walking along sidewalks shaded by trees.
The longtime restaurant site now houses the Hollywood Vietnamese & Chinese restaurant. Farb has not yet closed on the property.
The city's planning commission is expected to consider his request at its meeting on Aug. 21.
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