You no longer need a film-production team to turn your house into the stuff of cinema – a drone will do. Estate agents are now using remote-controlled miniature planes, much smaller than the kind used for air strikes in Pakistan, and much friendlier, to film your house and its surroundings, before setting the footage to the sound of soaring violins.
Some of the most expensive houses in the country are being marketed to prospective buyers this way. Carter Jonas took the plunge in the spring and hired Skyvantage in Surrey to film a historic estate, Yarnton Manor in Oxfordshire, which it is selling at £10?million.
Watch a drone video of Yarnton Manor in Oxfordshire
The film allows viewers to approach up the tree-lined drive, admire the Cotswold stone façade, the pretty parish church and the reflection of the sun setting in the windows.Strutt & Parker is also using drone films for key houses, including Firby Hall in North Yorkshire. “We decided to use a drone because of the size of the estate, which has 57 acres,” says Toby Milbank of Strutt & Parker, who is selling it at £4.6?million. “It gives people a feel of the vastness and beauty of the countryside.”
For years, estate agents have relied on still photography, sometimes from a mast to provide perspective. But the drone, which can fly up to 400ft (125m), offers a real bird’s-eye view.
Toby Pocock, who runs Skyvantage, which made the Yarnton Manor film, says the drones can be flown only by licensed pilots approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. He has used them at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew to film 14,000 trees in autumn at sunrise. Prices start at £1,500. Drone films work particularly well for houses that are hard for potential buyers to reach. For instance, Ffrwdgrech, near Brecon in Powys, is a Regency pile with eight bedrooms, stables and cottages in 354 acres.
“It is a long way from London and people are time-short these days,” says James Prewett of Knight Frank, with whom the house is on at £3.75?million. “The last thing I want is forsomeone to turn up and be disappointed.”
Firby Hall has had the drone treatment
As a house-buyer, you might encounter other smart new sales techniques. Jim Brookman, the managing director of Richmond Square, an elite developer on the Isle of Man, has upped the game with an extraordinary country house, Ballamona, which is being built on 112 acres of coast with secondary houses, stabling, indoor cinema, pool, tennis court and spa. He has created an app that allows prospective buyers to see how the finished house, parkland, lake and nine-hole golf course could look on their iPads. The house and grounds are 17,820sq ft. The property is on the market for £30?million. “This is the island’s flagship property, and Richmond Square is very proud of this device,” says James Crawford, selling for Knight Frank.
“Buyers can wander through as if it were finished, see the sea view and walk around the garden. This is how international properties will be sold in the future.”
Moving to a digital age
Docusign allows people to sign their contracts using a computer. This has the same legal standing as a handwritten signature. “This allows us to digitally execute tenancy agreements and removes the paper mountain we used to have to deal with,” says Zoe Rose, head of Strutt & Parker London lettings. This should speed up the buying and selling process.
Skype viewings are also starting to happen. “We recently let a property to a couple from Geneva who saw it through a virtual viewing on Skype,” says Zoe.
Similarly, FaceTime viewings on an iPad are possible. “I did this for a couple living in Jerseywho wanted to see a property in the Cotswolds. I walked around with the iPad while they told me where to turn and let them see the dishwasher and that kind of thing,” says David Henderson of Strutt & Parker in Moreton-in-Marsh, Glos.