Many real estate companies are turning to drone and video technology in the digital age to market their properties, and many high-profile Detroit projects — ranging from Little Caesars Arena to The Scott at Brush Park — have brought those technologies to the forefront.
Yet drones, or unmanned aircraft systems, are just the start of the technological revolution in commercial real estate. And where the industry goes from here is anyone’s guess.
In addition to drones, companies are also using aids such as time-lapse photography and GoPros to give previews and show space and Oculus virtual reality glasses to let tenants visualize new offices, some said.
“We haven’t fully tapped into the potential at all,” said Andy Gutman, president of Southfield-based Farbman Group, which owns four drones but does not use them anymore because it’s more cost-effective to contract out for the service.
Gutman said Farbman Group, which bought its drones four years ago, also uses time-lapse photography on construction projects and other technology.
For Detroit-based Sachse Construction, drones have helped provide real-time updates to the public on its ground-up The Scott at Brush Park development, which has about 200 apartments and retail space at Woodward Avenue and Erskine Street downtown.
Nicole Mancino, director of marketing for Sachse Construction, said drones have also been used for its build-out of the Nike Inc. store on Woodward downtown and its redevelopment of The Albert apartments in Capitol Park, to name a few.
“For us in construction management, it allows us to highlight the scope of the project and also diagnose any logistical problems,” Mancino said.
The company contracts with John D’Angelo for drone footage; Garden City-based TrueSpaces for virtual tours of spaces; and Atlanta, Ga.-based OxBlue Corp. for time-lapse photography.
“The use of technology will make things more efficient and will maybe decrease the need to, for example, view an apartment in person for leasing,” Mancino said. “But I don’t know if it will ever replace being in a building and seeing it with your own eyes, looking at the walls and touching what’s there.”
A.J. Weiner, managing director in the Royal Oak office of JLL (formerly Jones Lang LaSalle), incorporated drone footage in a marketing package for the first time with his listing on the two-story building at 44 Michigan Ave. downtown owned by Roger Basmajian.
“You take a building that’s been sitting there from 30 years that you’ve only seen from street level, (and) you can make it more appealing because you can get a different angle of the architecture. It certainly looks cool,” he said. “The good part is, it’s become economically doable.”
Whitney Eichinger, director of communications for Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock LLC real estate development and management company, said drones are “a cost effective way to get a close up view of taller buildings to investigate the conditions of things like the façade and the roof.”
Bedrock, which owns more than 95 properties in and around downtown Detroit, has used them on projects like the 28Grand micro-apartment development under construction in Capitol Park, she said.
And it is far more than just a clever marketing gimmick, according to Daniel Stone, who works in research and development for Southfield-based contractor Barton Malow Co., which owns eight to 10 DJI Phantom drones.
The company uses them to track progress of construction, mapping terrains and creating three-dimensional models from photographs taken by the drones, he said.
Jared Friedman, director of acquisitions for Farmington Hills-based Friedman Integrated Real Estate Solutions LLC, said his company started using drone footage and photographs of properties two or three years ago and that it has proved a successful marketing tool.
“Real estate is one of those things where you have to see it. With Google Earth and drones coming into play, you can get a really good feeling of an area,” he said, adding that Friedman has used drones to market a property in Brush Park that was auctioned off last year as well as some of its suburban office buildings.
The Roxbury Group, a Detroit-based developer, has used drones for marketing purposes for the David Whitney Building as well as The Griswold, a five-story apartment development under construction on top of a 10-story parking garage at Michigan and Cass avenues, said David Di Rita, principal of the company.
“As they get more sophisticated, we’ll use them more,” Di Rita said of drones. “Sometimes they are really the best way to get at certain conditions on the building short of being on the buildings themselves.”
The Southfield office of Colliers International Inc. has used drone footage in its marketing of a property in Royal Oak at 400 E. Third St. for a build-to-suit project up to 70,000 square feet.
Although the Southfield and Farmington Hills office of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank has not yet used drone technology to market buildings for lease or sale, Fred Liesveld, the local managing director, said New York City-based NGKF has used them in Chicago.
But drones are just one part of the equation, he said. For brokers, mobile phone apps that can provide 360-degree tours of spaces provide greater efficiency for brokers.
“If a space is undesirable, you’re not wasting your tenant’s time or your time taking them to the spaces,” he said. “You’ve expedited the process probably by two weeks just by having good videography of your space, and we are starting to see this with brokers using this technology.”