visitor was asking Toll Bros. CEO Douglas Yearley about
the location of property in another state.
of trying to describe it, Yearley called to his
assistant and asked her to get Google Earth up and
running in the conference room where he and the visitor
an instant, Yearley was able to click his mouse a couple
of times, and the location, including a tennis court,
was clearly in view — yet another example of how
technology has transformed, and continues to change, the
way builders and real estate agents do business day to
as marketing director George Polgar of
Philadelphia-based Local Development Co. emphasized,
finding and acquiring locations for residential,
commercial and industrial development "still
requires a street-level knowledge of places where growth
said his firm has experienced property specialists
"who cruise the streets of target neighborhoods
identifying potential development sites. These decisions
are based on the usual real estate criteria of location,
size, context and environment."
tech tools can offer companies such as Toll Bros. an
almost grounded view of properties from far away.
would not look at acquiring a piece of land without
understanding where it is, and Google Earth is good for
places that aren’t close to headquarters," said
Kira Sterling, the luxury home builder’s chief
places such as Dallas and Denver, "the ability to
use Google Earth to determine the location and proximity
to transportation and amenities allows us more room to
explore opportunities," Sterling said.
Local Development, the tech cycle starts at the most
basic level, Polgar said: Using a smartphone, a property
specialist takes a few pictures, determines an address,
then looks at it on a mapping system (including possibly
a Google Earth view).
significant, he said, "because just 20 years ago a
big step in the development process was the decision to
hire a helicopter and photographer for a flyover for
aerial images, or pay a hefty fee for aerial views on
property specialist — either on the road or by
transmitting a request to the office — also can get
Web access to public records to determine ownership,
transactions on the lot, or building and tax status, he
— unmanned aerial vehicles with cameras attached —
are beginning to be used by some builders and real
estate agents, though there are questions about privacy
and the use of images taken with them.
problem with Google Earth is that what you are seeing in
2014 might have been taken in 2011," said Michael
Duffy, an agent with the Philadelphia-area real estate
firm owned by his father, John Duffy Sr. "You look
at the Google Map images of Philadelphia, and they are
missing a lot of the new construction in the last three
Christmas, Duffy said, he and brother John Duffy Jr.,
also an agent, exchanged tech gifts: a drone ($600 on
the Internet) and a GoPro camera (about $200).
Federal Aviation Administration has restricted use of
drones and is now developing rules for their commercial
use. For example, a drone operator cannot charge a
client for a flight or sell a photo taken on the flight,
but can ask a fee for "editing that picture,"
drone quadcopter is 18 inches by 18 inches and is
maneuvered using a controller with joysticks, Duffy
said. The camera is mounted on the drone, and takes
video that is downloaded into a laptop.
results is an aerial view closer to a property than can
be had by plane or helicopter, he said. That allows him
to offer visuals of a house that otherwise might be
hidden by trees.
privacy an issue, "you need permission from the
seller and (must) make sure that you don’t infringe on
the adjoining property," Duffy said.
said Toll is in very early stages of investigating and
testing drones for marketing purposes.
are hopeful that there is soon clarity about
regulations" so that drones can be used more
freely, she said.