Nick is the CEO & Lead Photographer for Open House Foto located in Los Angeles.
Nick bought his first drone, a Phantom2 with a GoPro in 2015 for $2,500. He’d just left his full-time job at a cable company that he hated working for. He knew that he had some creativity but didn’t want to buy a drone because the ones he saw were shaky. He also knew he could do better. Nick would fly the drone over a business, take photos and find out if they would like to buy them. That was that; he kept doing a few here and there. Later, he contacted a photographer, saying he did videography, and asking if he’d like to partner up. She agreed and it all started.
David: What type of projects do you typically take on today?
Nick says their bread and butter is primarily listing videos, highlighting great things about an area. They showcase how properties compare to other areas. When they approach clients for video, Nick tells them they’re not trying to sell the condo; they’re trying to sell the lifestyle and the neighborhood. For example, he shot a condo in Venice beach which was small with no ocean views. And, Nick says, “if you see the video, you say ‘I want to buy that thing right now’.” Nick uses an electric skateboard with a stabilizer on it. He stands on it with his remote control and gets beautiful shots of the boardwalk.
People ask him “What’s the percent of drone usage in the videos?” From a two-minute video, Nick says, the drone is there for 15-20 seconds max. He says,
“You can’t waste 30 seconds outside of the property–you gotta get inside ASAP. People need to see what inside looks like.”
David: You started taking pictures of businesses and seeing if they’re interested. Then you got a partnership with a photographer. Now you’re at super high end real estate jobs, doing video tours. Help me bridge the gap between how you got from there to where you are now.
“The secret is content…you need something to show someone what you’ve done. It’s that simple; it all starts from being willing to spend some money.”
After getting the drone and partnering with a few people, he decided to drop by a popular Real Estate office on Sunset Boulevard. Nick gave the agent his business card, saying he does real estate videography and walked out. He got a call a week later from them to shoot an iconic home. Nick asked for $500, the agent paid $300. Nick says he shouldn’t even have charged them because he was new and needed to get content. “It’s like high school…were you at Tiffany’s birthday? Then you will come to my birthday. It’s free ads; maybe they work, maybe they don’t. As soon as the realtor knows that you’ve shot something for another realtor, you’re IN. That’s how it works with them and with developers.” Nick’s advice is to get really cool building shots in a downtown area, find a realtor and try to get some beautiful homes to shoot a couple of frames complimentary.
Nick didn’t hear from them for a while. Then sometime later another realtor calls saying he saw the videos Nick had done on the previous house, had just taken over the listing and wanted to pay for the rights to the video. Nick said he could also reshoot it for them very cheap if they gave him two more listings. They agreed.
One more piece of advice for people is to go to an open house with cookies or pizza and give it to the agent(s). Nick says to the agent, “I know you’re here all day. Maybe there’s something for you and for people that are visiting…and here’s my card.” Sponsoring lunches is also a great idea. By hiring someone to come make crepes at an office, Nick met one realtor who gave him close to $7000 worth of business over the span of three years AND referred him to another realtor.
Nick says that despite all that, it can be easy to get discouraged. He says, “Every time somebody compliments me, I say thank you; that’s very encouraging. Because in this kind of business, anyone can go to best buy, buy a drone, knock on a realtor’s door to take photos. Realtors (and others) don’t understand that time lost is money lost because when somebody screws up, someone like Nick will have to go back and redo it and they’re going to pay him.”
“Talk to everyone and make sure they know what you do. Realtors trust me to do my thing. At one house, I heard kids playing in a pool next door so I brought my drone over, told the Mom I’d be flying it for the house next door, would fly over her home but would NOT film the kids. I also invited the kids to watch. She was excited, told the neighbor, who told the realtor, who was very impressed. This could have been a nightmare, which was avoided by a simple knock on a door and a hello.”
Nick also tells people to watch movies because you get to see what techniques the cinematographer used. They do really cool foreground shots to the trees–revealing the home from the bottom up. Then the home looks really massive.
David: What are you charging for like a full walkthrough, highlight video of a property of these $5 million homes?
Nick charges by square footage. Anything on the West side starts at about $950 for up to 2000ft2. People know how much you know, not from what you tell them, but questions that you ask them. He advises to send them a questionnaire and ask them questions such as, ‘do you know how to turn the pool lights on?’ Nick has cleaned windows, exchanged light bulbs, folded the toilet paper in a triangle. All these little touches are pretty important. The realtor sees that that’s the important part. Details are EVERYTHING.
David: It sounds like you’re in with all these really high-end realtors and their offices. How did you get into doing construction and what kind of construction stuff are you doing?
Nick got hired for a brand-new build and the developer and architects were there. Nick asked them who captured the progress of construction sites. The developer said they had a drone guy, but Nick gave him his card anyway.
Nick also did a video for a roofing company who brought in a massive crane to deliver roof shingles. Six months later, the guy asked if they still had the photos he took because the company told them they delivered one amount, but they got a different amount. Thanks to those photos, they were able to see how many they delivered. The roofer said, “this alone was worth everything we paid you.”
In construction, anything you shoot to showcase progress is so, so, so important. Nick uses this to show developers so much more of what he can do for their homes.
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