Many thanks to restb.ai for contributing this article to FUTURE:PropTech!
Sarah wakes up earlier in the morning than she usually does. Today is different. Today she begins a new
venture, a new chapter in her life. This is the day she begins searching for a new home for herself, her
husband, and the baby they have on the way. Sarah has a clear picture of her perfect home, with a modern kitchen, the Victorian features she loves, and space for the children to play. She says aloud to the digital device sitting on her coffee table, “Find me three bedroom houses within twenty kilometers of here that have:
A living room with high ceiling and fireplace;
Stainless steel appliances in the kitchen;
A large lawn in the backyard;
And a good-sized fire pit.
The Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) technology powering the device answers, “I’ve found three properties
that match those requirements.” The A.I. displays images of the properties on the smart television.
“Would you like me to book visits with the digital assistants of the agents representing the buyers?”
A.I. has already made its way into much of the real estate sales funnel. The technology is upending longstanding
relationships between prospects, buyers, renters, owners, agents, and administrators. The competitive advantage will go to realtors who know how to exploit Artificial Intelligence. Savvy agencies will leverage tech that frees their representatives up to provide the best customer service humanly possible.
Trends in A.I. for Real Estate
The most publicized A.I. trends in real estate involve buzz words like big data and predictive analysis.
Imprev, a real estate marketing company, noted in its 2017 report on real estate technology that “twoout-of-three
top real estate executives surveyed say they are more likely to invest in Predictive Analytics
(65%), marketing automation (65%) and big data (64%)”. The report also noted that just over a fifth of
survey respondents was interested in investing in A.I. by 2022.
The analysis also remarked that 20% of respondents rated online real estate portals as one of their
“most important real estate marketing channels and technologies” five years from now.
Predictive analysis seeks patterns in property development, rental, and sales trends. Marketing
automation involves assembling profiles of potential property customers to target and customize
pitches that will bring leads to the door of available spaces. Big data drives both business processes,
with A.I. algorithms correlating millions of data points into coherent pictures of market conditions and
A.I. is looking for new customers, managing online property listings, qualifying mortgage loans, chatting
with prospective clientele and, soon, managing the paperwork involved in closings.
Opportunities in A.I. for Real Estate Marketing
Finding new leads and getting to know potential customers absorbs a considerable amount of a realtor’s
time. Rex Real Estate Exchange is a Los Angeles-based tech company that assembles digital profiles of
prospective customers through social media feeds. A.I. takes thousands of data points such as income,
age, number and age of family members, profession, education level, and much more to assemble a
customized search for a home that is difficult for humans to match.
The customer sketches enable A.I. software to “target those people with ads so effectively they will
click on them because we know who they are,” said Ari Sternberg, Rex’s head of digital marketing.
The approach promises to speed up the time to qualify and contact sales leads, outpacing more
conventional approaches to marketing.
Online Property Searches
Over half of home buyers begin their property searches online, according to the National Association
of Realtors. Precise query results delivered quickly is a real estate website’s competitive advantage.
Computer vision is a branch of A.I. in which software learns to recognize objects and settings in images
relevant to customer expectations. The technology identifies, categorizes, and correlates real estatespecific
features in photographs that present consumers with query results that match their expectations. Searches can be as granular as the material used on fireplaces. The level of natural language detail with which computer vision can describe properties opens property searches up to verbal interrogation. Consumers are searching for homes by mobile phone with services like Siri, and even by A.I.-driven home devices like Alexa. With 55% of teens and 41% of adults already using voice search in 2016, online property listings will need to adapt to A.I. solutions to remain viable.
Voiceter Pro develops A.I. software for Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Microsoft’s Cortana to converse with users about their real estate search.
Onsite Visits to Properties
Silicon Valley tech startup Zenplace uses robots remotely steered by human agents to guide prospective
renters on tours of available homes. A tablet computer fixed to a glossy white pole on wheels whirs
around properties. The tablet displays a live video feed of the agent. The technology enables human
agents to expand the number of showings in a day from just a couple to more than a dozen.
Rex, the L.A.-based company with the A.I.-driven marketing campaigns, takes the human agent out of
the property. A wide-screen tablet computer sits prominently in the property. An A.I. chatbot answers
questions from customers through the display. It presents photographs of that and other, similar
listings. When the system gets stuck answering a question, an on-site agent steps in with a response.
Rex uses the technology to reduce selling commissions from an average of six percent to two percent.
Once a potential buyer or renter has shown interest in a property, paperwork multiplies at a dizzying
rate. On the horizon are A.I.-driven bots that can fulfill tedious checklists, complete email follow-ups,
and relieve agents of the most onerous aspects of closing a deal.
For example, insurance companies use Natural Language Processing and Image Recognition to scan
claims paperwork, digitize the information, and shunt the documents to the appropriate counterparties.
While most real estate-related bots are oriented toward lead generation – like Structurely’s
Holmes – realtors can look forward to technology that eliminates the same administrative drudgery.
The A.I. Challenge to Realtors
A.I. will provide a dividing line that could give a wide competitive advantage to savvy real estate
professionals. Technologically-challenged agents, techno-phobes or those who dismiss any
intervention by technology may find their sales diminish relative to those of representatives who use
A.I. in their work. There will be an increasing number of technology companies masquerading as realtors
that seek to supplant humans in property transactions. There will also be real estate companies that
see A.I. as an enabler and a facilitator in delivering people superior customer experiences.
One thing there will never be, however, are robots “that empathize, calm you down, and tell you what
needs to happen,” as the real estate management consultant Robert Hahn writes. “Software isn’t going
to work overtime to figure something out for you. Only a human being can do that.”