Almost exactly a year ago, a social experiment by inman.com, proved what we’ve always fantasized about: Robots doing human work and doing it better than us. The popular real estate information website pitted the “Find More Genius” bot created by Creed Smith, a real estate broker in the Denver area, against three volunteer brokers from the city.
Over three days, the bot competed against one broker (per day) to find homes that would not only physically and financially match the buyer’s likes, but also appeal to him emotionally. And the bot trumped humans every single day. And what’s more, the judge (buyer) couldn’t tell apart the listings presented by the brokers and the bot.
Era of Artificial Intelligence
In the seventy-odd years that computers have been around, they’ve made tremendous things possible. And, Artificial Intelligence (AI), which replicates a process that involves human thought and then exceeds in performance, is firmly taking root in many traditional industries. Over the past few years, the use of AI has been steadily on the rise but is still quite easy to ignore. However, its impact is beginning to be felt by consumers and businesses across the globe. In the very near future, AI will replace and redefine several job roles presently performed by human beings.
More and more industries are waking up to the changes brought by AI-powered algorithms in the way business is conducted. Today, traditional banks are changing their outlook, focussing and retrenching operations to become more digital. In fact, there are now banks that completely eliminate the need for brick-and-mortar spaces. Our roads are already being invaded by smart cars that drive themselves; and image/face recognition softwares are more efficient than ever before. And the real estate industry is no exception: Influences of AI are already being felt in the way people search for and buy properties these days.
Here are three important ways in which AI is disrupting the real estate industry today.
1. Machines that Learn to Search Smartly
It’s safe to say that most people use search engines to do their initial research before buying property these days. What’s changing at a rapid pace is the capacity of these AI-powered search engines to provide results that are almost exactly what the user is looking for. The search questions and information on real estate websites are probed not just for matches but also for signifiers that a web page will answer the query as closely as possible. Every search is in-built with thousands of factors, making realtor interventions unnecessary in the initial stages.
Until recently, search results were limited to price and area specifications. However, that is changing rapidly too. Today, the AI behind search engines have learned to incorporate more criteria into results, making it a far more sophisticated process that allows users to be specific about things like return on investment, green certifications and so on. Real estate websites have integrated AI-powered tools into their makeup to enable users to find listings that meet their requirements even before they searched for it.
Search engines with their deep learning capacities can recognize word clusters and phrase partners used commonly and can better understand hidden connotations in search queries. Finding homes that not only match the physical criteria but also the emotional criteria that appeal to buyers has been an issue for years. Intelligent search engines and AI software have made that possible today, almost eliminating the need for a traditional buyer’s agent.
2. Machines that classify and describe images
The real estate business is one that’s heavily dependent on images – it’s what people want to see first because it lets them decide faster whether or not they feel something for the place. However, search engines haven’t been doing a great job, so far, of culling out images that exactly match a search query. That’s because they rely on picture descriptions written by human beings, which can get highly subjective, and not what’s actually there on the image.
AI tools with integrated image recognition software have bridged the gap perfectly. Computers are now able to describe or interpret what’s shown in an image with unbelievable accuracy. People, actions, animals, geographical markers and even moods and emotions are now easily recognized by AI software. Such software has the potential to eliminate the man-hours required to classify, tag and describe images; and to bring back solid search results instantly.
3. Machines that chat with you in real-time
In the online world, content may be king but it’s meaningful interactions that actually convert into sales. AI-powered chatbots engage with prospective customers of all types (shy, skeptical or, tech-savvy) in real time over a chat interface, answering questions that go beyond a simple yes or no format. In other words, like a real customer service representative would answer questions.
Chatbots have found takers in many industries today and in the real estate industry, it’s expected to automate tasks and processes that have traditionally required personalized interactions. They are also being used in lead generation and marketing efforts, allowing realtors to engage with only highly qualified leads that translate into real business.
Chatbots allow for conversations that require complex engagement with consumers and they can carry on a conversation that could be unlimited. Sometimes they can go beyond their content base, learning to cull out property information from a large source of data; answer common real estate questions on mortgage, down payment, bank loans etc.; integrate with chatbots on social media to cross-reference queries; and most importantly, ask leading questions that could create or identify potential business.
Realtors of the Future
While you won’t be bidding goodbye to your realtor anytime soon, you will be witness to changes in the kind of services he/she provide you. While your search engine will increasingly eliminate the need for a realtor in the initial stages of the homebuying process, realtors will still be around to provide that essential human touch that builds trust and enables deals to go through. Your realtor will make the final stages of the process as personal and customized as possible, entering the field as a specialized service provider who no longer resembles the traditional realtor.
The future of AI is no longer a distant reality. Neither is it just a frail possibility. Instead, it is the way forward and it will continue to solve problems, help consumers find exactly what they’re looking for in lesser time and explore new realms to enter. In other words, your dream home will be first presented to you by a machine that really understands you.