You’re Not Being Replaced by AI

May 16, 2019

REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo

From chatbots that talk to your clients on your behalf to voice technology that can guide you through your workday, artificial intelligence is changing the way real estate professionals work. Speakers at the Emerging Business Issues & Technology Forum on Thursday briefed attendees on how AI is evolving to help automate real estate professionals’ tasks and why it’s so important to stay ahead of the trends.

“We can automate anything, but we have to be prepared for what the consequences are to that, and make sure that automation doesn’t do more damage than good,” said Jeff Turner, entrepreneur in residence with Second Century Ventures, the strategic investment arm of the National Association of REALTORS®.

Artificial intelligence is getting so sophisticated that you may be unable to detect when you’re communicating with a human versus a chatbot online or on the phone. Consider this frequently cited example of Google Duplex setting up a hair appointment for a client using AI:

“Your biggest decision for the future could be: How will you distinguish yourself from a chatbot? How are you going to create more value than a chatbot?” Turner said.

Real estate is embracing more AI tech tools to automate routine tasks, such as responding to basic home buyer questions in a search of homes or a community.

“AI is being used to generate stronger leads, establish meaningful client relationships through warm transfers, nurture home buyers at any stage in the search process, and increase successful transaction rates,” said Amy Chorew, vice president of learning at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.

AI Tools In Use

Chorew highlighted three areas in which BHGRE is using AI:

Bots and personal assistants. This AI tool communicates through conversational chats. Chorew said BHGRE uses OJO Labs, which can help groom online leads that come in through your website. A visitor comes to the website and the OJO bot pops up to ask, “Can I help you?” The bot’s question prompts and responds to customers’ questions and learns more about their home search and preferences. When they’re ready to look for properties, users are instantly transferred to an agent for the human, personal touch.

“We’ve been able to increase transactions and closings with this,” Chorew said. She showed a timeline of one example in which a customer first connected with the OJO bot—presented to the client as a “digital real estate agent”—on Nov. 22. The customer inquired about a certain property and was soon transferred to an agent for instant follow-up. By Feb. 21, the customer closed on a property.

Property image recognition. These AI tools allow you to more easily search photos using AI tools, such as calling up images of properties for sale featuring white kitchens. Chorew gave an example of restb.ai, which uses AI to scan listings and provide detailed information through image recognition analysis. Property photos can be called up by architectural design or certain home features, and offer similar home styles—without the agent having to input the information themselves.

Voice assistants. Alexa, Google Assistant, and other voice-powered assistants are experiencing explosive growth with the public, while serving plenty of business uses, too. “Brokers and MLS can capitalize and be leaders in the voice space, such as with listing searches, AVM delivery, real-time business intelligence for agents, training, and information delivery,” Chorew said. BHGRE uses Agent X, a voice assistant for Realogy-brand agents that uses the Amazon Alexa platform to help agents in a variety of ways, providing performance score cards, real estate news, listing details, calendar appointments, and more. Voiceter Pro’s voice-activated tools can be branded for your brokerage in offering home search listing tools.

As AI becomes mainstream, are your relationships with clients at risk? Technology will never fully replace the real estate professional’s importance, speakers said.

“Those who connect with others are going to become more valuable, not less,” Turner said. “Emotional intelligence is going to be way more important than actual intelligence.” The technology can be used to free up some of agents’ time, allowing you to focus on more high-level tasks to completing a transaction.

“You add value that cannot be replaced,” Turner said. “But I also think a dismissiveness to this technology is dangerous. It’s important for the real estate community to know what is possible with technology and then educate yourself on it and create specific skill sets and value that are added only by being human.”