Rizwan Akhtar, CTO Business Technology, Realogy Holdings Corp
You might not realize it, but there is a revolution happening in the real estate industry. This revolution began slowly a few years ago, however it was expedited thanks to the Covid pandemic and the red-hot real estate market that followed. The revolution is needed now more than ever because with homes selling as fast as they are, agents and brokers need all the help that they can get from their technology. This means that their product suite must simplify processes, leave them better equipped with information and data, and give them the time in their day to find the right homes for their clients.
What is this big revolution that is happening in real estate? Artificial Intelligence (AI).
For years AI has been used as a buzzword by businesses in many different industries, far too often missing the power of what AI can truly deliver. Unfortunately, this means that companies will say that they leverage AI, but really what they do is have some minor aspect of machine learning in a tool that doesn’t help their business. To me, there is nothing that is more harmful to the power of technology than using it just to say that you use cutting edge innovations. Technology exists to solve complex issues, and innovative technology like AI should be used to solve real business needs. Which brings me back to real estate.
Real Estate has been notoriously slow to adopt to new technology, it’s an industry that is still heavily reliant on pen and paper, so the use of AI is still relatively new to real estate. Specifically, the industry is seeing how using data to build machine learning models that are then put into use through AI can help simplify the lives of our agents and brokers, and that it also can make things easier on the corporate side.
While this is nothing new for many industries, in real estate it is groundbreaking that we leverage robotic process automation to manage many of the back-office data-entry processes that must take place for every transaction. This once time-consuming process is now done in a matter of minutes, saving our agents and staff valuable hours of their day to do the work that matters most, buying and selling homes. However, as with any industry adapting to new technology, there are also some complications.
The industry is seeing how data can help simplify the lives of our agents and brokers, and that it also can make things easier on the corporate side
AI is reliant on having a deep, accurate data set, something that large enterprise organizations like the one I work for has access to, however most other real estate companies aren’t as lucky.
Real estate has long had a data problem. Specifically, there is so much data out there, but it has been separated and siloed for many years. Furthermore, with regulations differing from city to city, it is a difficult task to compare data. However, as the real estate AI revolution has been taking place, we have seen how we (and other larger companies) are now capable of properly storing the data in an easy-to-access and process manner. We solved this issue by building a data lake that brings various sources together to store our data. This has helped us increase the power, quality, and most importantly, the accessibility of our extensive data set. Now that there is an ability to access that data, it has opened an incredible new world for our real estate agents and brokers, giving them new tools in their lead generation arsenal that they could have only dreamed about a few years ago.
For example, we have built models that leverage predictive analytics to help agents get a better understanding of which homeowners are most likely to want to sell soon, and which renters are most likely to want to become homeowners. We are even leveraging predictive analytics to help agents with their marketing materials, creating marketing copy and imagery that is most likely to succeed in attracting interested buyers. We are also able to focus on the business side by helping brokers better understand where to put their recruitment and retention resources, as they can leverage predictive analytics to accurately predict how an agent will perform over several years in the future.
Let me take a moment here to once again stress how long it has taken real estate to get to a place where we are able to leverage technology like this. It is also an interesting advantage for us to be “late to the game.” I am excited to be able to lead a technology team that is working with AI in the early stages of industry adoption in 2021. If you think about it, we have many years of experience from other industries to look at to guide us in our journey. We can learn from the mistakes and successes of other companies outside of real estate, leveraging the technological capabilities that we have in 2021 that wasn’t available when AI was first being used many years ago in other industries. Furthermore, being able to use AI to help agents be better equipped to sell homes, means that we are setting ourselves up to change how agents and brokers generate leads and sell homes in the future. In other words, we are helping to modernize something that has remained stagnant for the better part of the last century, as face-to-face lead generation is still among the more popular forms of lead-generation. When I say that we are in the middle of a revolution, I am not exaggerating or being coy, this is one of the most exciting times I could imagine being a part of a technology team in real estate as the industry is finally ready to give in to the revolution and allow technology to help sell homes.
Agents and brokers will always be the most crucial part of every real estate transaction, that will never and should never change. However, as a real estate technologist, it is my job to make sure that agents and brokers are equipped with technology that makes the homebuying and home-selling transaction as seamless and simple of a process as possible for them and their clients. This is where AI is finally breaking into the real estate industry. The revolution is coming, and I for one am extremely excited to be a part of it.
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