Australian property professionals drag their feet on AI

More than one-third of property professionals believe Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have a “revolutionary impact” on the sector, but few have truly started to implement it.

According to the latest Yardi/Property Council Digital Transformation Report, 35 per cent of the 341 property professionals surveyed, said AI would usher in a huge change in real estate.

Property Council of Australia Chief Executive Mike Zorbas said 2023 was a breakthrough year for AI and the property sector was looking for ways to implement such systems.

“The AI genie is out of the bottle,” Mr Zorbas said.

“AI will transform the property sector for the better.

“With the disruption caused by automation, artificial intelligence, smart building systems and intelligent devices at every stage of the real estate value chain, business as usual is shifting.

“While strategy is needed to boost productivity through chatbots and copilots, leading organisations across the real estate industry are now seeking to harness AI’s capabilities to streamline processes and offer better services.”

A further 58 per cent of property professionals believe AI will have “some impact” on real estate in the next five years, while 6 per cent say it will have “little impact” and 1 per cent say it will have “no impact”.

Despite the interest in AI, 31 per cent of respondents haven’t taken any steps to adopt the technology yet and 28 per cent say there isn’t a next step to leverage AI.

Meanwhile 30 per cent have started researching how to leverage AI and 26 per cent have started to implement some systems.

The report also revealed 38 per cent of respondents said the biggest barrier is resistance to change among users.

Mirvac Chief Digital Officer William Payne commented in the research that this was unsustainable.

“Investment in technology across the real estate industry has been mainly focused on foundational systems such as financial, ERP and CRM, which many other industries adopted 20 years ago,” he said.

“Much of the day-to-day activity is based on business processes that have not changed for years, with lengthy documents still handed from one person to another.

“This is unsustainable in today’s world, let alone in an AI-enabled tomorrow.

“Digital-led customer experience and business optimisation must become a key agenda for our industry as it already is in so many others.”

The report also revealed that 48 per cent of respondents believe Australia is trailing other regions when it comes to AI. 

Yardi’s companion survey of Asian property professionals revealed significant anticipation for AI’s impact. 

In Mainland China, 56 per cent foresee groundbreaking changes, while in India 67 per cent anticipate dramatic shifts.

Yardi Senior Regional Director of Asia-Pacific, Bernie Devine, said despite three years of disruption and pandemic-driven acceleration in property’s digital transformation, 62 per cent of respondents still see the property industry lagging in technology adoption.

“This number has risen 12 per cent since our 2022 survey, showing that the industry is feeling that the property sector is missing out on the current boom in technology,” Mr Devine said.

“Only nine per cent of respondents feel our region is leading the way, in stark contrast to our neighbours in Asia.

“However, we are clearly seeing the swift advancement and implementation of AI and tech solutions prompting companies to reassess their technology strategies to keep up with the pack.

“While there is no question real estate companies must proceed with caution when it comes to AI, most respondents to our survey acknowledged AI as a game-changer and are looking at ways to implement these systems into their business.

“AI chatbots are simplifying lease negotiations, rent collection and maintenance scheduling. These are merely a glimpse of what lies ahead,” he said.

In contrast to the 62 per cent who thought real estate lagged other sectors in technology, 31 per cent thought it was on par with others and seven per cent felt it was leading the way.

The real estate industry is prioritising organisational improvements, with 45 per cent aiming to streamline business processes and 30 per cent focusing on enhancing data timeliness and accuracy as their top information management priorities for 2024.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.