On 10 August this year, Dexar Group unveiled its first sales project involving artificial intelligence. Launched at The Grounds development in Canberra, the initiative saw a virtual assistant employed to handle initial sales queries and assist in providing real-time information.
Within two hours of the site’s launch, the team had its first sales lead. By Wednesday the following week more than 1,400 impressions had been achieved, with over eight per cent converting into conversations with potential buyers. Of these conversations, around 45 per cent took place outside the typical business hours of 9am to 5pm.
“Every conversation happened in real time, with people getting instant answers to their questions. There was no human agent on the other end,” Dexar Chief Operations Officer Jeffery Gray explains.
And he notes it’s just the beginning of what artificial intelligence can offer real estate in an era where the customer experience is central and immediate satisfaction is expected.
“This is about the first phase of AI and humans working together on sales transactions, but there will be an increasing dependence on AI across all transactions.
“Within the next 12 months there will be a high degree of AI driving automated workflows that also improve the customer experience.
“Over time it is anticipated AI will get to a point where certain transactions will occur fully autonomously.”
Real estate that never sleeps
Lumped under the banner of AI is a wealth of technology that allows real estate agents a greater insight into their customers’ behaviour and an improved ability to meet their needs.
“People think of AI as one thing, when actually it’s a whole bunch of technology,” Mr Gray explains.
From machine learning to voice recognition and complex problem solving, it allows the industry to harness the power of big data and apply it to improve the customer experience along with business operations.
“AI is already in real estate, with algorithms predicting who is most likely to buy even before they start looking,” Mr Gray notes.
That predictive ability has repercussions for sales and property management alike.
“Property managers are at the heart of disruption. Seventy per cent of what they do can be automated.”
Mr Gray notes that disruption won’t be about replacing the role of the property manager but about allowing them to do their job more effectively and intuitively.
For example, smart technology and AI may be able to predict when a hot water system will need maintenance, smart speakers will allow tenants to report maintenance issues by voice at any hour of the day and AI will allow property managers to automate the job of finding a tradesperson.
“Instead of a tenant waiting two to three days for someone to get back to them, we’re asking what does it look like to have this happen in real time?
“Fast forward three years and there will be a platform connecting with consumers on whatever channel they choose on a 24/7 basis and, as properties also become smarter, AI will be connecting with houses.”
The real estate perspective
Managing Director of Laing+Simmons and Real Estate Institute of NSW President Leanne Pilkington said AI had the potential to allow agents and property managers to concentrate on what they do best proactively rather than reactively.
“There’s research that indicates about half the inquiries about properties are not getting responded to.
“AI is about trying to give the consumer information and communication in real time.
“We know most people look at property after hours, at night, when an agent isn’t necessarily available. If we can give people information to answer their query, then the agent can follow up afterwards and have a better conversation based on qualified leads.
“From a property manager’s perspective, they spend a lot of time doing routine, mundane work. We think by having AI we can make their job a whole lot more interesting by automating the jobs that aren’t necessarily pleasant.
“We are not trying to remove property managers, but rather provide a better experience for the tenant, for the landlord and for the property manager.”
A new consumer
Meanwhile, Mr Gray noted the convenience of AI was becoming the norm rather than the exception and, with new generations entering the property market, adoption was a necessity.
“To a large extent the real estate industry is still the same as it was 20 years ago, geared to Generation X and Baby Boomers.
“Millennials and Gen Zs have never known a world without social media. Gen Z also don’t know a world without AI. They rely on this algorithm for their social and news feeds.
“When they look at real estate, they’re not comparing their experience with other real estate agencies but with other experiences, like Netflix and Amazon. So, when they hit real estate with email, phone and in some cases fax, there’s a complete disconnect with how we deliver our service.
“Research suggests 90 per cent of millennials will use a chatbot. Above 53 per cent prefer that method of engagement.
“Industries and businesses that ignore these shifts in expectations will do so at their peril. Those who are able to implement the technology first stand to gain the best return and advantage.”
In addition to working with Laing+Simmons and launching The Grounds development proof of concept, Dexar recently produced a white paper delving into the implications of Artificial Intelligence for the real estate industry at large.
Find out more and access the whitepaper here.