Artificial intelligence

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The pandemic may have ushered in technology overload as more aspects of a real estate transaction became remote. Keeping up with the growing choices in proptech has become a pain point for real estate firms. Forty-one percent of more than 6,000 executives and senior management at real estate firms recently surveyed say one of their biggest challenges over the next two years is keeping up with technology, according to the 2021 Real Estate in a Digital Age report produced by the National Association of REALTORS®.

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Over the next 12 months, real estate professionals expect to rely more on e-signature tools, social media, local MLS apps and technology, and customer relationship management and transaction management systems, Dan Weisman, NAR’s director of emerging technology, said at a Friday session during the 2021 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Diego. And over the next two years, real estate firms believe drones, cybersecurity, 5G, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence will grow more important to their business.

At Friday’s session “Emerging Technology and Strategic Trends You Must Know,” NAR tech leaders discussed the two technology tools they believe could have some of the biggest impact on the future of real estate, including:

Artificial intelligence. AI tools have long been touted in the real estate industry for ushering in new learning, problem solving, and new processes when collecting and interpreting data, said Dave Conroy, NAR’s director of emerging technology. Many people are unknowingly already using AI tools, such as receiving product recommendations on Amazon based on shopping patterns or movie suggestions based on streaming choices. Conroy believes that in the future, AI could recommend to home buyers what neighborhoods they might want to live in or which real estate agent to use.

Currently, AI has mostly been used in predictive analytics. For example, some CRMs can show the 10% of existing contacts who are likely to move over the next six months by factoring in multiple likely-to-move data points, such as changes to marital status, recent graduations, or even dumpster or storage rentals.

“Such technology is already here and is affordable and it can take advantage of your existing data,” Conroy said. “It can make a massive impact in your business if you take advantage of it.”

AI has gained some attention recently for its potential to leverage image metadata for more detailed property searches. The home renovation analytics app Plunk, which uses real estate market data to help homeowners and real estate agents decide the value of various home renovation projects, recently partnered with the image data company’s image analysis tool can determine physical features in photos of homes, such as kitchen islands or upgrades. It can integrate such data from images into searchable web content that can be used to make home comparisons. The technology could help consumers find and compare houses based on specific interior features and amenities.

Superfast 5G connections. The fifth generation of cellular technology—5G—will likely foster new innovations with connected gadgets. 5G-capable devices will be capable of download speeds 200 times faster than current 4G networks. But the true impact and widespread adoption of 5G is likely still 10 years off, Conroy said.

5G could one day pave the way for high-tech home tours that use augmented reality, smarter smart homes, and better-connected remote offices that remove awkward lag times in video calls. 5G will offer more high-speed internet service to rural areas and usher in telehealth services and automated vehicles that Conroy believes could allow people to more easily live further from urban areas, expanding real estate opportunities.

Nearly 80% of home buyers say they believe access to 5G connectivity could increase a home’s value, according to a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults commissioned by Verizon. House hunters already place a high value on superfast connections: 90% of home shoppers surveyed this year said that cell service is a top consideration when searching for a home, even more important than having a move-in ready home, modern appliances, or proximity to good schools.

At this year’s REALTOR® Conference & Expo, Verizon is showcasing a new home broadband internet option called 5G Home. It uses a 5G wireless signal outside your home to power the Wi-FI connection inside with the ultra-fast speeds and low lag times that 5G touts. It can be installed by the homeowner.

A Wave of Tech Consolidation

Not sure which technology to adopt? You’re not alone. But the decision could get easier, Jeb Griffin, NAR’s director of strategy and innovation, said during Friday’s session. He said that consolidation is rampant among proptech companies over the past year.

For example, commercial giant CoStar has acquired several companies as it looks to expand into the residential market, such as Homesnap,,, Ten-X, LoopNet, and more. Also, Lone Wolf Technologies has acquired companies like ZipLogix, Propertybase, LionDesk, HomeSpotter, Terradatum, and W+R Studios.

More tech consolidation is occurring as companies seek to become a single platform that agents can use for everything from lead generation to completing a real estate transaction.

Griffin says such consolidation could help to lower costs as companies look to package their offerings, giving agents less need to shop for and evaluate multiple CRMs and transaction management and AI applications . Also, Griffin points to innovation that could occur by greater consolidation among companies, increased efficiency in tech use, and the combination of their data in one platform for deeper insights in reports.