WASHINGTON (May 17, 2019) – Automation is very much a part of the real estate industry and should be embraced by Realtors® and other industry leaders, panelists said at yesterday's Emerging Business Issues and Technology Forum during the 2019 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.
The session, "Automation and Sharing Economy: How it will Affect the Way We Work and Live," discussed artificial intelligence or AI components, including Alexa, bots and OJO labs, and explained how each tool could be used by Realtors® in various home sale transactions.
Mike Simonsen, CEO of Altos Research, which tracks real estate market data, highlighted some of the technology's most positive and significant impacts on the real estate industry. Even the consequences of buyers and sellers having more smartphones, he says, has helped the market. "Before the iPhone, we couldn't do photo banks [for property image recognition] because we didn't have enough photos. But now we have an infinite number of photos."
Simonsen, however, did acknowledge that there are some downsides to technology. "Now we have the iBuyers who are using their machine learning techniques to eat up inventory as quickly as they can."
iBuyers are individuals or companies known to make offers to purchase homes—sight unseen—often within days or even minutes of a property being placed on the market. The proposal is based on a proprietary valuation model. "The technology that we're putting on top of the market is, in general, suppressing our inventory even further," says Simonsen.
Teresa Grobecker of US Capital Global and NAR REACH 2019 encouraged Realtors® to use the Real Estate Consortia, which tracks real estate referrals, ensuring Realtors® are rightfully paid for their referrals.
While the tool would protect Realtors® in the event they fail to be compensated, Grobecker has received pushback from some colleagues. "They say 'You know what? We don't want that technology because it's taking away human touch in our business.'"
Still, Grobecker sees the use of the Real Estate Consortia as a proactive step. "If we don't get in front of this technology . . . this profession will not exist in the next 20 to 30 years."
Grobecker says the Real Estate Consortia will revolutionize the industry. The technology tracks referrals from start to finish, logs them in a system and creates a portal that can be checked. "And if anyone forgets to do their job, there is a match and pin process," she says. "What that means is post close, you never have to pick up the phone again and wonder about the status of your referral."
Jeff Turner, entrepreneur-in-residence with Second Century Ventures, the strategic investment arm of the National Association of Realtors®, cautioned against dismissing new technologies.
"There is this general cynicism that takes place, and I see it all the time. They say, 'Oh another AI whatever; everything is AI today.' There's a dismissiveness to it that I think is dangerous," Turner said. He called for Realtors® to educate themselves on these new resources so they can be used to agents' advantage. "It's important for the real estate community to understand very, very specifically what's possible with the technology."
Turner says if nothing else, Realtors® should learn the technology to ensure that it is operating fairly and not breaking laws. "I applaud a healthy cynicism about technology. Your understanding of it needs to make its way back upstream and force them to follow the rules."
JD White of the Prescott Area Association of Realtors®, who spoke during the session's Q&A portion, said he has been pushing to convince fellow Realtors® to use these technologies to their advantage. "They can use this to free up their time; they can automate their jobs. They can use this technology to focus on the things they're good at—social skills and handholding—making it a stress-free interaction when trying to buy property," he said. "The change is coming; there's no way to avoid it."
The National Association of Realtors® is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.