Innovations in real estate technology have the potential to automate the business and sales process for real estate agents and free up time that could be spent on more high-value activities, said Jeff Turner, entrepreneur in residence at Second Century Ventures, a venture capital fund focused on innovation in real estate technology. Turner presented four emerging technology trends that he sees having a profound impact on real estate during the Business Issues Policy Committee meeting at the virtual REALTORS® Legislative Meetings on Thursday.
Venture capital is flowing into real estate technology at an unprecedented rate, Turner said, and one of the major areas of interest is technology automation. He estimated the potential US market for automation at $100 billion. Automation, he said, is the driver of what he sees as the four top trends in real estate tech.
AI is human intelligence displayed by a computer or a machine, Turner explained, adding that AI is what drives a device like a calculator or a smartphone. AI can automate tasks so that an agent doesn’t have to be an expert at an activity in order to perform it at a high level. Turner pointed to a prime example in immoviewer, a company that offers automated video creation of 3D 360-degree tours that can also build floor plans, and a member of NAR REACH’s class of 2017. No design or architectural skills are needed. “AI is going to act as an assistant for us,” Turner said. “Things that used to be highly manual can now be automated—you don’t need to be a professional.”
Recently, NFTs have created a lot of buzz—and confusion—Turner said. An NFT is a cryptographic token that represents something unique and certifies ownership digitally—for example, it allows digital artists to certify that a file they have created is the original, “real” version of file rather than a copy. “It’s like certifying a work of art,” Turner said. “An original Picasso is much more valuable than a copy of a Picasso painting.” So what does this mean for real estate? Turner pointed to a company named Addy, which offers an innovative way to invest in properties through NFTs. Addy sources properties and then offers investment in them, issuing a limited number of tokens, which can go for as little as $1—Addy’s website explains that a $500,000 opportunity would be divided up into 500,000 tokens. Turner noted that these low-cost tokens allow anyone to invest. “NFTs will change how people purchase property and how investments are made,” he said.
3D 360-degree tours offer a wealth of opportunity for real estate agents, Turner said, but few agents are taking advantage of the technology. A study Second Century Ventures conducted two years ago found that 84% of consumers would like to see virtual tours of homes—but only 5% of MLS listings have them. Turner pointed to Pillar to Post, a home inspection company that also offers 360-degree home tours, as an example of what can be done. A potential buyer can view an entire home from their smartphone, tablet, or desktop, share the tour with others, receive a floor plan with measurements, and view key findings from the inspection. “I believe the opportunities for this are immense,” Turner said. “Clients can view a home any time they want and revisit any room day or night without having to ask the agent for another tour.”
Natural Language Processing
Natural language processing is the branch of AI that deals with the ability of a computer to understand human language, Turner explained. It’s the technology that powers automated closed captioning and Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa. And Turner believes that the potential of natural language processing to aid real estate agents is limitless. “It’s the holy grail of AI,” he said.
Turner noted that a Google computer program currently exists that can call a restaurant and make a reservation on behalf of an individual and that there is a program named Lyrebird that can synthesize and mimic an individual’s voice—and then read the text in the voice of that same individual. Turner stated that this technology has great potential for real estate professionals: “Imagine a chatbot that can answer your calls in your own voice and interact with clients.”
Turner pointed to RAIYA, an AI text-based, automated inside sales agent that was created by Ylopo, a member of REACH’s class of 2020, as an example of what the technology can do. RAIYA can reach out to potential leads and have a conversation, responding to specific questions and comments that the lead mentions. The agent can also respond to incoming queries from leads.
Above all, Turner is on the lookout for new technology that supports and assists real estate agents in their work. “I’m proud that I work for a company that searches for technology that will keep the REALTOR® at the center of the equation,” he said.