A University of Oxford study announced that around 50% of jobs are vulnerable to technological unemployment due to automation, software and AI bots. Real estate agents amongst the most at risk, following a detailed study of 702 occupations. It predicted that there was a 98% chance that the role of realtor will be obsolete as AI-powered chatbots for real estate continue to improve.
Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, who conducted the study, worked on the assumption of the 1930s economist, John Maynard Keynes. Keynes declared that technology will eventually outpace our ability to create new careers for those no longer useful within capitalist economic societies. An era of mass technological unemployment would come, or so Keynes theorised, over 80 years ago.
Could Keynes, Frey and Osborne be right?
Is This the End for Real Estate Agents?
Let’s look at the facts.
Residential real estate is the largest purchase most people will ever make. With house prices rising on a fairly regular basis - especially in comparison to wages - this is going to be the case for decades, if not centuries.
In any kind of transaction, people buy from people. Always have, always will.
However, when it comes to real estate, people buy what they can afford. Price has a big impact on whether or not someone goes through with a purchase. Location is even more important. Location, location, location influences whether a house, apartment or mansion sells wherever it is in the world and local area.
In any big city, there are neighbourhoods where multi-million dollar apartments can sell within days or weeks. Whereas, only a few miles away it can take months to shift something worth a quarter as much. Where a property is can make a huge difference to the value. There is very little a real estate agent can do to improve the value or make it sell any faster.
The Growing Role of Chatbots in Real Estate
At the same time, the way people search for properties has changed. Online searches - especially on smartphones - is the norm. The hunt for real estate starts online, through search engines, listing platforms, social networks and realtor websites.
Now this is where buyers start to interact with AI bots. More realtors than ever - and property listing platforms - are using AI bots as an initial interaction point between the customer and agency. Customers, therefore, might land on a website or listings platform, and a chat box appears. Some prefer to use Live Chat features, whereby potential customers can talk directly with a real estate agent online, without them having to call the agency.
Other agencies don't have the time/resources to offer Live Chat on their website, which is how AI bots are creeping into the industry. Whether you use Live Chat or an AI bot, these instant real-time interactions improve the customer experience and thereby increase the chances that a potential buyer - if you are listing a property they're interested in - will come back and potentially go through with a purchase. Or list with your agency, if they are interested in selling.
Technology - whether there is a person at the other end of the screen or a series of algorithms and machine learning processes - improves the customer experience and sales pipeline.
The Advantagies of Real Estate Chatbots
Using chatbots for real estate business provides many benefits and opportunities, including:
- Efficiency. Chatbots can greet site visitors, answer general questions, collect information and redirect customers to human agents only when required. This streamlines communication and property search for home hunters. Using an AI bot also reduces the workload of realtors allowing them to focus on more important aspects of their business.
- 24/7 availability. Many people search properties at night time and weekends, but providing 24/7 customer support requires huge human resources. Chatbots never sleep and don’t take breaks, which makes them a perfect tool for handling requests outside of business hours. The ability of chatbots to respond to customers almost immediately is also a valuable trait as it decreases customer dropout due to the lack of real time support.
- Stress reduction. Leveraging AI bots to streamline interactions and automate routine tasks reduces stress on both sides – the realtor and the customer. A human realtor can be sick, anxious, depressed or overloaded, which reflects on the quality of customer service. But AI bots never get angry or irritated (unless you program them to do so). They are always friendly, welcoming and supportive making the home search process as easy and stress-free as possible.
Some real estate bots are loaded into iPads and left in seller’s homes to answer questions and collect data during busy open house viewings. Others are motorised, with cameras on sticks, to give potential buyers a 360 online walking tour of a house. But are any of these capable of replacing real estate agents completely?
No, or at least, this is very unlikely.
Why Realtors Jobs are Safe
People trust people.
Real estate purchases are a big, scary, emotional decision. Unless a real estate chatbot can hold our hands and achieve a near-human level of empathy and knowledge, we need people to guide and support us through these big scary decisions.
At present, AI bots know as much as we tell them. While machine learning opens up new business opportunities, it is still a long way off from true artificial intelligence. AI bots can give potential buyers some information, but for anything more complicated we still need realtors. AI bots are a useful part of the sales funnel, and realtors should use them in this way: to increase the number of viewings in a realtor’s diary and to provide customers with more information about the properties.
Along with the knowledge AI bots are programmed with, they are even further from achieving empathy. Realtors are worth their weight in gold for reading signals, emotions and being able to emotionally connect with buyers and sellers. An AI bot can’t do that.
Online tools, such as AI bots and big data-backed insights can provide invaluable additions to the sales funnel, increasing the number of potential buyers and sellers for realtors. However, these technological advancements are at their most effective when they assist humans instead of taking over their jobs. That’s why we are unlikely to see the day, any time soon or in the next few decades, when realtors are replaced by AI bots.