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The ups and downs of leveraging AI in real estate

Artificial intelligence is being used more and more to help assist in the homebuying process. Virtual assistants can answer questions, data mine listings with specific characteristics, connect homebuyers with local real estate agents, and a whole lot more.

Whether for the good or the bad, artificial intelligence (AI) is all around us, including in the real estate industry, where it is commonly used to market and sell homes.

Nobu Hata, director of association and industry affairs for real estate website Zillow and former director of digital engagement at the National Association of Realtors, said AI has been on the association's radar for several years as real estate has been a major industry targeted by it and other technologies, such as virtual reality (VR).

"The future of this stuff is exciting," Hata said. "You are going to see more of it. These companies are going to develop faster than we are able to keep up with."

How real estate agents are using AI to sell homes

AI refers to computer systems developed to handle tasks that normally require human intelligence. In real estate, AI is used to analyze large amounts of data, such as property listings, real-time valuations for homes, sales information and demographics, to identify potential buyers and sellers. VR is used to create immersive 3D virtual tours of properties, allowing buyers to explore homes from anywhere in the world.

Virtual tour software can digitize buildings and residences and automatically create 3D tours, print-quality photos and schematic floor plans.

Last winter, OpenAI developed and launched ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence computer program designed to simulate human conversations. This AI tool can write business pitches, compose music, poetry, song lyrics and essays, answer test questions, mimic conversations, analyze websites and much more. In real estate, it can be used to write property descriptions and marketing campaigns and draft legal documents, among other tasks.

The dark side of AI

Hata said the great shift toward this technology in the real estate industry can be troubling, however, because AI decentralizes people and puts the value of the Realtor into question.

It's not just Realtors feeling the impacts of this powerful technology with a double-edge sword, either. Oct. 30, President Joe Biden signed an executive order on the safe, secure and trustworthy development and use of artificial intelligence. It is intended to balance the needs of tech companies with national security and consumer rights and calls for new safety assessments, equity and civil rights guidance and research on AI's impact on the labor market.

"AI technology is here to stay,” Hata said. "We can't take our eyes off the ball. If you can't do it, AI will. … It will start to think for you."

Avoiding the pitfalls

What AI means for real estate is "we (as Realtors) need to get better," Hata said. "How do you get in front of an issue before it becomes an issue?"

The digital expert noted that there's only so much AI can do.

AI can't do everything, he said, but Realtors need to get on board -- get people offline as much as possible, get as local as possible, get better with accurate listings, start talking about the home in real time, and place online the reasons why people should trust them, why they should value them.

“When online, talk about what you are doing, the value of a Realtor and what problems you are solving," Hata said. "Get more human interaction and share the amount of happiness you bring to your client. This is what we can do to get better. If you're afraid of an app, you should get out of the business right now.”

Marki Lemons Ryhal, who provides social media education and strategies to Realtors, reminded Realtors of their ethical duties to fact check and proofread everything they produce using AI.

“You’re responsible for the accuracy of your work, regardless of how it’s produced,” Ryhal said during a May Realtors Legislative Meeting in Washington, D.C., on how AI is transforming the industry.

Ryhal stressed Realtors, or any users for that matter, should always review AI-generated content for accuracy. Questions about the copyrights of AI-generated materials are still being decided by the courts. Don’t assume any third-party content was created by AI and available for your use, Ryhal said. Always get permission in writing for the way you want to use the work.

Silicon Valley Association of Realtors (SILVAR) is a professional trade organization representing 5,000 Realtors and affiliate members engaged in the real estate business on the Peninsula and in the South Bay. SILVAR promotes the highest ethical standards of real estate practice, serves as an advocate for homeownership and homeowners, and represents the interests of property owners in Silicon Valley.

The term Realtor is a registered collective membership mark which identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors and who subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.

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