Why REALTORS® Are Needed in the Age of AI

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Artificial intelligence (AI) used to be something out of science fiction, but the technology has improved so much in recent years that today it’s being used in some capacity by almost every type of professional, and REALTORS® are no exception. 

The recent introduction of tools such as Open AI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard have democratized AI to allow users to explore the various functions with just a few clicks of a button or swipes on their phone. These tools can write or produce content such as listing descriptions, newsletters, or social media content. But despite its usefulness as a tool for REALTORS®, AI won’t soon be replacing the need for a trusted, trained professional in your corner.

Couple speaking with real estate agent

It’s a reinforcement, not a replacement, for REALTORS®

As noted in the CREA Café this summer, there are some great ways that REALTORS® can use AI to benefit their business. Donna Mathewson, owner of Royal Lepage Key Realty in Sarnia, Ontario, agrees. Mathewson, who has been a REALTOR® for the past 30 years, says ChatGPT “is wonderful to use as a base” when creating listings and can help prevent falling into the same tired clichés when talking about what makes a home unique.

However, Mathewson cautions that while AI can be a beneficial tool, it simply does not replace those personalized REALTOR® relationships. 

For example, a new AI-based search tool is intended to help prospective buyers find their “dream home,” and then matches them with a REALTOR® in that area who can then show them the property. Yet while the logistics may be on point, it’s missing the intangible elements that make REALTORS® unique.

Every REALTOR® has their own strengths, noted Mathewson, both in the types of clients they work with and in their knowledge of an area. 

“Did that person do a really good job? Are they personable? Do they like to work with seniors and do they have the patience to do that? Do they know the area well?” she noted, adding, “I think it’s missing the human element. As much as the algorithms are amazing, I don’t think AI can necessarily pick up the human element of the relationships.”

Couple speaking with real estate agent

‘Empathy needs to be prioritized’

During episode 40 of the REAL TIME podcast, Sharon Tehrani, one of CBC’s data and machine learning product leaders, acknowledged that while she appreciates how AI can enhance a REALTOR®’s experience with their client, she stressed it’s never going to replace the role of a REALTOR®.

“It’s just going to act as a complementary role when it comes to real estate,” she explained. “That authentic relationship you have with the clients is going to be essential. This is not something that can be replaced by artificial intelligence. For example, you can enhance your efficiency, you can provide more personalized insight and recommendations and improve your customer experience by leveraging the chatbots into your business.

“At the end of the day, that human interaction, that empathy, the insight you’re gaining from your face-to-face interaction needs to be prioritized even when you’re using the AI technologies as a REALTOR®,” she continues.

Real estate as a business can be transactional, but real estate as an experience is rooted in emotion. It’s why finding the right REALTOR® for you is so important. We all connect with people differently, whether it’s based on age, interest, background, personality, work ethic, etc. because of the nuance of human interaction. While AI can be a good starting point into understanding the facts and figures, it takes someone with experience and training to fully understand what you need along your home buying journey, such as what to look for during an open house or what to look for in a new neighbourhood

Since AI works off prompts, it falls into the category of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” For example, you may think you want to live in a brand new neighbourhood, so you build your prompts around that. But you may not be considering this means you’ll live in dusty construction zones for the next three years, or that public transit doesn’t frequent the area yet, or that zoning in the area doesn’t allow you to run your small business out of your home. All of these things are components to home buying your REALTOR® not only knows about, but can thoroughly explain to you in order to give you a full picture.  

Man typing on computer

Where AI can help REALTORS®, and in turn, help you 

REALTORS® who want to get better at engaging in conversation with prospective buyers, and speak to their pain points, can use AI to help bolster their skillset. AI can be great to engage with for some of this practice banter because it’s well-programmed to understand the possible objections that you, as a client, may ask. AI could even throw curveballs, and your REALTOR® will then be well-equipped to handle them. 

Michael Thorne, a REALTOR® and salesperson in Langley, British Columbia, told the CREA Café that AI can be useful for newer REALTORS® to better understand what clients might be looking for, and be better prepared with the correct information. He gave the example of someone downsizing for the first time: a REALTOR® can prompt AI, such as ChatGPT, with “What are the top five questions someone who wants to downsize their home will have for a real estate agent?”

“Now [your REALTOR®] will have more time to craft value for these people and be prepared for the discussion,” says Thorne. “You have a head start on anticipating and addressing issues.”

Many REALTORS® are also using AI for content generation, such as social media posts and newsletters, but there’s still a human element involved. 

“I think our observation is it’ll take you about 80% of the way once you get good at understanding how to prompt it appropriately,” notes Chris Slightham, President of Royal Lepage Signature in Toronto. He also notes that while the voice of some of the AI supports may be distinguishable, it’s helpful for getting content out, especially for REALTORS® who may not be strong writers.

Tehrani also explained how REALTORS® should be transparent with their clients about the use of AI. 

“From my perspective, the best approach is to be transparent[…], mainly when you’re leveraging any AI applications into your businesses,” she says. 

Couple smiling at document with real estate agent pointing

AI is evolving rapidly, and it will likely change how most of us do our jobs, including REALTORS®. In the last few months alone, AI has generated widely-available tools that can help save time, and find efficiencies in the buying and selling process. However, AI cannot replicate that human element—whether through impactful copy or holding someone’s hand through a major purchase decision—and it’s the human element that REALTORS® do best. 

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