Bots replacing humans in real estate?  A business built upon relationships, empathy, connections with people?  Not according to Rich Barton, founder of Zillow.

At the Inman Real Estate Connect Conference in New York last week, Barton said,  “technology has been a great deliverer of information-giving power…and artificial intelligence will continue that trend.”  However, “…I choose to believe that artificial intelligence is an enhancement…not a replacement…” of humans.

Barton went on to say “…that artificial intelligence (AI) is at the beginning of a new phase of voice based user interface.”  Those new phases may stimulate new actions by humans. For example, in addition to asking Amazon’s Alexa to turn on the lights in your house, you may soon ask Alexa whether or not anyone has put in a bid on the home you’re thinking about buying. If she answers “yes,” you may then decide to put in your own bid so you don’t lose that house to another bidder.

The Amazon Echo (left) and Google Home (right) personal digital assistants.

Kylie Davis, head of marketing and content at CoreLogic, believes that bot/AI super powered information and data transactions will become more useful, more efficient to real estate buyers and agents.  Websites programmed with AI and keyword recognition to identify names, addresses and words such as “looking” or “buying” or “selling” will assist online users immediately, at any time of day or night. This 24/7 service to a prospect with insomnia who visits your site at 3 AM would be considered quite helpful.  Likewise, the AI benefits to the real estate agent may include messaging that introduces the agent, offers assistance to the 3 AM viewer immediately in terms of listing information/questions and generates contact information for the agent’s database.

Davis points to two free AI programs already on the market, Holmes by Structurely and Chatfuel.  Holmes helps convert online leads by sending the prospect personalized messages “from you” instantly, asks details about location, price, property preference criteria, how best and when to contact the lead, etc.  Chatfuel enables do-it-yourself FaceBook bot building without the agent having to learn yet another coding or technical skill.  The AI in Chatfuel understands and answers programming questions about how to share information about the agent and his/her business and how to automate answers to FAQs.

Bots and AI already enable real estate agents to become better service providers by delivering personalized and specific information in real time without the agent having “to be there.” They are not, however, humans. Humans, among many other things, do the programming…bots do not.

Back to Rich Barton’s thoughts about bots replacing humans in real estate…”Bots are enhancements…they are not replacements…buying a home is a huge and important decision…people (prospects) want advice.”  Humans, not bots nor AI, give advice.