We have noticed of late a crop of fear-mongering articles with sensational headlines claiming real estate agents and brokerages as we know it will soon be a thing of past. Apparently, the future real estate agent is robotic. Before we start believing the Terminator days are upon us, let’s get real. We don't deny the commercial real estate industry is changing rapidly and robotics will be a big deal. While the work process for future agents and brokers will change, they won’t be wiped out by robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). Why?
First, there’s the physicality of humans vs robotics. Robots can’t let you into a listed space. While some locations can remotely unlock a space for someone to tour, that’s not true for many places. Atop accessibility, there are security concerns. Cameras work great, but they’re not always a deterrent, nor does camera footage always help find criminal perpetrators. A human presence--a realtor presence--discourages the 1% that slip through our validation processes and act unprofessionally when touring.
Robotics and AI could answer questions about the property: square footage, income, leasing terms. But no matter how sophisticated the AI, there will always be nuanced questions only human beings can answer. Is there road construction slated to begin soon? Does the developer have plans to remodel? Is a new development starting next year just down the road? Anything impacting foot traffic and the location’s value matters in commercial negotiation. Further, the listing agent knows the owner or developer's situation: what offers they are more likely to entertain and the terms they're willing to negotiate. These nuances aren't easily programmed into AI.
What robotics and AI will do is help real estate brokers, agents, and service providers perform their jobs better and more efficiently. AI generates detailed analytics about a property’s performance, answers time-draining generic queries and identifies bonafide prospects. Robotic technology like 3D printing is bringing properties to market faster for less construction cost. Companies like VirtualAPT are using robots to generate virtual reality tours of spaces. Drones are helping us capture spaces for marketing purposes and monitor development progress. In the near future, robotics could help inspect and maintain properties as part of facility management.
Automation is disrupting all industries, and that will include real estate. While a robot could help a real estate give a tour, it will not replace a knowledgeable real estate professional. People will always value a personalized customer experience when conducting business.