We are already familiar with the terms such as “The Internet of Things (IoT)” and “Big Data”, but what about “Machine Learning” and “Computer Vision”? According to InMan News, machine learning is setting a new standard in the “people business” of real estate by potentially revolutionising the way we go about buying and selling properties. These technological advancements empower real estate agents and brokers with data-driven and actionable insights that were never previously accessible.
So what is Machine Learning and how is it linked to Computer Vision?
In a short definition, machine learning teaches computers to understand the visual world, which is referred to as computer vision. A perfect example of computer vision technology is when Facebook recognises faces in your photos and recommends a tag. Google is using this powerful technology in self-driving cars to differentiate between cyclists and pedestrians for instance.
Although it slightly hard to conceptualise, machine learning technology can help agents improve their value proposition as they are better prepared to accommodate and satisfy clients’ search criteria based on collected search behaviour. The valuable data that can be captured for the agent includes features such as preferred neighbourhoods, property landscapes, market predictability, and design preferences, all derived based on what the client is researching for online.
So What is the Future of Real Estate Search?
The home buying process is full of complexities for both the interested buyer and the agent. When a client expresses their desired home specifications, it’s almost never a simple technical description limited to square meters, number of rooms, etc. In most cases, buyers have a clear idea of their desired exterior or interior layout, which may or may not include balconies, open kitchen design, view, and so forth.
Due to the increasingly open and transparent property market, it can be said that we live in an era of “smart” buyers who know exactly what they want and why. It’s very common nowadays to learn about neighbourhoods, nearby schools and facilities, and even the potential future value of a property, before approaching a broker.
However, once the initial search criteria is established, this is where the process hasn’t really changed a great deal. The traditional way would involve agents spending hours on a database, flipping through properties and pictures to find a suitable home that would potentially satisfy their client’s home buying needs – then weeks or even months exchanging links and information with clients, and maybe even showing a few properties at the end of this lengthy process. A U.S. based company, RealScout is looking to address this very issue among American realtors and brokers by helping agents quickly and effectively find the right property for their clients, instantly share information and organise viewings. All of this is powered by machine learning and computer vision, allowing realtors to focus on providing an outstanding customer experience.
How is Computer Vision Reshaping the Experience?
One of many unique applications permitted by computer vision is the ability to display photos of similar rooms next to each other. This makes it much easier for the home buyer to compare properties based on preferred features and navigate through these listings.
An excellent example of such search results can be viewed below in San Francisco:
“Computer vision can determine a listing photo’s room type with the same accuracy as human taggers” – Andrew Flanchner
Does New Technology Pose a Threat to Agents and Brokers?
We believe that there is no human versus machine war on the forefront. On the contrary, agents and brokers can considerably benefit from these advancements once this technology is widely adopted.
It is a well-recognised fact that human intellect is unique and irreplaceable. SmartZip, a U.S. based service company, which utilises machine learning to pre-inform realtors of potential future home-sellers, explains that a machine does not have the full capacity to think identically as a human being but, they do offer a competitive edge. They provide efficiency in collecting data, and in this way making the agent’s or broker’s job much more efficient. This is the value of machine learning. As SmartZip puts it “think ‘survival’ of the ‘smartest’.”
Machines may have the capabilities to learn and analyse a vast amount of data, but they cannot replace the agent’s personal skills and experience to interpret information and make well-informed decisions. Thus, as agents and brokers incorporate these new technologies, it could drive higher client responsiveness since they will be much more equipped to service buyer’s needs and preferences.
Adoption of machine learning and computer vision within the real estate sector is still in its infancy. The future will show how this technology will evolve on the frontier of the real estate market, but there is one thing that is clear – advocating its use will provide the real estate industry a leg up that could drive tremendous value to home buyers and sellers, as well as their agents.