Make way for real estate robots

Make way for real estate robots

29 August 2019

Much real estate work is time sensitive, repetitive, complicated, and deeply time consuming. Sounds like just the sort of tasks that should be cared for by a machine—a robot, if you will, but not like in the movies.

Research from Macquarie Bank shows 25 per cent of processes within a real estate agency could be automated right now using existing technology. Other studies put this figure—especially in property management departments—even higher.

Indeed, robotic process automation (RPA) is now transforming many back-office functions in real estate and property management by automating manual, repetitive, and rules-based processes and tasks, states a recent Property Council report.

These robots, or AI bots, can respond to enquiries, automate reports, clean up data and manage rental inspections, allowing real estate staff to focus on more people-oriented tasks.

To the agent such robots perform like a single virtual assistant. But in reality, the algorithms on which they are based are like an army of AI minions beavering away—without the chaos in the background.

Real estate “Rita”

Enter “Rita”, a digital personal assistant created by AIRE, that combines automation, artificial intelligence, and data from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to automate many back-office functions in real estate and property management.

When Rita starts work at a new real estate agency, for example, she starts by reading every single note in every single CRM contact to get up to speed. She can then suggest which contacts should be called and the message most likely to gain cut-through.

Agents at one Melbourne real estate business receive daily suggestions from Rita regarding who to call and what topics to discuss. Rita also delegates work between agents and their assistants, simplifying day-to-day tasks within teams.

In her first month on the job at the agency, Rita’s helped agents to connect with almost 400 property owners, leading to 24 appraisals.

Other applications

Over 2,500 agents in Australia currently use another application, Inspect Real Estate, to sift through the 100’s of emails that land in an agent’s inbox each day, automating inspection bookings, tenant communications, inspection schedules and applications.

Another application, Maintenance Tracker, handles time-consuming tasks such as chasing quotes, tracking tradespeople, and updating tenants regarding maintenance requests.

Australian startup HomePrezzo automatically collects localised statistics and recent sales, and combines them into short, informative animated videos about local markets and properties using the latest market statistics. Once set up, the system can create videos and reports in under two minutes, and share them online across a variety of social media and online platforms.

Meanwhile, US-based Zenplace is streamlining the house hunting process with robot real estate agents that reduce the time agents spend coordinating and scheduling visits with prospective buyers.

In a sign of what the future might hold, China’s second largest developer, China Vanke, predicts that 30 per cent of its property management services—from security to sweeping the floors—will be handled by robots within the next 10 years.

Last mile logistics

Just as automation gave Amazon an edge in fast delivery, robots are also now rapidly taking over fulfillment warehouses, says a CoreLogic report.

Coles is set to invest almost $1 billion over the next six years to set up automated warehouses in Sydney and Brisbane. The warehouses—which are 95 per cent automated—“will be able to handle twice the volume of goods on half the footprint,” says Matt Swindells, Coles chief supply chain officer.

Not to be outdone, Woolworths has set up the most technologically-advanced grocery distribution centre in the southern hemisphere in South Melbourne. The $560 million “warehouse of the future” features a team of 50 robots that can pack 650 cartons an hour—more than four times faster than humans can.

Woolworths as plans to use robot product pickers in its newly announced “micro-fulfillment” or compact warehouses to satisfy home grocery orders.

Customers place an online order, which is then sent to the fulfilment system. Robots then take products off the shelves and transport them directly to a staff member, who packs the order for online, says The Sydney Morning Herald. The systems can facilitate an online order “within minutes”.

Woolworths is planning to roll out the technology across three sites over the next 12 months, ideally at existing store locations. One site can process 4,000 online orders a week and only takes a matter of months to build.

Of course, AI and automation won’t do everything all at once. You need humans to articulate the process and teach the bots how you want things done.

However, humans and robots can make a wonderful team!