Interview: How AI And Data Analysis Bolster The Real Estate Business
Truss co-founder Bobby Goodman discusses how the AI-powered real estate business developed and what's keeping the industry from becoming entirely automated
A plethora of real estate information is available to anyone online—and it’s threatening to reduce the need for brokers and agents. Until recently, the process of purchasing or renting property required knowledge reserved for experts, but now that is becoming increasingly manageable for the general public.
However, one real estate company has found a way to use publicly available property data, plus AI technology, to its advantage. Truss, specializing in commercial real estate leasing, acts as an online broker, compiling and analyzing data for clients as well as offering them a chatbot service. In this extract from a podcast on real estate, Truss co-founder Bobby Goodman talks to PSFK founder and editor-in-chief Piers Fawkes about how the business developed and whether real estate transactions are on their way to becoming entirely digitized.
Bobby: When you take a look at the commercial real estate business on the whole, it’s largely been a relationship-based business for centuries. It has always been very important for the buyer and the seller, or the lessor and the lessee, to have that advisor whom they know they can trust to support them throughout the process of a commercial transaction.
Now there’s an entry point for technology to help assist in completing those transactions—not eliminating that relationship but making it a little bit less important when it comes to making informed decisions. When you look at the advancements in artificial intelligence, particularly with chatbots, there’s an opportunity to apply that to the commercial real estate side of the industry and start to make these transactions much more streamlined and efficient.
Piers: How does that translate into the service you developed for Truss?
Bobby: What we’ve done with Truss is apply everything that I’ve learned over a 15-plus-year career in the commercial real estate industry, looking at how customers want to consume data to help them make decisions. I would say there was a real paradigm shift in that consumers now want to consume their information through technology with themselves at the controls as opposed to waiting for experts to feed them information. That’s where Truss comes in: We’ve become an aggregator of information of sorts, whether it be listing data about office spaces, pricing data or comparing data when transactions are completed.
We’ve been able to compile that information and use artificial intelligence to help apply it to an individual transaction, thereby getting to the correct price or the right answer very quickly, helping our customers find the right space or the right building almost instantly, whereas it used to take weeks and months to do that sort of search.
There is a lot of accessible information already out there, but you’re taking it one step further with AI chatbots. You’re shortcutting and helping brokers and other people get to the right answers at the right time.
That’s exactly right. There’s a lot of raw data out there, and a lot of companies have done a phenomenal job aggregating that data. Now it’s just a matter of having a centralized location where this data can be analyzed in a meaningful way and then redistributed so that brokers, buyers, sellers and lessees can make informed decisions more quickly. That’s what we’re doing.
Is there a point when a human gets involved, or is it more about providing the right information to the professionals already out there?
There definitely is a point where a human gets involved. When we started this, I honestly thought there might be a point where we’d have enough information that a human wouldn’t be necessary. It’s actually been the exact opposite. The importance of the broker’s role hasn’t decreased; it’s just changed to a more consultative role. There are a couple of points in the decision-making process where our brokers play a big role in helping our clients make that right decision.
The data supports our brokers and our clients in helping them get to a decision faster, but I don’t see the need for a human going away. At the end of the day, the people who make the decisions are humans. They have human emotions. They have unique needs. Some clients might need a place for their dog when they to go to work. One might need three executive parking spaces. Only a human can take that information and package it in such a way that they’re able to negotiate a result for that customer.
Listen to experts discuss the property buying and leasing experience on our PurpleList podcast episode ‘Real Estate Process Reconsidered.’ More insights on the topic can be found in the PSFK research paper Streamlining The Real Estate Buying Experience.
PSFK’s CXI 2018 conference brings to life key trends in customer experience through talks and activations by pioneers at well known and new companies.
Steven Dean is a designer, educator and entrepreneur focused on consumer health and wellness innovation. At his design consultancy, G51 Studio, he is involved in a broad range of projects that span business strategy, interaction and experience design, service design, and brand experience. He has designed and developed integrated user experiences for health and wellness platforms including mobile devices, networked applications and websites.