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Artificial intelligence and other technologies have helped the industry navigate today’s significantly disrupted real estate world. A group of real estate leaders and technology experts spoke on the subject at the 2020 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

David Conroy, director of Emerging Technology for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) moderated a discussion and opined that A.I., broadly defined as technology that mimics cognitive functions, has the potential to transform real estate.

“A defining feature of artificial intelligence is that it can continually learn from the data it collects,” said Conroy. “Many of the greatest applications for A.I. today have a direct impact on the consumer and have an opportunity to change the course of our industry. A.I. can be a complete game-changer and give you an edge against your competition.”

Automation technologies, including A.I., are increasingly serving a broad range of functions across a variety of real estate applications.

“Chatbots and voice assistants are extremely popular right now as they allow real estate professionals to provide around-the-clock support that doesn’t require a human,” said Vin Vomero, CEO of Foxy AI.

“Some companies avoid using A.I. because of the perceived costs and resources required to use it, a lack of trust in A.I. products, the difficulty in explaining what it does behind the scenes and a fear of an A.I. takeover related to job displacement,” said Julianne Heller, data scientist at NAR.

Heller explained, however, that A.I.’s benefits can help overcome these challenges, real or perceived.

“A.I. does not equate to replacement, but it supports human work and makes our lives easier,” she said. “A.I. can improve the buyer and seller experience.”

Jeb Griffin, director of Strategy and Innovation for the NAR moderated another discussion—“COVID-19: Transforming How REALTORS® Do Business”—and reached a consensus with the panelists that technology has played a central part in residential real estate’s strong resurgence after the initial strict economic lockdowns and subsequent market downturn in the spring.

“Real estate experienced some significant challenges during the first several months of the pandemic, but we’ve witnessed a remarkable v-shaped recovery in housing demand and sales,” said Griffin. “By necessity at the beginning, and now by design, technology is playing a much more active role in nearly all aspects of the real estate transaction.”

“There was a moment of panic when the pandemic first started, but several technologies are making it easier for agents to stay in touch with clients and in front of them on a regular basis,” said Marilyn Wilson, managing partner of WAV Group and president of “For many real estate professionals, the pandemic reminded them about how much they love working with people and not just to sell real estate, but to check on their customers and families.”

During another session, NAR examined how the expansion of 5G will impact the real estate industry and discussed the importance of high-speed internet for effective applications of augmented and virtual reality.

“Although we don’t necessarily see the direct impact of 5G on real estate yet, there are ancillary applications that will rely heavily on 5G, such as IoT (Internet of Things) sensors, autonomous vehicles, smart cities and others that will potentially change where and how people live,” said Dan Weisman, NAR’s director of emerging technology.

“I look at 5G as a rebuild of our mobile network,” said Doug Zimmers, AT&T’s lead of 5G business development. “5G is driven really by the environment that we’re in today. Everyone is connected and everyone has a mobile device. And, taken a step further, we have IoT devices in the field where machines are communicating with other machines.”

Weisman asked Dan Swan, co-founder and CEO of RealAR, to explain the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality.

“VR is all about immersive experiences and headsets, whereas AR tends to be more focused on other devices—which for us is the smart phone,” said Swan. “We want to make our experiences super simple and super streamlined, and as you’re going through the real estate buying or selling process, we want to make it accessible for everyone as quickly as possible without them having to really even think about it.

“Now, in the time of the pandemic, we’re seeing much higher, deeper demand for things like remote viewings. So, you could be on-site with a customer and walk them around a property and look at a different configuration of furniture, or you could also be on the other side of the world and have that same conversation using augmented reality. For us, that’s where we’re seeing 5G as a really exciting, enabling, emerging technology.”

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