By Liz Dominguez
The real estate industry is a big proponent of using tech to drive business. Brokerages are looking for innovative ways of using emerging tech to stand out among competitors. From using drones in aerial photography and incorporating algorithms that provide consumers with quick-access data about a home, a focus on tech is becoming standard practice in the industry.
Not only are brokers looking to incorporate tech within their own systems—or searching for third-party companies that can provide these services—but agents are pursuing vendors that can offer these tools, as well. The newest announcement in tech innovation comes from loanDepot, the fifth-largest retail mortgage lender, which is incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) into its services.
The lending company is partnering with OJO Labs, Inc. to use their AI technology in conjunction with loanDepot's digital lending platform, melloTM. The initial pre-qualification of loan applicants will be vetted by the OJO assistant, which is also capable of providing real estate and mortgage related information.
"The modern consumer begins their home search journey online and often several months ahead of when they expect to buy," says Anthony Hsieh, loanDepot CEO and chairman. "Knowing when and how to introduce a digital mortgage pre-qualification process during that journey is key to delivering a better experience. OJO's focus on developing predictive insights, specific to each individual, will allow us to do just that."
A win for real estate? Don't be so sure.
How will this tech be perceived by consumers? While the younger generation may welcome a completely digital mobile-first interaction when dealing with real estate transactions, some individuals (especially older consumers) may see this as a way for companies to push face-to-face communications to the wayside. An excellent support system will also need to be implemented for those who are not so quick to navigate new tech, or if the AI system encounters communication difficulties.
The OJO assistant may also take away from interactions with real estate agents. While the AI platform may be able to provide home details, such as whether or not a home has a backyard, the tech will not be able to replace the experience of real estate agents who know if these details meet the needs of their buyer. This technology may halt buyers' search for real estate agents if they feel they have enough support from the OJO assistant provided by their lending company.
In September, OJO Labs, Inc. also partnered with Realogy Holding Corp, which will be making OJO's machine-powered assistant available to brokers across its consumer brands, such as Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, CENTURY 21, Coldwell Banker, Corcoran, ERA and Sotheby's International Realty.
It will be interesting to see how many more brokerages follow the AI trend in order to streamline real estate transactions by depending heavily on automated technology. Will this tech bring in more business for real estate or will it take over many of the jobs performed by agents?