Are we being taken over by Robots?

Well, not quite…but in the Real Estate sector it is around us much more than you think! And what do SHBers think about the movement — embrace it, it will only help us long term!

Surveyors and Real Estate professionals have essentially been the worst consumers for the Tech community because, let’s be honest, we fear modern change like we fear a ban on booze at industry events and not mention the constant paranoia and guarding of any transactional data.

Meanwhile our Architectural, Designers and Project Management neighbours have embraced the movement already. They have engaged with processes such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, which help create computer generated images and visuals that allow for interaction and engagement with their client’s projects.

The expectations of clients, investors, landlords and occupiers are increasing. It is difficult to say whether this is because of a growing awareness of workers, the availability of employees with cross-market skills/ experience or as a direct result of the improved efficiencies they adopt internally. What is clear is that data is king (or queen) when it comes to improving performance, revenues, productivity and efficiencies, despite this, the Real Estate sector is not utilising it to its full capacity.

But what’s out there and how can it help us?

In data we trust (unless it is tampered with!)

The financial and insurance sectors have used Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or in layman’s terms, little robots built within software with focus on making data processes more cost efficient, improve analytics and ensure the process is more reliable. These ‘bots’ are basically programmed to collate information from a variety of different sources and manipulate information to provide what is needed for the client.

Let’s face it, the dinosaurs within us will claim these robots are taking over! We have all read how certain professionals fear for their jobs from replacement automated employees but that’s rubbish — adapt and evolve!

This needs to be adopted industry wide to enhance user experience and futureproof our beloved profession. With greater accessibility to data, we are now best placed to protect our clients and to ensure we are productive as possible for them.

SHB Real Estate have adopted the use of data as the core value within our service. A purpose-built CRM system allows each member of staff access to a range of information that can be used to aid the advice that we give to clients, colleagues and peers. It tracks all activity throughout the Central London commercial property market giving a basic idea of supply vs demand and therefore problem vs solution!

Imagine a virtual monopoly board and that will give you a pretty good idea of how it works!

AI — Applied Intelligence

This is arguably where people get a little freaked out because it is the idea that computers learn and visualise from any adaptations to a given process. ‘Just machines using algorithms like our human brains’ — freaky!

There’s an abundance of examples of this within the industry. First and foremost, the emergence of platforms like ‘Rex’ or ‘Realla’ (well done on the merger with CoStar by the way) who have built and designed AI to replace the human interaction needed for transacting on Real Estate. Rex is programmed to target buyers through social media platforms and their search history.

Realla’s team built an algorithm for the commercial property market to create an automated platform for commercial surveyors disposing of space. There were questions about the validity of the information that was gathered from the internet from this ‘bot’ due to it not being real time, meaning it was quickly out of date, and it relied on information supplied by third parties.

Something that gathers real time data is Chatbots’. These have been adopted within a number of different customers service websites from your travel agent’s website to the online shoe shops. We have all been there, you are researching your next purchase and an icon in the bottom right corner of your screen pops up with a greeting and a few open-ended questions, it can only be described as intensely annoying. Despite this, it does help with client care, lead sourcing and the prospecting lifecycle for an organisation. Not to mention saving on costs and optimizing processes.

Nowadays, property and facilities management need the patience of a saint! But do not fear, AI technology can be used to help with predictive maintenance (when to refurbish or repair assets) and ultimately more productive decision making (ability to gather more information to make a choice) — no more walking around buildings with your clipboard!

SHB Real Estate specialise in advising on all thing’s commercial property. Mostly helping organisations with the whole lifecycle of their property project, whether that be a property acquisition, relocation or disposal or to provide advice on rent reviews and dilapidations (more here).

We can utilise AI and our CRM system to help streamline the information we supply to our clients and improve efficiency. An external example of this is the popular Inman experiment named ‘Broker Vs. Bot’. In summary, a number of real estate agents were asked to compete against a bot called ‘Find More Genius’ by a journalist who was posing as a buyer. The undercover buyer asked the realtor and bot to supply potential homes to buy. When selecting, the buyer only chose options that the bot had hand-picked.

To appraise this, yes, it’s fantastic that a bot can narrow down potential options however they cannot advise on how to get the best possible deal for the subject property nor negotiate with the vendor.

We are not saying that bots/ AI should be used instead of humans but by using the technology that is available, surveyor and Real Estate professionals can lighten the load of information gathering and focus their attentions on the aspects of the jobs that needs human interaction.

Blockchain Technology

This is where people are getting a little nervy (for their jobs) because the industry has historically benefitted from keeping secrets and a lack of transparency. The sector is not open to everyone and with high advisor fees and a lack of liquidity, people have historically stayed away from trying to benefit from the industry. Globally there is an increasing frustration about ‘middlemen’ that actually do not add much value.

Real Estate is still the largest asset class in the world with the acquisition of income-producing commercial real estate, increasing by 3 percent to $963.7 billion in 2018, the third highest annual total on record, after 2007 and 2015.

With this vast amount of transactions and money floating around, technology has to be utilised in order to manage this. By definition, a Blockchain is a ‘time stamped series of immutable record of data that is managed by computers and not owned by a single entity’. Each bit of data (block) is secured and bound to each other.

It allows for transparency, decentralisation and immutability. For all the investors and deal junkies out there, this is a concept that allows for the recording of transactions and value that is distributed to all the devices that hold the technology.

We all know that the internet is a fantastic tool to source information whereas Blockchaining allows the recording of transactions such as currency and portfolios as well as value such as land. The main benefits for this will increased speed of transactions through automation and the ability to utilise a database of reliably documented assets.

So, why can’t everyone have a piece of the action? The answer is that we soon can — similar to a self-taught trader who dabbles in buying and selling stocks and shares on their sofa.

Tokenization uses cryptocurrency to split assets into tokens that are stored within a blockchain and is the way for everyone to benefit from this elusive industry. Essentially, Landlords/ Investors now have the option to dispose of tiny chunks of their asset to different demographics to all corners of the world which will help save money and smooth out the transaction process.

As an extension to this, smart contracts enable a relationship between the buyer and seller through the chain (and therefore no need for the pesky middle man). This is the idea that code is written into certain arrangements and the transaction is programmed so that one function cannot happen without another.

For example, a vendor lists an investment opportunity and the buyer cannot purchase this until all the conditions are met. It is clear that this will help increase liquidity rates and speed up the process. However, it doesn’t come without its sceptics as many believe that with liquidity, similar to stocks and bonds, comes the greats risk and volatility to the market. Not to mention the impact that this may have on employment rates and the wider economy.

In summary, blockchain technology will enable democratisation of the real estate market and allowing everyone to invest, not just the institutions, pension funds and the rich. The marriage to this technology has not been embraced yet and there are exciting times ahead — shout out to companies like Propy, Harbor, ShelterZoom and StreetWire for flying the flag.


Put simply, is an Internet of Things.

A collation of all things property and works directly in conjunction with AI and RPA’s.

It is the ability to completely understand people in their environments and in the context of Real Estate and Property; how spaces are utilised, where people spend the most time, at what temperature do people work best at — the list goes on.

An example of this away from property, is how an IoT can help retailers record and analyse data so they can see trend of what is being bought and why — this of course can be reciprocated in property!

To make this applicable to real life practice, building managers can see through sensors how much power or energy is being used by a particular occupier and then have the opportunity to show this tenant how to save money and reduce output. This can be replicated in lighting, management systems and more.

This isn’t ground breaking technology nor a revolutionary idea — it is simply and smartly using technology to create the best environment.

So, where to now?

The industry needs to be progressive in its mentality and in practice around Technology and Applied Intelligence. Other sectors are leaving us behind in their maturation and utilisation of the tools available. By using some of the tools outlined in this blog, we will be able to enhance the consistency and reliability of operational tasks support decision making. Ultimately this is a way of enhancing the user (client) experience — saving money and time!



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