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AI: Making property management and home sales smarter through tech

Updated: May 10, 2023

Artificial intelligence tools are now widely used in B.C.’s real estate sector by professionals, buyers and sellers in order to navigate transactions, identify development sites, manage properties and more.

Glacier Media asked AI-powered ChatGPT how artificial intelligence will disrupt the real estate industry in Vancouver. It provided four answers: Predictive analytics, virtual tours, personalized recommendations and chatbots.

These four areas are all currently experiencing a notable level of AI adoption and innovation, sources told Glacier Media.

“Where we’ve seen a lot of movement is in predicting behaviors on the energy-usage front,” said Fred Cassano, partner and national real estate tax leader at PwC Canada.

A notable example, he said, is Montreal-based BrainBox AI, which uses AI to help its heating, ventilation and air conditioning technology predict when heating and cooling might be used in commercial buildings.

“It’s heating, ventilation and controlled by a system that predicts the temperature based on usage – when to turn on the air conditioning or you’re anticipating movement because of meetings being scheduled,” Cassano said.

Predictive data analytics can also be used to determine how a site might be used, said Cassano. This will help developers or cities determine what might be the highest and best use for a site.

“I can see AI helping us analyze sites and properties that we may not have otherwise thought of as being a viable candidate for housing,” said Jeff Cogliati, director and senior practice lead for architecture at Arcadis IBI Group.

“Historically, the way developers would look at land is a very manual process,” he said – one that can include driving around a city, Google searches and zoning map research. “What I’m excited about is there is an opportunity through using AI to find properties that may not have otherwise been found.”

Cogliati uses AI regularly to create renderings and plans for clients looking to build high-rise, mixed-use or apartment buildings, as well as office and hotel spaces.

His team can input human-made sketches, renderings or 3D models of buildings and floor plans into AI tools. This process can inform the interior and exterior design of projects, identify the materials needed or suggest how to differently lay out a floor plan.

“It’s almost like creating another means of collaboration. In our studio, we collaborate all the time with our team members, our designers, but this is just another extension of that collaboration of the creative process,” Cogliati said.

While the tools they use offer new ways to creatively conceptualize buildings, Cogliati does not see AI as a replacement for human creativity.

“It’s another tool in our toolbox that allows us to do our work efficiently and come up with really cool, innovative ideas that we may not have otherwise been able to come up with,” he said.

For buyers, sellers and owners in B.C.’s market, AI is expected to have the greatest impact on smart property management and the home-search process.

Approximately 75 percent of real estate professionals believe that virtual staging will become the primary method for staging homes in the next five years, according to research by HGTV.

AI imagery is already being to enhance listing images by showing what a home could look like post-renovation, according to Thomas Beattie, co-founder and CEO of Eli Report, a property management AI tool.

“It has a very high cool factor, but it raises ethical questions. It may help you visualize how a home might look after a renovation, but it’s not an accurate reflection of the home as it is today,” he said.

Chatbots are also being used by more real estate agents to spice up listing descriptions.

On the property management side, Eli Report has been allowing condo and strata owners or professionals to review key documents. Beattie described the AI tool as “Carfax for condos.”

“When you spend $10,000 on a used car, you get a nice concise report of its history. But if you spend a million dollars on a condo, you get an incomplete binder of stuff. And that was the kind of initial problem that we looked at and thought that there had to be something that would better inform owners, buyers, realtors and others in the real estate industry, about the state of somebody’s community,” he said.

Along with extracting information, the AI can be used to compare a strata’s budget and insurance with other buildings in the area.

“If you were looking at a 20-storey condo tower built in the year 2000, we’ll compare your building budget to other high-rises built between 1997 and 2003,” he said. “You get a very contextual reference so that you can see whether or not your building is spending much more or much less in total.”

Created five years ago, the tool has seen “massive uptake” in B.C. and adoption across North America, Beattie said.

“We are used by many thousands of owners, buyers, Realtors and property managers.”

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