AI, Chatbots and virtual tours reshaping real estate industry
Artificial intelligence, chatbot automation and virtual tours are changing the way property managers and buyers go about the business of seeking, presenting, buying and selling real estate.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbot automation capable of identifying genuine leads via social media are a sign of things to come with surprising benefits to buyers in addition to property managers.
3D virtual tours open homes for inspection, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week and have revolutionised how people view and purchase property but the technology is moving rapidly across aspects of the property transaction and search processes.
How tech serves property buyers
Property buyers want transparency, immediacy and personalisation when shopping online and new property marketing technology easily delivers this, plus more, according to Joshua Callaghan, CEO of Brisbane-based digital inspections platform Little Hinges.
“Buyers know that glossy photos and highly produced videos don’t match the true experience of a property - they only have to compare what’s shown online with one open home to become distrustful of real estate listings.
“3D virtual tours are accurate to within a millimetre, giving potential buyers a true representation of a property, increasing their willingness to make their highest offer, or place a bid, sight unseen.”
Research by Little Hinges found that an average of 27 per cent of buyers digitally inspecting properties in 2022 - almost one million people - did so outside of their home state.
Researchers are now also working on software tools with prediction and visualisation capabilities to transform the process of property valuation.
Permanent change to property inspections
Mike York, Chief Marketing Officer, Little Hinges, says it’s an indication that the way buyers inspect property has changed permanently.
“When paired with other trend reports that show that 58 per cent of Australian buyers want a hybrid approach to inspecting properties (Zoom Qualtrics, 2021), the change in purchase behaviour is clear.
“This result has been particularly obvious in Queensland, with an average of 33 per cent of all inspections coming from outside the state.
“On the Gold Coast, we are consistently seeing almost half of the inspections in the region coming from outside the state,” he said.
The Little Hinges Sight Unseen report February 2023 shows almost 40 per cent of buyers looking to purchase property on the Gold Coast were inspecting from other states, down from 47 per cent in January. Buyers from NSW and Victoria made up the largest percentage of buyers looking elsewhere.
3D virtual tours help regional promotion
For Dubbo, NSW real estate agency SJ Shooter’s Managing Director, Laura Shooter, the decision to start using 3D virtual tours for all their sale and rental properties was made in 2018, long before lockdowns or borders closures were commonplace.
“It was emerging technology in Australia at the time, and we saw it as an opportunity to establish a point of difference as a newer business in the local real estate scene, as well as enhance the digital footprint of Dubbo.
“We’ve always wanted to make it as easy as possible for those who are thinking about moving here and the 3D tours mean people can get a very realistic impression of a property, at any time of the day or night, from anywhere in the world.
“For us, there’s also been many unintended benefits, such as the ability to refer back to 3D tours for maintenance purposes, and to reduce the number of physical inspections for tenants when an owner decided to sell during their tenancy,” Ms Shooter said.
Once the pandemic hit and restrictions and lockdowns were mandated, the agency was on the front foot with well established virtual inspection capability.
“We could continue making progress with sale and rental campaigns, even when people couldn’t physically inspect,” Ms Shooter said.
“During this time, we were also engaged by Dubbo Regional Council to do a scan of our local museum, so this community asset could continue to be shared and enjoyed, even though the venue had to be physically closed.”
The initial investment in the gold standard for virtual tours, the Matterport system equipment and subscription was about $6,000.
“We’ve since purchased a second Matterport camera, and added some Ricoh Theta Z1 cameras to our tools, once the Matterport platform opened up to this alternate hardware.”
The regionally-based agency also uses AI in the business.
“We see it as a tool to be embraced and leveraged in the right places, while taking 100 per cent responsibility for any outputs.
“We’re very much in a liminal ‘in between’ place with tech in real estate - there’s going to be a reckoning in the coming years!”
Transforming customer service with chatbot automation
Virtual tours are an innovation in the 3D inspection space. Coupled with chatbot automation virtual tours can be delivered to mobile devices via social media, eliminating the need for VR headsets.
It is a development being embraced by Perth-based home builder, Trendsetter Homes.
“Often display homes aren’t what gets clients over the line,” Trendsetter founder Michael Agostino said.
“It’s being able to demonstrate that we can design a home that meets their exact needs and vision.
“With modern day technology we can achieve this manufacturing a virtual home, that resonates more than a walkthrough of a physical building that may not have been built to the buyer’s style or specifications.”
Perth-based marketing agency AdSocial was employed to introduce chatbot automation.
“The chatbots are eliminating people who simply want to browse and qualifying
those ready to book a consultation.
“The sales team saves time as they’re connecting with people when they’re ready to talk specifics,” Amberlea Henriques, CEO, AdSocial, said.
Chatbots can be programmed to provide customer support around the clock, extracting keywords from messages to automatically respond to enquiries.
“Trendsetter is trying something new with chatbots and leveraging futuristic marketing technology to connect with people in an autonomous way, and it’s working - they’re giving the choice to the buyer allowing them to view it all from the comfort of their own living room via their mobile device,” Ms Henriques said.
“The possibilities for this interactive way for brands to connect with people are endless, from customer service, lead generation and even gamification.
“As we head toward marketing in the Metaverse, we’re entering a whole new realm of marketing capabilities that were unimaginable just years ago.”
Personalised marketing becoming the norm
A key benefit to buyers as technology evolves to meet their needs, is personalisation.
“Personalisation of marketing has become a macro trend over the last 5-10 years across all areas of marketing, with significant increases in conversion rates when advertising and promotional activity is tailored to the individual,” Little Hinges’ Mr Callaghan said.
“A 2018 study by personalisation platform for eCommerce, Monetate, revealed that eCommerce conversion rates double when purchasers are shown content that is personalised to them as part of their buyer journey.
“In real estate, this equates to providing potential buyers with the information that’s relevant to them, not what a photographer or videographer deems as important.
“Potential buyers want to be able to deep dive into the areas of a property that will most impact their personal buying decisions, going so far as to be able to know whether their fridge will fit into the kitchen of a property they are considering purchasing,” Joshua said.