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How AI can drive the property industry forward

Posted: 27 January 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

The property industry has been stagnant for decades. How we rent or buy property has not changed significantly since the late 1900s, with deposits still often required to be paid in hard cash and consumers obligated to trawl through countless listings to find a property they might be interested in – which may or may not have already been sold or let.

However, a wave of technological innovation is sweeping in to transform this sleeping giant of an industry. Recognising the cultural shift towards mobile, social media and the desire for 24/7 flexible communication, start-ups determined on using the very latest software and technology are driving the industry forward firmly into the modern era. A huge part of this technological revolution is focused on harnessing predictive data analytics and machine learning.

Machine learning (ML) has become something of a buzzword over the past few years and it is already starting to be integrated within several property platforms. For example, using ML for classification, genuine property listings as opposed to common ‘bait and switch’ properties can be identified and removed from online listing sites. During lulls in the market, it can be tempting for agents to leave unavailable properties on online markets to ‘bait’ renters and then ‘switch’ to offer them alternative properties. ML algorithms can classify which properties online are likely to be of this type and save renters from wasting their time by removing them from the platform.

Another way in which ML is being used to improve the property industry currently is through using regression models which enable quantities from a set of inputted data to be predicted. Regression application of ML can enable sites to predict the ‘fair’ rent of a property given its location, the number of rooms or type of furniture in the property. This will be of particular help to users who are perhaps moving to a new city where they don’t know much about the area, or for users who have a specific set of property criteria.

What is widely considered as Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the moment, is software that can perform complex abstraction from raw data with minimum input needed from a human programmer i.e. neural machine learning. Looking to the next five years in the property industry, there is great scope for harnessing neural machine learning to improve and drive it forward. For example, we could utilise deep learning to analyse images of a property uploaded to an online site along with the description of a property. An algorithm that truly understands what each image represents, one that can differentiate between an image of a bathroom and an image of a downstairs toilet, could significantly improve a listing’s description for prospective renters or buyers. It could help determine whether a property is furnished or not, whether the walls are painted white or not.

These are checks that could all be made by human eye. However, this would only work if there were hundreds of properties being handled each day and more than thousands of properties are placed on the market each day on different sites. Without neural machine learning software monitoring each data input every second of every day, this would be impossible to analyse at the required speeds. Further, relying on deep learning algorithms also removes the possibility of being lied to by unscrupulous parties about the state of a property.

Where neural machine learning will really come into its own in the future is when it can successfully predict and present properties that match a renter’s criteria at the right time when they are looking to move house. Having access to a list of properties that are within budget, have the desired features and location right from the get go will significantly reduce the time it takes to find a property for prospective renters. Making the whole renting process more streamlined and efficient.

Machine learning has begun to be integrated into property industry and the possibilities that neural machine learning presents to the sector are incredibly exciting. The next few years will be fascinating to see just how far AI can drive the property industry forward.

Aidan Rushby is CEO of Movebubble

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