Artificial Intelligence — AI — can do home decor?

Think Geek Squad meets The Property Brothers. At a National Association of Realtors summit last month in Miami, innovators, investors and real estate professionals got together to chat like chatbots about PropTech. That’s the hip insider term for “property technology.”

Just as technology has changed the way we shop, get to places and communicate, it is also upending how we buy and sell houses. NAR’s director of emerging technology, Dan Weisman, agreed to tell me about the meeting’s biggest takeaways minus the geek speak:

Q: Will technology make the process of buying or selling a house less painful? 

A: The role of technology in real estate is to streamline the process and reduce stress points. Most of us are familiar with DocuSign or similar technologies that offer the ability to e-sign legal documents. That has simplified what used to be a cumbersome process. Remember when submitting an offer or signing loans docs required wet-signing paper forms and sending them overnight? Now we can sign away hundreds of thousands of dollars by auto-filling our initials on our phones with our fingernail.

We’re trying to do that for other steps in the process, like the negotiations. Submitting an offer, waiting for a counter, working through two real estate agents, that is an area that needs work. Some companies have tried to create offer platforms, but none has worked out yet. That’s because we still need brokers to provide a level of control to make sure information gets passed along correctly. That said, technology is evolving that could eliminate financing delays. The fact that it often takes 45 to 60 days to close on a mortgage is an area that needs improvement.

Q: What are the downsides of the new PropTech? 

A: Fraud risk. As much as we want to capitalize on technology, we have to watch for scammers. The more access they have to data, the greater the potential for fraud. These scammers can fake you into thinking they’re somebody they’re not. Deepfakes can essentially re-create a person and their voice. If you’re being asked to wire money or provide account information over the internet, pick up the phone and call the person you are dealing with and ask, “Was this you?” We’ve heard too many stories where money disappears.

Q: So how does all this AI horsepower change the way we choose a real estate agent?

A: We are still a people business. Most sellers and buyers need a real estate agent to help them navigate the process. However, today you also want an agent whose company has good IT behind it. The threshold question to ask when selecting an agent is: How are you using technology to make the process of buying or selling smoother?

After: New AI technology from REimagine Home by Stylerod lets you upload a photo and see what a virtual remodel looks like. (Photo: REimagineHome.ai)
AFTER: New AI technology from REimagine Home by Stylerod lets you upload a photo and see what a virtual remodel looks like. (Photo: REimagineHome.ai) 

Q: What was the biggest game-changer you saw at the summit?

A: Perhaps the most revolutionary change we’re seeing is AI technology that can help homebuyers see what a home could look like if they renovated. The online tool REimagine Home lets you upload a picture of a room and reimagine it. For instance, I took a picture of a bedroom and turned it into an office. You can change the furniture, flooring, wall color, light fixtures, and get a glimpse of what could be. For exterior improvements, a company called Hover allows prospective buyers to do the same.