Why AI is highly unlikely to supersede estate agents

I suspect most estate agents across Yorkshire are being asked on a regular basis for their views on the housing market.
Tim WaringTim Waring
Tim Waring

The predictions in the Property Post last Saturday summarised the views of many, namely that the spring selling season has arrived with gusto, inflation is dropping, and hopefully mortgage rates will do likewise.

So many feel we are back to normal, especially given the market roller coaster since this time four years ago when we were all in the midst of the first Covid lockdown.

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I was therefore taken off guard recently when asked by a potential client if I thought AI would affect the residential property world and might it ultimately lead to the demise of the estate agency industry.

Not the normal question an agent expects to be asked when pitching for a lovely country house in North Yorkshire which might be best described as elegantly tired.

Having noticed his question had come as a surprise, he did at least give me chance to consider my response whilst explaining the benefits of having recently sold a substantial interest in an IT business, and how he expected AI would impact on everyone’s lives as much as, if not more, than Messrs Gates and Jobs.

We both agreed the internet has created significant change to the point where many sellers consider it is the only route to market.

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Rightmove is widely seen as the current king, but with other options available, to quote well used BBC terminology.

However, there are some property owners who prefer the other end of the spectrum, where discretion is the watchword being classic estate agency.

Buyers are matched with sellers by an agent who charges a percentage of the agreed price, without the attendant cost and publicity associated with formal marketing.

I then explained the merits of both approaches to my potential client who felt, due to his recent business sale, that he preferred the latter approach, at least in the first instance.

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His house has not been for sale for many years, in fact it’s been in the family for decides, but he fancies a new challenge. He tells me about a friend having significant problems selling, not because of survey but being stuck in a chain of related sales.

He wants to avoid similar and asks how I might minimise his exposure to the inevitable hassle. We then discuss what he might buy. He has the money but it soon becomes clear the family collectively has different criteria.

We start with location, within ten miles, and bedrooms, at least four.

They want to stamp their own personality on their new dream home, not what they were lucky enough to inherit.

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The latter is Victorian, impressive but rambling. So now they are thinking of something more modern, easier to manage, perhaps with green credentials.

It was a wide-ranging conversation and one thing we agreed on was: how can any computer system accommodate the uncertainties of human nature when it comes to buying and selling houses?

I suspect us estate agents will be around for many years to come, whatever the growth of AI.

Tim Waring FRICS. Prime Residential, GSC Grays 01423 590500