AI & I - A young professional's view

The year is 1996. The Nintendo 64 gaming console is first released in Japan, Jay-Z released his first studio album ‘Reasonable Doubt’ and Bill Clinton was re-elected as President of the United States. Oh yes, and the final offspring, classified as Generation Z (‘millennials’), were born.

Despite the demographic categorisation, do not confuse me with a young professional who is highly confident with the intricacies of Artificial Intelligence (AI). I am still trying to understand its broader implications on the future of the property industry and how it will impact my role in a multi-disciplinary and national property services firm. So far, I can see two very obvious disciplines where AI will have a profound impact: Property Management and Investment.

I know that AI is revolutionising business, professional services firms and industry in general: the real estate sector is not immune to this quiet revolution. AI will continue to evolve and improve the efficiency of operational tasks however; I don’t know how profoundly it will affect what we do and how we do it.

AI has seemingly had its most significant impact on Property Managers (probably because several processes can be automated - an ideal environment for AI). The technology platforms deployed by Property Managers appears to accommodate time-consuming tasks – tasks which previously took hours/days to complete, such as addressing the multitude of maintenance issues that a tenant may encounter.

Fast forward 20 years and I suspect that ‘smart buildings’ will be the norm as almost every building’s security, lighting, heating and air-conditioning will be ‘self-managed’. Property Managers’ skill sets will therefore change beyond all recognition.

As a graduate currently working in a (transaction-driven) Investment team, I think that AI will change how we access data and online research platforms. For example, CoStar, probably my most regularly visited website at work, already provides automated access to analytical information on both buildings and locations. We currently use the information to research a deal: but what happens if the whole buying/selling process is automated? What will be my role? Will I still be needed?

It is worth noting that profound changes, resulting from the adoption of AI, are already impacting lawyers, accountants and other professional services. Apps such as DoNotPay have automated dispute resolution through the click of a button. Does this herald the end for lawyers who specialise in dispute resolution? Where are our most vulnerable areas? Which current tasks will be done more efficiently, faster and more cost-effectively by AI?

I know that AI will make my job significantly easier and I am convinced that in the future we will not be feeding off the scraps kindly donated by ‘R2-D2’. I think that whilst a job might be able to be perfectly researched, marketed and executed using technology, our industry is so ‘people centric’ that technology will not replace surveyors. We will do things differently, but we will not be replaced.

I appreciate that ‘big data’ (a process which uses software to analyse and extract information from data sets which are too large or complex to be dealt with by traditional data-processing applications) will be available to all property companies. But what will differentiate successful surveyors, from their less successful peers (in a world where AI has created a level information playing field) will be:

  • The ability to interpret data meaningfully
  • Draw the ‘right’ conclusions
  • Strong people/relationship skills to communicate these conclusions and execute them.

I believe that clients will always want to speak to someone to gain a deeper understanding and a different point of view or gain more information which could provide a different perspective about a deal or a decision to be made.

I’m 99.99% confident that this will continue to drive the transactional side of our business and that for efficiency reasons, technology will be used to speed up the due diligence process in the future. I firmly believe that our future as property advisors will be safe because experience will always outweigh (data gathering) efficiency.

I appreciate that I have only highlighted two aspects in which AI will evolve our skillset and act as an evolutionary (professional) catalyst however, I think, for now, our jobs are safe. They will be different, but safe if we continue to work closely with AI champions and creators and accept that the changes will be complementary and useful, rather than a threat or a hindrance.

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