Estate agents could soon be out of work, as an American property seller is replacing staff with tablet-based 'robots' capable of letting customers into a house and answering dozens of questions when they view a property.
After a successful trial in its native Los Angeles, REX Real Estate Exchange will soon extend the robotic estate agent system to properties in Long Island, New York.
REX is the first estate agent to use big data to flag up potential properties with buyers through targeted advertising on social media, like Facebook.
The company analyses their income, location, spending habits and other information which can be obtained through internet browsing data.
Once a targeted advert is sent and clicked on, the buyer's browsing pattern through REX's website is tracked and analysed. If they look at properties with a certain feature, like a swimming pool, then similar properties will be advertised to them on social media.
While a typical estate agent will have the contact details of a few hundred potential buyers at any one time, to be paired up with homes as they come onto the market, REX's automated system can handle over 50,000 buyers at once.
REX co-founder Jack Ryan told Benzinga: "When we started this company, our goal was to give consumers a digital alternative to the archaic real estate process. By harnessing the power of AI (artificial intelligence), big data and machine learning, we ultimately provide sellers with a larger and more targeted buyer pool than ever before."
Replacing estate agents with robots
Once a potential buyer has arranged a viewing, they interact with a tablet-based robot called REX stationed in listed properties. The system is programmed to answer 75 commonly asked questions by buyers when viewing a house.
Speaking to Long Island news site Newsday, one customer said the REX robot "provided better service than the traditional agents", they had dealt with during a dozen previous house sales.
Perhaps surprisingly, agents employed by the company agree that a technology-led approach works better. Bryan Starck, an agent at REX, said: "You used to really need a traditional agent to buy a home or sell a home. (But now) there's an unprecedented amount of information available...I really do think this is going to be the company to change the industry."
By using machine learning and artificial intelligence to direct adverts more efficiently, then use automated technology to conduct house viewings, the estate agent says it can cut the average sales commission from 6% to 2%.