In Focus: How tech is transforming real estate, from floor plans to AI
CubiCasa President Jeff Allen has a specific goal: attach a floor plan to every listing. But he also says "massive advances" in tech are coming.
Two years ago, Jeff Allen took the helm at CubiCasa with a simple idea in mind: Every home listed on the MLS should include a floor plan.
The real estate industry at times feels like an octopus that's lost track of its tentacles. Collecting data about a property can be arduous and unreliable. Prospecting and converting leads can be a full-time job in itself. Meanwhile, there's the daily grind of staying on top of market conditions.
But all of this is soon to change, says Allen, whose career in real estate analytics and technology spans nearly 20 years. New technologies are cropping up almost daily that could completely revamp how homes are bought and sold in the U.S.
Allen shared his thoughts about this time of rapid technological advancement in real estate and how CubiCasa works to make the homebuying process a little bit easier. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
What problem is CubiCasa trying to solve?
Our company is built entirely around the idea that there should be floor plans attached to every listing in the United States. It's a cultural norm that we're trying to overcome. In the U.S., properties tend to be larger compared to European ones. European consumers are also most likely to be looking at apartments, which makes layouts matter even more.
We've seen other countries solve this issue, and we think it leads to better listing quality. We also believe that properties will sell faster because customers have more information before they arrive.
What do you enjoy about working in the real estate space vs. other industries?
A home is something that almost everybody has. So not only is it a universal thing, it's also a very emotional and personal thing. It's a lot of fun thinking about providing solutions for something so that means so much to people.
A home is also the biggest asset most people will ever have in their life, so I find it more meaningful to help people in that regard as opposed to thinking about insurance adjustments or something else.
Real estate tech has become an increasingly crowded and competitive arena. Has that spurred innovation, or does it make it harder for new entrants to get a foothold?
Real estate is a daily open market for technological innovations, in my experience. For example, if you want to create a new mortgage product, then you'll need to get buy-in from a lot of the major mortgage players and regulators like Fannie and Freddie.
Real estate does not have those dynamics. There are some incumbents and groups that are slow to make decisions, but you can execute a lot more in terms of providing tools for agents, brokers, real estate photographers, and so on because there is less concentration in the decision-making process.
What are some of the innovations in real estate tech you're most excited about?
I get excited thinking about the emerging "digital twin" space. For those who haven't heard of it, digital twins are a data-based representation of a property that is both auditable and verifiable. This can make a huge difference in verifying a home's square-footage or the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
Right now, public records for these data points are very outdated, and there are similar limitations for MLS data as well. Creating a digital twin can be done using a smartphone or a comparable digital device that can capture the condition and characteristics of a given property.
There are a lot of tech tools out there, but adoption can be a challenge. How should agents or brokers be thinking about tech in their day-to-day business?
I think brokers and agents should only be using new technology if they are confident it adds value to their workflow. There's a perception that if you adopt the latest and greatest toy, then your life will get better and you'll be more productive. To me, that's a condescending line of reasoning.
Agents won't use a new tool unless it's crossed a threshold or a bar that says it's worth the risk. I think agents should continue to try new tools, but be willing to drop them if they're not providing any value.
Everyone's talking about AI. What are they getting right, and wrong, about it?
I think the conversation about Artificial Intelligence in real estate is just beginning. I've heard a lot of people talking about using it to automate their listing descriptions because everyone is just thinking about it as a large language model.
That's the first iteration of AI in real estate, but I think AI can do so much more, like image recognition or automating follow-ups. It could also be involved in the massive decision tree that surrounds generating leads.
Real estate is a personal and human industry, so it will most likely be resistant to being completely controlled by AI. But the advances being made on a daily basis are so massive that it will transform the industry in some way within the next couple of years. What that looks like is anybody's guess right now.