"Tech in Focus," Joe Chen, CEO, Lofty
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

In Focus: How AI is transforming lead generation 

Keeping up with technology can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be that way, says Lofty CEO Joe Chen, who discussed how AI can add value for agents.

January 28, 2024
4 minutes

Some say the real estate industry is slow to change. But in recent years, the technological side of the industry has come a long way, helping both real estate professionals and consumers find homes, create listings, and transact with greater efficiency.

The challenge for many agents, however, is keeping up with all that tech — it can feel like a full-time job on top of an already busy schedule. There are artificial intelligence tools for everything from graphic design to listing descriptions, and countless options for CRMs and other platforms. And some of the tech can potentially run afoul of new regulations around lead prospecting.

When he founded Lofty (formerly known as Chime), Joe Chen had one goal in mind: to provide real estate agents with a collaborative platform that allows them to take advantage of modern technology more easily.

With all the tech options, learning curves and legal pitfalls, some agents might feel overwhelmed — but Chen said it doesn't have to be this way.

Chen shared his thoughts about how artificial intelligence has changed the way real estate professionals do business and where he thinks Lofty fits in. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Tell us a little about Lofty and what you do.

We've been around for almost eight years now and our vision is to help agents in the industry thrive by providing them with the best tools and a collaborative platform. I don't think "social network" is the right way to describe what we do because it's more collaborative than that. A seller agent can talk to multiple buyer agents about a property without having to answer the same questions that come up over and over again. In that way, it's more like a chat group.

Lofty operates in almost every state in the U.S. and we have about 50,000 agents using our platform. About 25% of those agents have signed up in the last year alone.

Your company used to be called Chime before you rebranded as Lofty. Why did you make the change?

It's a big move because so many customers already were familiar with the Chime brand, but it's about fulfilling a bigger vision for the company. As the company becomes stronger and more scalable, two things become imperative. One, we need an unencumbered brand sphere to build a business. Within the Chime brand sphere, you have multiple other companies and some that have spent a lot of money to build their brand.

We were also looking for a strong name that's also relevant for real estate. So, we found the name Lofty, and I really like it because it shows we're thinking big. We bought the domain last quarter, and our customers seem really happy with it.

How are you using AI to create value for users?

We were one of the first companies in the industry to adopt AI, and we used it to build our own chatbot about five years ago. There are other platforms that offer chatbots, but they're offered through a third-party vendor whereas we developed ours in-house. We drive value by automating tasks for agents so they have more time to speak with their customers. For example, AI can help you draft a lengthy email or create marketing materials. It's about building a personal assistant for real estate agents.

Regarding chatbots, the FCC seems to be taking a risk-averse stance to the technology. Could new lead generation rules impact your business?

We're already in compliance with most FCC rules and will be way ahead of their deadline for compliance. I think that AI is pushing chatbots and is pushing automated machine challenges to human conversation. So, I think that on one side, the government wants to protect consumer rights. On the other side, I don't think the government would do anything to stop AI.

What's your take on the 2024 real estate market?

I'm bullish. And for one simple reason: The 30-year mortgage rate has already topped. I wouldn't be surprised to see the transaction volume increase and prices start to move upwards again. I also think the mortgage rate will come down to around 6% this year before stabilizing between 4% to 5%. That will help unlock a lot of pent-up demand. A lot of people have already delayed their home purchase to continue renting.

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