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Brace Yourself For The Revolution

David Faulkner warns we must adapt to artificial intelligence and automation changes or we will be left behind.

By: David Faulkner

2 July 2023

After spending two days at the AREC 2023 event with over 4,000 real estate agents and property management professionals, I was fortunate to visit Image Real Estate in Brisbane, which manages nearly 5,000 residential rental properties across Queensland.

What became evident at AREC 2023 is that many Australian-based companies use virtual assistants (VAs), predominately from the Philippines. Some Kiwi companies have been using VAs for some time, but we simply scratch the surface compared to our Australian counterparts.

The benefits are obvious, as many tasks in property management can be mundane and repetitive. It frees up a property manager’s time to focus on relationship-building with their landlords. Also, there is a sufficient cost saving. One company says they are paying their outsourcing company a $30,000 per annum salary for one full-time VA.

There is also no shortage of workers, as finding staff in New Zealand is challenging. You are also not having to deal with employment law, and it is easy to turn the contract on and off. This allows property managers to manage more properties, earn more money and improve the bottom line of their business.

Ethical Decisions

For a company like Property Brokers we have an ethical decision on whether we would go down this route. We are proudly provincial and are committed to improving our communities. Would it sit well with our team and consumers if 20 per cent of our workforce was based in Manila?

It may not be a decision we have to worry about. What became evident in spending time with Image Real Estate is how they are using automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to help run their portfolio.

In time this is likely to replace the outsourcing industry. Image still has an outsourced workforce, but they do so well using the data they collect to automate their processes. Property management is very different from real estate. The business is built around the collection of thousands upon thousands of small transactions, which is in contrast to real estate. As such, AI can use this data to predict trends, such as projected maintenance plans with replacement costs forecasted.

We can accurately predict what is likely to happen with rents and the length of a tenancy. This leads to greater efficiencies in how you structure your business, and it is easy to identify flaws in customer service.

What was so remarkable about Image was that everything was so transparent on one dashboard. No matter my question about their business, they could show me this dashboard in real time.

For example, they could show me the average length of their clients so they can easily predict the estimated contract value, churn rate of business, number of inspections and maintenance spend per property. They could also show me how each staff member was performing against targets with strict communication procedures in place. Team leaders could see if clients had yet to be contacted within the allocated time frame, leading to a better customer experience.

Future Vision

Back to the conference, almost every presentation I saw referred to ChatGPT. The property manager is no longer writing many property adverts; ChatGPT writes the advert and does it with creativity, accuracy and time-saving. There is a massive temptation to ask ChatGPT to write my articles, but I assure you I will continue creating my own content.

Property Brokers’ journey into AI and automation has started with a partnership with Valocity Global and Generate Zero. Our vision is to develop an automated rental valuation based on data collected from rents and the property’s characteristics and location. Going one step further, we are looking at ways to measure emissions from our rent roll to reduce our carbon footprint. Our theory is that there is a correlation between rents and emissions. Reduce your emissions, and you can potentially increase your rental income.

I cannot help but feel the industry is about to be turned on its head. Change can be frightening, but change is constant. We must adapt to the AI and automation revolution or we will be left behind.

David Faulkner is the General Manager of Property Management for Property Brokers and is recognised as one of the leading experts in the New Zealand Property Management industry. He has been involved in the industry developing robust policies and procedures, training, and consultation services for many years.

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