AI can never replace the human touch in the property market

City Voices (ES)
City Voices (ES)

There will come a time when “you can have a job if you want a job but AI will be able to do everything”.Earlier this month, when Elon Musk met with the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, at the UK’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) safety summit this was exactly what he told him - AI will remove the need for jobs as we know them.When it comes to real estate, especially the homes we live in, entertainfriends from and the space in which we spend precious time with our families, there is an emotional element which is so critical. AI is no doubt coming and will lead to the transformation of a broad range of sectors over time. For many industries its application will be an immediate efficiency driver and technology which will help grow margins and profitability.

In life sciences the R&D process is already being transformed by AI, resulting in changes to lab design and the quantum of office vs lab space. Manufacturing is another area which is being revolutionized by AI.  That said, from my perspective operating at the heart of the UK’s property market, simply put, we are not going to entertain the idea of robots selling homes, letting office space or managing buildings.

What we will see is AI enabled agents being able to respond to clients faster and in a more informed way, offering increasingly targeted advice, predicting trends, matching buyers and tenants with properties and much more. Over the last 12 months we have been looking more closely at Artificial Intelligence and how it might be able to support ourexisting teams and clients. AI is not about removing the human element of what we do; we firmly believe a highly personal approach is, and will remain, critical across the full range of property services we provide. Our mission statement is to be our client’s Partner in Property – this is innately human and personalised. AI however has the power to enable our agents, brokers and consultants to spend more time doing what they do best, assessing what is right for our clients.

For now, with new advancements, products and services being offered in this space almost daily, we are taking a measured approach.

We advocate the use of AI but have no radical plans to change the way we conduct our business.

We are carrying out the necessary due diligence and learning from our expert partners. Fifth Wall and Berkadia are helping to educate us on hoe AI can further improve our client offering and make introductions to startups which are leading the way with the latest thinking in this space, as well as horizon scan for suitable opportunities.

One area which has seen a big impact already is the data centres market. While it’s too early to measure how much demand could be generated, AI and ML (Machine Learning) is set to drive real change – it will be the next big driver of demand in the data centres space, cementing its position as essential core infrastructure.

AI applications will typically use around 30kW of power per rack, a significant jump from the more traditional data centres rack, whichutilises 8-10kW with it limitations. Using our network around the world, Knight Frank is running a series of trial projects to help find efficiencies, save our people time, and provide our clients with better insightful advice, and an improved service across the markets we operate in. On the enterprise level, we have been working with Microsoft, OpenAI and our Technology Partner, Microland, to explore several proof of concepts. Open AI is helping us to explore how we can better use our data to support the work we do and the insights we offer clients.

As we enter this new phase of technological advancement, there is no doubt artificial intelligence is set to become real estate’s most significant enabler in our lifetime.

Tim Hyatt is Knight Frank's head of residential