ChatGPT is Taking the World by Storm, but What Does That Mean for CRE?

It’s only been a few months since OpenAI’s new AI chatbot ChatGPT launched, but it already feels like the tech is everywhere. By now, you’ve probably already read that it’s managed to pass university exams, is causing chaos in schools, and, like the image creator DALL-E2, has creatives on edge across the globe.

For many, the big question is: Will this tech supplant human creativity or is it a valuable tool to supplement it?

For us in commercial real estate (CRE), the question is equally valid. Especially when it comes to knowledge work and tasks like writing up new listings. And while we certainly don’t think there’s any danger of AI replacing the knowledge and experience of a savvy CRE broker, there are signs that, for better or worse, this tech is making its way into the real estate industry.

Virtual assistance

According to a recent CNN Business article, brokers are already using ChatGPT for everything from writing listings and social media posts to helping to draft legal documents or check calculations.

Some have also reported using the tool for even more nuanced tasks. CNN gives the example of a broker who used ChatGPT to draft an email for a client who was having trouble getting an issue with the windows in her newly developed home fixed. With the right prompts, ChatGPT reframed the issue from a legal liability perspective, and the developer quickly responded.

These features have led some CRE professionals to think of the tool as a free personal assistant, though others feel the text it generates “comes off as robotic”, as The Real Deal reports.

Relationship building

Despite these impressive capabilities, what ChatGPT can’t do is provide the personal touch that’s so vital for closing deals. As another recent Real Deal article phrased it: “…there’s no question it’s going to have implications for the real estate world, with commercial brokers saying the bot will close the knowledge gap among brokers and further emphasize the importance of personal connections.”

In other words, while this new AI is a potentially useful data-gathering tool that can level the CRE playing field to some extent, it can’t replace the years of market experience and resulting relationships that good brokers and brokerages bring to the table.

Hitting the limits

AI tools like ChatGPT have other limitations as well – as several experts pointed out in a recent article in The Conversation.

Daniel Acuña, Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, puts it like this: “One set of problems is their inaccuracies – small and big… for example, text without much substance or inefficient code, or output that is just plain wrong, such as wrong analogies or conclusions… If users are not critical of what these tools produce, the tools are potentially harmful.”

He adds that anyone using these tools to write should also be aware of the potential for plagiarism, especially where the AI is just paraphrasing the data it was trained on. What these limitations mean in practice is that, like any source of data, we should use these tools with both caution and common sense.

Using AI in CRE

ChatGPT may be the “new kid on the block” when it comes to AI tools, but it’s certainly not the first one to make its way into the CRE world. Between the recent explosion of PropTech solutions and the adoption of other AI and robotics-based processes, many CRE enterprises are already moving towards the big data and analytics capabilities AI offers.

For now, however, OpenAI’s creation certainly seems to have caught the attention of at least some CRE professionals who state that ChatGPT adds genuine value, making the process of researching and writing CRE topics that much easier. Or, as the AI itself said when asked how it could help CRE brokers:

“By utilizing ChatGPT, commercial real estate brokers can streamline their work, increase their efficiency, and provide their clients with better service. The technology can help brokers stay ahead of the competition and achieve greater success in their careers.”

It’s a smooth answer, but it remains to be seen whether ChatGPT will become one of the “go-to” tools in the CRE stable, or a tech fad that fades away in a few months. For now, as with any interesting new technology, we’ll be keeping a practiced eye on it and providing updates as the AI situation develops.