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Column: Will ChatGPT and AI Put Realtors (and you) Out of Business?

First iteration of a Georgian mansion with a circular driveway created by Dall-E in less than a minute. One of four options

By Mark Pruner

ChatGPT and its version of artificial intelligence (AI) will change the world more than the cell phone has. It is a revolutionary technology that will make your life and what you do different in the next five years and progressive firms are already seeing that change now.

ChatGPT from Open AI, and programs from other companies, take natural language queries and return natural language answers as shown below. The software is getting better very fast. Right now, ChatGPT writes really well. It’s English is good; its writing is well punctuated and it’s presentations are concise. While that’s nice, Grammarly, an online writing assistant can do that too. What is remarkable about ChatGPT is it delivers replies to questions you ask it in paragraphs and essays that are intelligent and well organized and created from synthesizing information found all over the Internet.

This is way beyond what Google does. Google uses very sophisticated software to try to determine what page will answer your question and gives you a list of links. ChatGPT takes the information on all those pages and synthesizes it into a well written synopsis or a much longer essay. It does this as well as most college students can do. The resulting essays are good enough that college professors, who are highly knowledgeable, in their fields can’t tell whether ChatGPT wrote the essay, or a student did.

That last statement is a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit. ChatGPT does make mistakes and some of them are really glaring, but this is often due to “GIGO” also known as garbage-in-garbage-out. If what someone wrote on the Internet is wrong, ChatGPT’s synthesis of that information may also be wrong.

One of the things that ChatGPT does is not only synthesize information, but it can write for a particular audience and in the style of a particular author. One of the questions posed to an early version of ChatGPT was to: “Explain quantum theory to a child in the style of Snoop Dog.”
Yo, little homie let me break it down for you.
Quantum theory, it’s a crazy thing, it’s true
See, the world is made up of tiny, tiny particles
Sometimes they’re waves and sometimes they’re points, it’s a trip

But let’s talk about real estate, and in particular, Greenwich real estate. Being concerned about my position here, I thought it best to test ChatGPT’s knowledge of Greenwich real estate and who better to explain than former Greenwich resident, Donald Trump. So ChatGPT’s version of Donald Trump writes:

Well, let me tell you, folks, the Greenwich, CT real estate market is absolutely tremendous. It’s one of the most beautiful and luxurious places in America, believe me. People who live there are very, very lucky. They’ve got these incredible mansions and homes that are worth millions and millions of dollars. I mean, we’re talking about some serious money here, folks.

Now, I know some people might say that the Greenwich real estate market is a little bit overpriced. But let me tell you, folks, that’s just the way it is. When you’re dealing with the best of the best, you’re going to have to pay a premium. And believe me, it’s worth every penny. So, if you’re looking for a place to live that’s truly the epitome of luxury and success, you’ve got to check out Greenwich. It’s a winner, folks.

You can hear Donald Trump saying as you read it. Of course you may find that William Shakespeare is a better commentator on the Greenwich market, so here’s the Bard’s analysis of the Greenwich market:

Oh, Greenwich fair, where homes doth stand
In stately splendor, grand and grand
Where eager buyers seek to roam
To find a place to call their own

In this fair land, where hedge funds thrive
And fortunes grow, to great heights arrive
The real estate market doth shine bright
With homes of grandeur, a true sight

This ability to do natural language processing both in the analysis of the query and in the synthesis of the response is just incredible. For years, the test of how good a natural language AI program was the Turing test. Alan Turing in 1950 proposed that a program would pass the test if you could have a conversation with it and be able to tell whether the responses were generated by a machine or a human. Arguably, ChatGPT fails this test, because it’s variety of responses and depths of knowledge actually goes beyond what a person could do.

So, does that mean that ChatGPT, now in it’s fourth version, and its descendants, are going put Realtors out of business? The answer is probably not, but the practice of selling real estate, just like just about every other job that includes computer use is going to change; and probably a lot faster than most people anticipate.

Computers are very good at organizing data into information and ChatGPT is good at taking that information and creating knowledge. What it doesn’t have yet is judgment. So far people still have it over computers, when it comes to deciding what to do, but ChatGPT and AI are going to be making changes in real estate very soon.

The first people to see their jobs change may be the copywriters and assistants who write copy. ChatGPT can write faster, and certainly in more styles than can humans. The Donald Trump description, which was four paragraphs in total, took ChatGPT version 3.5 about 15 seconds to write. The Shakespearean sonnet, Ode to Greenwich, took about 30 seconds to write. (I am drawing no conclusions from this time difference.)

The next real estate groups that may well see changes are marketers. ChatGPT actually can write executable software programs, so doing a 12-week, layered marketing plan will be right up it’s alley.

Artists are another group whose jobs are going to change. You might think that creating images from scratch is a purely human talent, but OpenAI has another program called Dall-E that can create “A large Georgian mansion with a circular driveway.” It gives you four versions and lets you further refine your choice through multiple iterations.

Does this mean lots of these people are going to find their jobs eliminated? When the web came along, there was a lot of talk of disintermediation, the elimination of intermediaries. One oft cited example are travel agents. Back before the web going to a travel agency to review brochures and talk to travel agents about your vacation was common event. Today, we have Kayak.com and Tripadvisor.com. I miss talking to the travel agents, but if I have to change travel plans at 11 pm, having the online service is very helpful.

Curiously, marketers and artists aren’t likely to be disintermediated, their jobs will evolve. Already, Dall-E offers an advanced pay mode and lessons in how to become an AI artist. Real estate agents’ jobs are evolving. Right now, we are taking classes at Compass on how to use ChatGPT. Today’s class had 1,000 agents, the maximum allowable on the hosting program, and future classes are already oversubscribed.

It also won’t all be disintermediation and evolving jobs; entire new types of jobs will be created. Back in 1990, when Tim Berners Lee created the first web browser, few people could have conceived of jobs like search engine optimizer or social media influencer. AI will create jobs that we can’t even image.

If you do something that is created by a computer AI will change your job and may eliminate your job as AI may do some parts of your job faster and better. All this AI content is going to increase demand for people with good judgement. Someone has to decide when what AI is proposing make sense.

No one is going to build the first iteration of that Georgian mansion, someone is going to have know, when it’s a reasonable starting point and how it should be improved. AI is going to make those changes happen in minutes and hours rather than days. Be able to see the big picture will become increasingly valuable.

What AI won’t do is to give you more free time. When email came out, and search engines were created and Wi-Fi became common they were all supposed to let you do things more quickly, giving you more free time. It didn’t work that way. Today, there are some bosses that expect you to answer an email at 11 pm, after Googling the info, while in bed hooked up to your Wi-Fi.

AI will have some great benefits, for example ChatGPT, wrote this whole article and all I did was some light editing (or did it?)

OpenAI’s homepage introducing their 4th version ofChatGPT

Mark Pruner is a Realtor with Compass. He can be reached at 203-817-2871 or mark.pruner@compass.com

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