A lead texts you at 2 a.m. inquiring about a new listing. They ask, “How many bedrooms? Do you have a floor plan? Do you have a feature sheet?” Five years ago, most sales reps would probably wake up and respond to the text right away or let the lead wait until 7 a.m.
Today, real estate chatbots have solved this conundrum. Instant Messaging Real Estate (IMRE), a Vancouver-based AI company, is offering salespeople and real estate developers their own AI personal assistant that can respond quickly to queries from prospective leads.
Since January, more than 3,000 real estate salespeople and 100 developers have signed up with the company, using their chatbot platform to provide 24/7 customer service to homebuyers or curious looky-loos. A text-only service, IMRE’s chatbot does not require yet another app download on iPhones or Androids. During an online sign-up process, sales reps pick a customized phone number, created based on location preference. Then, IMRE’s system takes up to 30 minutes to create a new bot that the salesperson can custom-name. They even email your bot’s birth certificate to you.
If a consumer requests a list price, the bot texts back the list price within minutes. It then passes the query’s phone number on to you, providing details of the questions it was asked. Agents can link their bot to their Facebook page or it can live on their website’s live chat. Most IMRE clients find it convenient to list their chatbot’s phone number on For Sale sign toppers.
“When a consumer looking at the sign wants to ask a question, they can text that AI assistant’s number and get their answer immediately,” says IMRE co-founder Stephen Jagger.
Consumers have many ways of asking for a property price. Some might just type dollar signs in their query. IMRE’s bot gets smarter every day and responds intuitively. It understands the natural language people use when talking about real estate. This means it can read and respond to all types of questions a sales rep is asked in a property query. It’s built to decipher typos and brutal spellings.
Jagger says many salespeople who are new to chatbots ask if the bot will eventually replace them.
“No,” he says. “The bot is meant to handle the low-end, 20 per cent of inquiries. If someone says, I have been pre-approved, I have my down payment and I want to make an offer on this property, the bot should not be able to handle that query. That’s when the human agent steps in to negotiate other offers on the table.”
Jason Steele, an Ontario sales rep using “Diamond”, his IMRE bot, was able to secure a buyer within three minutes of a query for a property listed at $600,000. The buyer chose Steele over several other salespeople who failed to respond to his repeated queries.
There’s a free or paid version priced at $10 per month for real estate professionals. The paid bot adds listings to the sales rep’s database and allows them to view hundreds of real-time bot conversations, which the free bot does not.
“The challenge we’ve faced on the Realtor end is that because the product is so invisible, we have had to spend time showing them what the bot actually does,” says Jagger.
As buyers become more tech-savvy, their demand for white-glove customer service is increasing. Chat bots add that timely customer-engagement value that salespeople can use to get ahead of their competition.
IMRE plans to extend its services to rental markets soon.