The broker bots are coming: Firms using robots for house tours, client questions

Robots take a lower commission

Zenplace robot giving a tour (Credit: Zenplace)
Zenplace robot giving a tour (Credit: Zenplace)

Your next apartment tour may be led by a robot.

Brokerages are turning to robots to handle tasks like property tours, videos and creating floor plans, the Wall Street Journal reported. Brooklyn-based VirtualAPT invented a robot that makes three-dimensional property videos, and counts Douglas Elliman and Stribling & Associates among its clients.

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REX, a brokerage based in California, has robots at each seller’s property to answer questions and collect information from prospective buyers. Zenplace, also based in California, has robots that allow agents to remotely lead clients on tours while projecting the human agent’s face on the screen.

“It was a little weird,” said Laura Franco, who was led on a tour by a Zenplace robot. “It was like she was there but she wasn’t there.”

Though many in the industry fear brokers will become obsolete as technology takes over tasks once performed by a human, Compass co-founder Robert Reffkin told the Wall Street Journal that he believes agents will always remain an important part of real estate deals. But new technology could disrupt how these deals are done. For instance, REX charges a 2 percent commission, compared to the typical 5 to 6 percent. The February issue of The Real Deal explored other technologies that could change the landscape.[WSJ] — Kathryn Brenzel