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Gary Keller on Sunday expressed skepticism about the ability of artificial intelligence to upend the real estate industry, suggested the iBuyers are facing trouble in a downturn, and argued that only a tiny handful of companies — including his own — have actually managed to build their own technology.
Keller, the executive chairman of Keller Williams, made the comments Sunday morning during the company’s Family Reunion conference in Anaheim, California. Near the tail end of a session on the state of the housing market, Keller began discussing a variety of tech trends, including the sudden rise of artificial intelligence. The trend has captured headlines largely due to the popularity of ChatGPT, a chatbot that can answer questions and write entire blocks of natural sounding text.
Some real estate observers have argued that agents can use the tool to streamline their businesses.
Keller, on the other hand, sounded more skeptical Sunday. Though he said such AI tools might be “really valuable and really cool,” and that they do “interesting things,” he also said that ChatGPT “doesn’t get it all right.”
And he concluded that even if it “sets everybody’s hair on fire,” its impacts will likely be limited.
“Will it actually change the very nature of all search?” Keller wondered while on stage. “I don’t think so.”
Among other things, Keller also expressed skepticism about iBuying Sunday.
“You would have thought the iBuyers, two years ago, were the smartest most brilliant people in the industry,” Keller said.
But he went on to recall that years ago, Opendoor co-founder and former CEO Eric Wu came to Austin — where Keller Williams is headquartered — and met with real estate leaders there. Keller said that during the meeting he asked Wu what Opendoor might do in a downturn, to which Wu replied with a “very sophisticated, algorithmic answer” that suggested the company’s leaders felt they were prepared.
“How’d that work out?” Keller added from the stage Sunday, apparently alluding to the recent existential crisis in iBuying.
Keller also discussed the trend in real estate for companies to own their own technology. Out of all the firms in the industry, he argued, only Keller Williams, Redfin and Compass don’t “rent” their tech from another provider at scale.
“Everybody else capitulated,” Keller said.
He added that even Compass, with a massive war chest, was unable to build its own customer relationship manager (CRM), and “had to ditch it and go buy Contractually and retrofit it.”
The comment was a reference to Compass’ 2019 acquisition of the CRM maker.
Keller compared that to his own company, which he said built its tech platform “in record time.”
“There is no other company on the planet that in a 36-month period went from scratch to what we have built,” he argued.
Despite saying that building proprietary tech is “hard,” Keller also suggested that companies will continue trying to pull all of real estate’s various consumer experiences into one place. He cited Zillow’s promise to build a “super app” as an example.
“That’s the movement of the industry,” Keller said. “This is going to keep happening.”
Following Keller’s remarks, a group of Keller Williams’ leaders took to the Family Reunion stage to update attendees on the latest developments in the company’s CRM and technology platform Command. Among other things, Chief Technology Officer Chris Cox said the company is on the verge of “raising the bar with agent websites.” That means the company has redesigned the sites it provides to agents “from the ground up,” and that the sites will focus on lead capture and lead generation.
The new agent websites will be fully integrated with Command.
The system will also include a home valuation tool, which Cox described as one of the features that was most-requested from agents. And according to Cox, the system is oriented around answering a question: How do we keep agents close to their clients after the sale?
The latest version of Command will also allow agents to generate QR codes so that consumers can bring up contact information immediately with their smartphones, and will be “seamlessly” integrated between desktop and mobile versions.
Matt Green, head of agent experience and innovation at Keller Williams, joined Cox on stage and said new features in Command will also give agents access to A.I.-powered ads, meaning they’ll no longer have to spend energy figuring out what to advertise.
Jason Abrams, head of industry at Keller Williams, also appeared on stage Sunday and said that the latest developments in the company’s technology platform are the result of “hundreds and hundreds of interviews” with the firm’s agents. And the goal, he added, was that agents would use tech so that they’re “making more money, and having more time and selling more real estate.”
Cox, meanwhile, wrapped up the session by arguing that the new features notwithstanding, Keller Williams is “just getting started” when it comes to tech.
“We will lean forward,” he added, “and meet every technology challenge that’s in our way.”
Email Jim Dalrymple II