Technology

Liming Zhao: ‘a citizen of technology who wandered into land of real estate’

From supercomputers to real estate technology

Liming Zhao

Head of engineering, Urban Compass

What he does: I explore the state of the art in technology used by our agents and consumers, enhance the process flow and data quality of property information for search and market analysis, and build tools to facilitate communications between agents and consumers.

Age: 33

Degree: Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Pennsylvania

Location: New York City

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Social media: LinkedIn

I am a citizen of technology who happened to wander into the land of real estate. I have a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Pennsylvania where I focused on research and computer graphics.

After graduation, I wanted to pursue a job where I could push the limit on the technologies that create the stunning visual effects we see in movies and video games (water simulation, photo-realistic rendering, etc.).

However, my first job actually landed me at D. E. Shaw Research, where I was part of a team that built Anton, the world’s fastest specialized supercomputer. Anton simulates how protein folds and unfolds, and our team had the ambitious goal of using Anton to help improve the drug discovery process to cure cancer.

After a journey with world-class researchers working with cutting-edge technology and building a system that might benefit people in the longer term, I was excited to explore an area where technology touches individuals on a day-to-day basis.

When I arrived at Urban Compass over a year ago, I did not know much about real estate. However, I have always enjoyed discovering and learning new things and feel satisfied when I can apply computer science and engineering to them.

I am particularly excited about real estate because of the potential for technology to simplify processes and enhance the overall experience for parties involved in a real estate transaction.

As the head of engineering at Urban Compass, I lead the effort on designing and developing the technology used by our agents and consumers. Our team looks at processes like automating market insight data for agents, merging multiple sources of property information into one clear listing to display to our users, and enhancing communication functionalities between our agents and consumers.

LimingWorkstation

Zhao’s workspace

Favorite book?

My favorite book is a three-book series that shaped my view of life since childhood: “Beyond Yourself,” “Create Yourself” and “Confirm Yourself” by Liu Yong.

Favorite food?

Fish.

Favorite video game?

Pro Evolution Soccer.”

Favorite city?

New York City.

Favorite band or singer?

Jacky Cheung from Hong Kong.

What do you hate about technology?

The fact that I cannot stop thinking about it.

What is one thing you would like to fix about the real estate industry?

I would like to build a platform to increase real estate data symmetry, making the analysis of data for both agents and consumers better.

Do you think technology can change the industry?

Absolutely.

In or out of real estate, is there one problem, large or small, that you would like to solve?

I believe the lack of transparency and accuracy for real estate data is a big problem for many industries, not just real estate. I am particularly interested in building technology and operations that increase information transparency and, in real estate, help make accurate data accessible to all parties — brokerage firms, agents and consumers alike.

What motivates you?

By pushing the limits of technology, we actually improve the way people live, work and interact with each other while making those interactions more fun and cost-effective.

Would you like to participate in our real estate hacker profile series? Email contributors@inman.com.