Compass, Zillow, Redfin and Realogy executives all agree that artificial intelligence specialists are crucial to the future of real estate. But supply, it turns out, isn’t meeting demand.
LinkedIn released its 2019 Emerging Jobs Report on Tuesday, with tech-centered positions dominating the list. Data scientists, site reliability engineers and cyber security specialists all made the cut, but artificial intelligence specialists nabbed the No. 1 spot with a 74 percent increase in hiring over the past four years.
“AI has infiltrated every industry, and right now the demand for people skilled in AI is outpacing the supply for it,” LinkedIn Principal Economist Guy Berger told MarketWatch. “This is the third year in a row a role related to machine learning or artificial intelligence has topped the list, and we can only expect demand to increase.”
Tech leaders and spokespeople at Zillow, Compass, Realogy and Redfin told Inman they agreed with LinkedIn’s assessment and that demand for skilled artificial intelligence and machine learning specialists has swelled over the past few years as they focus on building faster and more efficient proprietary back-end and consumer-facing tools.
Zillow Vice President of AI and Analytics Jasjeet Thind said artificial intelligence is key to offering a seamless experience for the 195 million unique monthly users who either use Zillow’s home search, home valuation or iBuyer tools.
“AI empowers Zillow to accurately value the 110 million homes in our database every night, respond to the more than 80,000 Zillow Offers requests we received in Q3 2019, and show our 195 million unique monthly users the homes most relevant to their search,” Thind said in an emailed statement.
“At Zillow we are working to take the pain out of buying and selling homes, and we need talented data scientists and engineers to help design and build an integrated transaction experience for our customers.”
Leaders at Realogy, Redfin and Compass all echoed Thind’s sentiments, saying that robust tech teams that understand machine learning and artificial intelligence have been crucial in researching and developing new tools and maintaining day-to-day operations.
Realogy Chief Technology Officer Dave Gordon said Realogy has been “aggressively building” its AI team in Silicon Valley as the company aims to improve its analytics platform that includes machine learning, analytics modeling, current reporting tools and capabilities.
According to Gordon, that platform has enabled Realogy to better organize and utilize its rich database not only to develop and upgrade products, but to more effectively recruit new team members.
“Realogy has such extensive data assets across our national real estate footprint, our long history of transactions, and our expansive agents in our owned and franchised businesses, as well as augmenting that data with external data sources,” Gordon said. Applying our best data scientists, data engineers, and data modelers across these data assets has been the best recruiting approach to hire team members.
Meanwhile at Redfin, the company is using artificial intelligence and machine learning to power and improve its trademark offerings, including RedfinNow, Redfin Estimate, Book It Now, and Redfin Direct.
“Redfin employs a team of AI and machine learning specialists who, along with other colleagues, play a key role in delivering products across our tech portfolio,” Redfin spokesperson Angela Cherry explained in a written statement to Inman. “Just to name a few: they’ve helped make the Redfin Estimate the most accurate online home-value estimate for on-market homes.”
“They’ve developed algorithms that recommend homes for consumers,” Cherry added. “They’ve made scheduling a home tour as easy as booking a dinner reservation online with Book It Now, and they’ve armed our RedfinNow business with highly-accurate current and future predictive home-value estimates.”
Much like at Realogy, Redfin said artificial intelligence and machine specialists also make a profound impact on the company’s day-to-day operations by creating tools that enable agents to spend more time on what’s important — their clients.
“At Redfin, our tech employees operate hand-in-hand with our agents for a shared goal of delivering great customer service,” Cherry explained. “Technology in and of itself is not the answer—it’s how we use technology to save our agents time and free them up from rote tasks so they can do things only humans can: connect with customers.”
Over at Compass, artificial intelligence specialists work closely with agents to test the company’s back-end and consumer-facing tools.
“Compass AI scientists collaborate closely with top Compass agents, allowing these development teams to quickly test and launch software tools that impact productivity and efficiency across a wide variety of real estate functions,” a Compass spokesperson told Inman.
Zillow, Realogy, Redfin and Compass said the need and demand for artificial intelligence and machine learning specialists in the real estate space will explode in the upcoming years, as evidenced by each company’s recent push to acquire more tech talent.
Gordon said real estate’s tech hiring wave is a long time coming, as other industries have been riding this trend for years.
“The real estate industry has historically lagged other industries such as Financial Services, Pharma, and Consumer digital companies in going digital and delivering a great digital experience for brokers, agents and consumers,” Gordon explained. “That has changed in the past several years and there is clearly a higher focus on investing in technology to make agents more productive, the homebuying process easier and more seamless for consumers and to help brokerages differentiate themselves with their offerings.”
Redfin and Compass both said they’ve had success in recruiting and hiring these specialists, as Compass has grown its tech team by 200 percent over the past year and expanded its tech team to India, and Redfin continues to create additional tech positions in its San Francisco, Seattle, and Frisco, Texas, offices.
Meanwhile, Thind said Zillow has struggled to find enough specialists to meet its needs and suggested that real estate companies begin partnering with universities to create a talent pipeline.
“The demand is extremely high,” he explained. “At Zillow, our biggest challenge is hiring machine learning experts to tackle the tough problems. There aren’t enough out there. We need to partner with academia and the industry on training to grow the talent pool.”
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