Last modified on November 14th, 2023
By Marc Frenkiel
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a term that’s gained significant attention in recent years, transcending from the realm of science fiction to real-world applications in various industries.
Real estate is experiencing its own transformation with the growing use of artificial intelligence, especially in property management. But while the technology isn’t brand new to the industry, the rapid advancement in generative AI ushered in by large language models is revolutionizing the way AI is woven into property management software.
The siloed approach
In the early days of consumer-facing AI, which given the rapid evolution of the technology was only two or three years ago, a siloed or fragmented approach was the only way to incorporate artificial intelligence into business solutions.
The earliest AI-driven solutions have mainly been developed in isolation, each addressing a specific property management workflow. Think AI-powered leasing agents, maintenance coordination, and bookkeeping. But while individual workflows benefit from AI in terms of automation — leading to greater efficiency and employee satisfaction — the individual AI tools don’t necessarily “talk” to one another. There’s a missing linchpin that prevents a fully unified technology experience.
A more holistic approach to AI has evolved in property management software. Rather than merely incorporating the technology into specific tools or workflows, a foundational approach to AI aims to construct a unified, interconnected system — one that’s built on a single, powerful platform with AI integrated throughout. Here, a singular platform allows AI to operate within every process, share information, and connect the dots between all your property management workflows: from lead to lease, to maintenance, accounting, communications, moveout, and everything in between. It’s a symphony of interconnected systems working in harmony that results in greater efficiency, productivity, and satisfaction — for both property managers and owners. The linchpin missing from the siloed approach is found here, allowing a new way for users to interact with software: the conversational interface.
The power of a conversational user interface
AppFolio Realm-X is the first conversational interface for property management software. But what exactly does that mean?
A conversational interface built into your primary property management software allows for direct interaction with all the information stored within your business’ database, or system of record, in plain language, essentially serving as a personal assistant or co-pilot. Rather than having to manually navigate through your primary property management platform to find information, a conversational interface allows you to ask your property management software a direct question like “what are all the unassigned work orders?” or “how many available 3 bedroom units do we have?” You can direct your software to initiate actions or processes on your behalf, complete tasks, and draft and send communication. An example of this would be directing your software to write a notice to all residents at a certain property about an elevator outage. A single platform powered by conversational AI can take information from one part of the platform — maintenance requests or work orders — and apply it to another part — resident communications.
Another impressive aspect of a conversational interface is the ability to teach your platform to automatically complete common workflows on demand — like everything that encompasses the move-out process, for example.
By offloading much of what would be considered “tedious,” property managers can have — as AppFolio’s VP of Engineering Matthew Baird describes — “more time to strategize, build relationships, learn new skills… essentially, find more meaning in their day-to-day. ”.
Perceptions of AI
A recent survey of property management employees not in leadership roles found that 36% of their time is spent on “busy work.” They also believe 15 hours per week — or 38% of a 40-hour work week — could be optimized or streamlined through technology. These figures suggest growing enthusiasm for AI technology: Boots-on-the-ground property operators see opportunities for technology to bring more efficiency to their roles. It’s especially true among leadership at the enterprise level. 62% of enterprise-level businesses surveyed for a CIO.com survey reported to be actively using generative AI. 23% said they were in the early stages of exploring its use, and 14% said they were considering implementing it.
With excitement and use of AI on the rise, now is the time to look internally at your own operations and consider how artificial intelligence can improve efficiencies. Explore AppFolio Realm, where our full suite of AppFolio AI capabilities — including our conversational interface AppFolio Realm-X — unite to create a one-of-a-kind, holistic AI-powered property management experience. As the world moves towards a more interconnected, data-driven future, the property management industry needs systems that not only talk to each other, but also learn and imporve. A holistic, foundational approach to AI in property management software promises not just a smarter present, but also a visionary leap into the future.
For a deeper dive into the coalescence of AI and property management, we invite you to check out our Top Floor episode titled Embracing a Responsible Approach to Property Management AI. The episode features an interview with two property management and AI experts: Cat Allday, VP of AI at AppFolio, and Peter Lohmann, CEO of RL Property Management. You can also check out our AI guide, Becoming AI-ready. This definitive, up-to-date guide covers everything property management companies like yours need to know now to become AI-ready so you’ll be prepared for a rapidly evolving future.