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Property Management Experts Weigh In on Real Estate AI

October 10, 2023

Last modified on October 10th, 2023

Are you curious about how AI is shaping property management and what other companies in real estate are doing to take advantage of the next industry transformation? 

Property management experts recently came together for an AI mastermind roundtable led by Rhianna Campbell, Real Estate Business Coach and Property Management Business Owner, where they discussed their experiences with AI, how it’s being utilized in their respective fields, and the challenges faced when integrating AI into their operations. The conversation also touched on the transformation of AI innovation and the importance of discerning valuable tools from the noise. Keep reading to uncover the key takeaways from the discussion to better understand how to use AI effectively and how it can benefit your property management business.

Takeaway 1: AI tools need to be evaluated for their actual value and not just for their novelty

The pace of innovation around generative AI has significantly increased in the past 10 months. However, with more AI tools coming to market, there is a need to cut through the noise to find what is beneficial. The panelists expressed this challenge and the need to discern which tools are actually valuable. 

Cat Allday, VP of AI and Product Operations, shared, “I try to play with new AI tools in my personal life for work productivity because I want to see if they can actually add value. I want to make sure, as we’re applying this technology to our products at AppFolio, that we aren’t just doing it for the sake of technology, that we’re actually providing real value. If I can’t see the value in 30 minutes, it’s not worth my time.

When you think about the hype of AI, you could go down a rabbit hole of having all these tools that don’t save you time. It’s important to think about the measurable productivity improvements we can make when we’re building AI features. It has been fun and unique to actually see how our AI tools are having a tangible impact on our customers.”

Sam Eddinger, Owner of Ironclad Property Management, shared a similar sentiment. “There are so many AI products out there. How do I cut through the noise and find what truly benefits me? My big concern is that I still don’t know what works and can be used in a significant way. There’s so much noise out there that it’s a bit overwhelming.”

Rhianna Campbell has experimented with using AI tools to handle simple tasks like generating subject lines. “One of the most recent tools I’ve been using that I have found to be very helpful is, an AI-powered subject line generator. I recognized very quickly, almost instantaneously, that I could utilize it to help me improve our email communications. However, in trying different AI tools, you need to limit how much time you’re going to take to understand how it works or how deep you’re willing to go. If you don’t see a benefit early on, you must move on.”

Matthew Kaddatz, Senior Director of Product at AppFolio, suggested being clear about the top problems you want to solve in your business as a strategy to cut through the noise. “The more you understand the problems, the more you can figure out whether a tool or solution will actually solve it. By doing this, you can ground yourself. Generative AI is good at idea generation, but it’s not great at checking the news last week because it’s not current on what happened last week. So you learn where AI works really well and where it doesn’t because, based on the problems you’re looking to solve, you can have a more meaningful impact.”

Takeaway 2: AI has the potential to improve efficiency, productivity, and customer service 

The panelists also discussed AI’s potential to help teams work more efficiently. They detailed how it can be used to automate certain tasks, streamline workflows, and even handle customer inquiries, providing more timely and personalized service.

Cat shared: “Our philosophy right now is that we believe that technology can power all the tedious and routine things so that our customers can focus on the more critical challenges and interesting projects that require a human touch. Having face-to-face interactions with owners and residents is the most powerful thing property management teams can do. Technology should not get in the way of it but free teams to create those meaningful relationships.

To me, AI is about increasing your productivity: how do you do more with less or do more with the same and then focus on other things that are more impactful? When we think about how we apply AI in our product, those are the areas that we want to address. In August, 80% of our customers used one of our AI features or products. Some customers may not even know they’re using AI, but many of our capabilities are AI-powered. They are helping them improve their productivity. I’m excited about this because it means people are actually seeing value in these tools. 

We use different forms of AI across all the different workflows within the software — such as leasing, marketing, accounting and reporting, and maintenance — based on what provides our customers the greatest benefit. We use traditional machine learning, computer vision with OCR technology, and generative AI. So we’re using some of the older generation AI development tools and the most current stuff.”

Takeaway 3: AI requires some guardrails to help teams work effectively

While AI presents an enormous opportunity to the property management industry, it takes time to train teams on how to use it effectively and efficiently to get the most out of it.

Sam explains: “My team and I are used to doing things a certain way, like Googling to search for an answer. We need to shift our mindset to ask ChatGPT, and then use the prompts. It’s super critical to be able to get what you want because, otherwise, you’ll probably get something really diverse but not concise. The more your team can dive into it and train it, the better.”

Similarly, Rhianna has also noticed that her team has had to undergo a learning curve to get the most out of generative AI tools regarding personalization. Rather than simply copy and paste an AI-generated answer, she encourages her team to post-edit and customize the responses so they feel genuine. She shares: 

“One of the biggest challenges I have is teaching my team that they can’t just cut and paste everything straight out of ChatGPT when drafting communications. The emails it generates are usually generic. We’re still trying to master the prompts to get good results. But just because AI wrote it, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ready to send to an owner or resident. So we’re doing a lot of training and constantly discussing how they can modify the information.”

Sam has also implemented AI solutions to help draft communications like resident and owner emails and has taken a strategic approach by creating templates his team can iterate. He shares: 

“We use LeadSimple and have templates with the expectation that our team edit them to customize their message. Our templates provide 90% of the copy, but I have trained my team to read it and add details that are specific to each owner or resident. It’s more about doing the finishing the steps to complete the task than carrying out the actual task.”

Along with training your teams on effectively using AI tools, you should ensure you use AI responsibly. You can learn more about this in our latest Top Floor podcast episode: Embracing a Responsible Approach to Property Management AI.

The AI transformation is well underway, and as you navigate the changing landscape, it’s critical to get the latest insights, advice, and information to fine-tune your AI strategy to stay competitive. To learn more about how you can prepare your business and use AI tools to streamline workflows, boost efficiency, and empower teams to work smarter, check out these resources:

Join the “Learn AI with Me” training series: Industry experts come together once a month to discuss how AI is shaping property management and the latest trends and tools. Interested in joining the conversation? Sign up to attend one of the following sessions hosted by Rhianna Campbell.

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