Artificial intelligence is transforming industries and professions at whirlwind speed, but it won’t make professional valuers obsolete in the foreseeable future, writes Ashley Lane.
Whither the property valuer in 2021? Theirs is a profession which is highly dependent on data and data analytics and hence seems ripe for robotic process automation.
That’s what’s happening with a vengeance in the accounting and finance sector. AI’s ability to learn and adapt is making it possible for sophisticated software programs to take on a growing list of tasks traditionally performed by accountants and accounts clerks. It’s a similar story in the legal sphere, where firms have found the laborious process of sifting through documents and databases for information can as easily be entrusted to a robo-lawyer as the real thing.
So, why should property be any different? The short answer is: it won’t be.
At heart, property valuation is a complex comparison exercise which entails crunching numbers and benchmarking your formula and results against those of others, in order to reach a final figure that would stand up to market testing.
Looking ahead, some of that work can and will be done by AI-driven software that’s capable of analysing huge volumes of data, identifying trends and making recommendations based on the findings.
Slow to shift
Such technology would arguably be entrenched already, were it not for the fact that the property sector is one of the country’s most conservative, when it comes to embracing new modi operandi and methods. Top down resistance has kept many firms mired in old ways, with back- of-the-beer-mat calculations and gut feel still in play in the acquisition and disposal process.
There’s been little incentive for software developers to bring sophisticated, AI-driven solutions to market when the target market is satisfied with low and no-tech alternatives.
That will inevitably change, as a younger, more tech-receptive cohort of property professionals rise up the ranks, but it’s unlikely to happen rapidly and we’re looking at several years before prop-tech is the hot property fintech and reg-tech have become.
A useful tool
But even when it does come into its own, it’s unlikely to put property valuers out of a job. Just as the rise of LinkedIn a decade ago failed to decimate the recruitment industry – dire predictions of its imminent demise notwithstanding – AI-driven proptech solutions will be an important enabler for those working the sector, rather than a robotic replacement.
AI solutions are only as good as the data that informs them. Human smarts will still be needed to validate and interpret their outcomes – and augment them with the local knowledge that no amount of processing power will ever be able to generate.
Hence, valuers will find themselves in much the same position as that of recruiters in the early 2010s – using tools and technologies to add value to the service they deliver, not struggling to compete with a software program that appears, superficially at least, able to fill their shoes. A new generation of valuers who understand how to turbocharge existing work practices with the enabling power of AI tools will be well-placed to succeed.
Remaining relevant in the data driven era
In today’s digital world, adopting technology is a must for professionals who aspire to remain at the forefront of their industry and valuers are no exception. Embracing smart, data driven solutions as they come to market will enhance, not detract from, the work that they do.
Ashley Lane is the ANZ business development manager at Forbury