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AI Ethics in Real Estate

AI Ethics in Real Estate

AI Ethics in Real Estate is imperative to the industry and its ability to function within regulation, as the use of AI gradually expands in this sector.


The Role of AI in Real Estate and Construction


Artificial Intelligence definitely has been very difficult to implement in very aesthetic based markets such as the real estate market when it came to traditional sales or other tasks,  as it is the second least digitized industry in the world. However many companies have now adapted to using AI in the real estate and construction industries for increasingly important and more detailed tasks.

Using certain technologies that use the physical features, location and other related variables to link the best combination of features for either persons looking for a home or those trying to build one. AI has the capability to see unlikely linkages among properties which may lead to them showing it to the perfect match at the perfect price range. If accurate, it meets all of their needs and the needs of similar buyers.


The number one issue with the real estate industry and AI is the different categorizations of data on property, many aspects of a property that may add or diminish its value are very subtle and nuanced, however the increased datapool over the past few years has greatly increased the level of analysis possible by an Artificial Intelligence system. Also, over time the more persons who use the system the more sophisticated it gets, and the more the same person uses it, it filters out their dislikes and records that data to give even more accurate results.

Interactive AI would also use customer data including photos of their own home, or homes with features they appreciate, this will allow them to combine enough of their favourite features into a property which has calculated all of their preferences , down to build material. Within the construction of homes, AI can definitely increase the efficiency of space use, as many legacy home designs have very artistic considerations. If a company or client is trying to maximise the full plot of land they have available, AI can devise a very concise floor plan, and dimensions to exemplify the preferences of the builder.


Considering cost and efficiency as well, sourcing the applicable materials, its availability and price along with other considerations including health and environmental concerns, AI could streamline this process where a final Human approval from an expert of the schematics and building plan would have to be okayed. A key point to acknowledge is, the property itself is one concern but neighbourhoods play huge roles in deciding where someone may raise their family. Proximity to schools, fields, gyms, clubs, groceries and other key considerations in their immediate vicinity. What makes a 2 bedroom Flat in one city cost more than the other?

AI systems can find these correlations a lot easier and through many more facets, as long as they are trained to know what to look for. Again the key consideration of AI is it is always heavily dependent on the quality of research and data it uses as its source material.


The Need for AI Ethics in Real Estate


With all of the wonderful considerations that AI can now make, it is now up to the human element to implement the correct ethical programming or AI use to make sure certain rights of citizens are upheld. The current state-of-the-art makes It impossible for a program or piece of technology to have a conscience (that we know of) that is to say, that if not properly regulated and monitored the AI can definitely take advantage of societal detriments.

The first, and most obvious elephant in the room is AI that distinguishes persons by race and uses that as some sort of relevant criteria to match them with a proper home or neighbourhood to purchase a home/land. A machine however wouldn’t know that pairing a person of a minority ethnicity with other majority ethnic neighbourhoods, despite their price range due to “social preference” parameters is inherently prejudiced and something that cannot be allowed to happen. Also the jump in AI in the real estate market is due to more personal information being siphoned from homeowners, from real estate websites and search engines, forums, social media  and other sources.


Is enough being done to protect homeowner information or buyers’ information?


Several questions and considerations come into play regarding the ethical use of AI systems in the real estate and building markets. Is enough being done to protect homeowner information or buyers’ information? Are these data collection agencies processingthis data with all the necessary GDPR guidelines in mind? Is there total transparency on these collection or utilization processes that make every party fully aware of how the information is to be used? Any time personal information is on the table as a key consideration it is always a dicey topic and AI manufacturers and developers have to be wary not to risk ethical programming for quantitative accuracy as the long term impact could be detrimental to the guaranteed rights of civil society.


Whether the AI actively seeks out information on its own is also a consideration as it could gain access to information that could change the quality of its searches drastically and affect the objectivity of the search. Also with the ability to maximise and fully make efficient use of space materials, square footage and all other factors, AI can make it easy to cut corners in the industry as well. It could turn a two million euro project down to something a lot less dear with the sourcing of alternate materials for building material or nails and screws.

Also comfort may not  be a consideration accurately depicted by an AI system in every situation. The purpose of the project and its scale is something very important to consider as well. Architects and Contractors have to make sure that each building is sufficiently comfortable for persons to function and doesn’t skimp on any of the necessary features of a modern day building.


In addition to that, long term cost reduction and consideration for the environment when choosing energy sources for homes is something that is a personal choice for each building owner and should not be left to the agency of the machine or software, even if there is a best, or most applicable type of energy source that may be recommended by the software. There are many considerations that machines simply cannot make unless we teach them how to, and there are important questions developers must ask themselves about their code, but the two most important are : Does it work? And if Yes,is  it Ethical?


We recently released a new vlog exploring the use of AI in the real estate sector, as part of a series on AI ethics within various industries.


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Do you have questions about how AI is transforming the real estate sector and the associated risks? We can help you. Aphaia provides both GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 consultancy services, including Data Protection Impact Assessments, AI Ethics Assessments and Data Protection Officer outsourcing. We can help your company get on track towards full compliance. Contact us today.

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