What AI tools mean for Growth in Commercial Real Estate Investing

ChatGPT is the new AI text generation tool everyone in commercial real estate seems to be talking about. It appears to have virtually limitless knowledge and an uncanny ability to write humanlike sentences. However, practically speaking, how useful is ChatGPT and other AI chatbots for commercial real estate teams? Will they really save you time, or does the technology need to mature before it becomes a game-changer? 

First, a preview. We gave ChatGPT the following prompt: “Write a 200-word social post about the best ways to boost the value of an apartment acquisition.” Here’s what we got: 

Acquiring an apartment property can be a great investment, but it’s important to take steps to maximize its value. Here are a few ways to boost the value of your apartment acquisition: 

  1. Renovations: Updating unit interiors and common areas can make the property more attractive to renters and increase rental income. Consider modernizing kitchens and bathrooms, installing new flooring, and updating appliances and fixtures. 
  2. Amenities: Adding new amenities such as a fitness center, pool, or outdoor space can make the property more appealing to renters and increase its value. 
  3. Energy-efficiency: Installing energy-efficient systems and fixtures can lower operating costs and make the property more attractive to environmentally-conscious renters. 
  4. Strong management: Having a professional management team in place can help keep the property fully occupied, reduce turnover rates, and increase rental income. 
  5. Marketing and advertising: Advertise the property effectively and target the right market. Highlighting the property’s unique features, amenities, location and community can increase the interest of potential renters. 
  6. Increase rental income: review the rental rates and make sure they are in line with the current market. This can help you attract more renters and increase the property’s income. 

Boosting the value of your apartment acquisition takes time and effort, but by implementing these strategies, you can increase the property’s income, reduce operating costs, and make it more attractive to renters. This can help you achieve a higher return on investment in the long run. 

Now for the Cliff’s Notes version: Yes, ChatGPT is very powerful. Yes, it can probably handle big portions of your content needs, particularly if you want more basic, conversion-oriented text. On the other hand, ChatGPT is still far from perfect. It produces factual or grammatical errors fairly frequently, often emphasizes the key points of a subject to the detriment of the entire picture, and generally displays a relatively basic compositional ability. If you are building a reputation as a highly qualified professional in commercial real estate, ChatGPT should be used prudently, and probably fits best for the following tasks: 

  • All types of copy – writing web page descriptions and conversion-oriented text (think marketing collateral, brochures, or OMs) 
  • Brainstorming & advice – use the tool to generate questions to ask a prospective partner, interviewee, or develop content ideas for your own manually-written articles 
  • Custom outreach – composing messages for social media and outbound communication 

“From tenant interactions to our communication systems with our investors, the HLC Equity team is working on areas in which we can benefit from implementing AI into our daily operations. While we believe that nothing replaces human touch and interaction, we are confident that by implementing AI to execute repeatable tasks, our team members will be able to spend more time focused on high-value touch points to better serve our customers in meaningful ways,” said Daniel Farber, CEO of HLC Equity.  

How well does it work? 

ChatGPT can be used for a million tasks, and like any real employee that can do a little of everything, there will be compromises to depth of expertise. When used specifically as a copy or content writer, our assessment is that the tool, as it is today, is about as sophisticated as a fairly competent, native-language, beginning writer with a great grasp of Google. You likely won’t be getting highly complex writing, but in general what is there will be solid. Unfortunately, it’ll still be surface-level. Don’t go in expecting ChatGPT to turn out expert-level content to power your blog. 

Challenges to keep in mind 

AI text generators don’t actually know what they are writing. The data ChatGPT was trained on came from 2021, and the platform is not connected to the internet. Collectively, this means that it is difficult to get ChatGPT to write content with consistently accurate, attributable, specific information like rent or vacancy rates. 

You also need to be prepared to screen for glaring mistakes. During our testing of ChatGPT we caught both large grammatical errors and factual inaccuracies in things like market descriptions and NOI calculations. In one case, while describing the transformation of a real-world city’s downtown area, ChatGPT took two different names for the same streetcar, and presented the information as if they were two separate transit options.  

Errors like this are frequent enough that you’ll need to carefully proof everything that comes out, even if you’re satisfied with the overall tone and complexity. Open AI, the company behind ChatGPT, will likely offer the ability to custom-train a text generation model for your specific use case, but it is still unclear how costly this will be, and indeed how much benefit it will offer. 

What about concerns that we’re slipping into a future where all sorts of writing is actually AI-generated? Here’s a follow-up question: Does it really matter, for commercial real estate professionals? Sure, you’ll need to double check the claims of the OMs you read, but you’re probably already doing that anyway.  

Putting it all together 

ChatGPT and the new wave of AI tools are very much raising the bar for what this technology can do. It’s now possible to build amazing article skeletons, social content and even answer high-level research questions almost instantly. If you’re a commercial real estate investor, having an instant copywriter available 24/7 could be a paradigm shift when it comes to developing prospecting materials or property collateral. ChatGPT isn’t the only game in town, either. Competitors like Jasper are already out there. With time, competition will likely lead to refinement.  

On the other hand, we’re still a very long way from being able to generate expert-level market commentary, property descriptions and online content with the push of a button. For the time being, at least, superlative writing quality will still take time, effort, and a human touch.