How Artificial Intelligence is Transforming the Real Estate Space

DataHunters Interview with Quantarium’s Malcolm Cannon

“Residential Real Estate in the United States is in aggregate a $45 trillion space. As such, reliable, intelligent, timely, accurate, and usable data in real estate is vital not only to this vertical but to the entire economy.” – Malcolm Cannon

Reliance on multiple data points, from historic prices and trends to property ownership data, is nothing new. However, the data that we use to make our housing choices have become increasingly sophisticated. Quantarium’s valuation models provide property valuations through a self-learning AI engine. Quantarium’s advances in Computer Vision (CV) technology is allowing AVM to transcend historical constraints; understanding their journey and the impact of AI is critical to the future of real estate.

Quantarium is a leading producer and purveyor of value-added data in residential real estate. Their data and analytics scientists and experts illustrated great innovation in their approach to building the industry’s leading RE data lake, so it is a team-wide validation to receive this distinction. When asked what the potential of this space is, Cannon explained: “Residential Real Estate in the United States is in aggregate a $45 trillion space. In addition, homes are the most vital and valuable of most families’ investments/assets. As such, reliable, intelligent, timely, accurate, and usable data in real estate is vital not only to this vertical but to the entire economy. PropTech, as the area has been called, is a booming industry and we’re happy to not only be in the space but also to enhance the stories of other players.”

Quantarium’s product and customer journey is an interesting look at how artificial intelligence plays a role in real estate. They started as an idea and ended up building the leading Automated Valuation Model, AVM, that still breaks the tape in the AVM race. They leveraged their knowledge and experience to build a Data and Search platform for real estate, powered by the most comprehensive data lake in the industry. By emphasizing the platform aspect, they could power any company that leverages residential real estate data, from mortgage companies to banks to insurance.

There is a lot of talk in the data industry about technology versus people, from the benefits of consistency and efficiency to the reduction of bias in housing prices and access. When Cannon was asked about this, he answered that Quantarium has never been purely technocratic, despite the fact that it is an AI company: “We, like anyone, would affirm the unquestionable importance of human wisdom in all parts of society, including this vital area of the economy. Often, the debate is cast in binary terms, which we reject. Increasingly, it would appear the industry will benefit from, and work towards, an equipoise in understanding both the methods and instruments through which human wisdom and tasking are best applied and those areas in which machine learning technologies can be best advantaged – we see the growing confidence in the category of hybrid valuation products as evidence of this.”

Cannon understood the importance of implementing this knowledge in this specific area of technology, which is why Quantarium’s Translucent A.I. is embedded in their Valuation Services Platform (QSVP) as an asset for human-assisted and enhanced technologies. It was intentionally constructed this way. Quantarium’s translucent A.I.-based technologies provide an auditable line of sight to offer the optimal platform for professional human input integration, as needed, towards maximum possible results. In fact, this should be the expectation; most computerized airplanes and spacecraft still provide manual controls for takeoff and landing, for instance. In other areas such as AVM’s Quantarium’s advances in Computer Vision (CV) technology, AVM is now transcending historical constraints. These AVMs are crossing the threshold of not being able to understand property condition or see inside the structure to account for value adjustments other than assuming a static coefficient of average condition for the year built. Moreover, the fidelity of Quantarium’s CV can detect and eliminate occupants’ photos and other iconography that may be humanly interpreted to indicate racial, or ethnic identities that could consciously, or unconsciously introduce unwarranted subjectivity in the valuation, or QC process.

This being said, it was important to Cannon to elaborate on the challenges of AI in addressing bias. “At the end of the day, the challenge for AI to assist in addressing bias will need to be understood. Certain axioms remain, particularly about any technology being only as effective as the data it relies upon. Quantarium remains ever cognizant of this. Consequently, it understands that models rely on trailing data and that data unavoidably, at this juncture, has suffused within, whatever prior human biases contributed to skewed valuations. With this understanding in hand, Quantarium refrains from making any announcements regarding AVM’s eliminating bias in valuation – it is disingenuous and the challenge to eradicate this will take more than just technology. Can it be an asset in addressing the challenge? Absolutely – and Quantarium is making significant R&D investments, with a focus on assisting the industry in addressing the challenge.”

Certainly, evidence for racial bias in real estate exists. But while technology is often considered a neutral “tool,” the data it relies on has bias built into it. So real estate data providers have a lot more work to do to identify and eradicate bias, and AI is an important part of that process. Quantarium has already devoted R&D resources to this area.

Cannon is now looking towards the future and thinking about his vision for Quantarium in 2022. Like with all companies, Quantarium has had to adjust to the realities of a Covid economy and the impact that has wrought on the global business climate. Despite this, they are able to focus on strong tailwinds, such as Machine Learning, Computer Vision (CV), and Data Innovation. These tailwinds are in demand as they play a larger part in the future of both the commercial markets and the regulatory environment. Moreover, Quantarium has made a mark in several areas of this space and as a result are fortunate to have a set of relationships with incredible experts across the industry, including in the newly burgeoning PropTech space. Cannon explains, then, that their vision is “to provide our quickly expanding customer adoptions with innovation and rapid deployments of proficiency technologies, spanning from our new Computer Vision APIs and Valuation services, through to our Smart Market Explorer™ within the Quantarium TerraVerse™ to help our customers navigate the industry challenges ahead. More on that soon!”

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