A new tool which allows homeowners to ask their smart speaker how much their property is worth is a poor replacement for human expertise, an estate agent has claimed.
Nick Miller, who operates two Fine & Country branches in Cumbria believes the AI-powered Alexa skill will give valuations so vague they will be virtually pointless – and in some cases misleading.
He said it is almost impossible to replace the knowledge an experienced individual will have about market trends, geographical quirks in the market and the supply and demand of a given town or city’s marketplace.
Miller added, “Technology is moving at a remarkable pace an in many cases, its advancement is of huge benefit to businesses operating in the property market.
“We embrace many new methods of working to ensure that our Fine & Country offices remain at the forefront of innovation and industry change.
“But not everything shiny and new is necessarily a step in the right direction and I believe the Alexa-powered valuation skill is a good example of this.
“There are so many variables in a local property market and many of them will be taken into consideration when a home is being valued. An individual property may have features or particular selling points which a valuer will take into account, but which Alexa would not.
“So while this new technology may be OK for a very general view of a property’s value, the message has to be that in this case, there’s no substitute for the real thing.”
The new Alexa skill has been developed by franchised estate agency Hunters and draws its information from Zoopla’s valuation estimate tool. It is claimed to be the first of its kind in the UK.
Homeowners and landlords are asked a series of basic questions about their property, before being presented with an estimated valuation.
But Miller said, there are many examples of where the system falls short. Homes which were last sold decades ago, are in dire need of refurbishment or have been extended may fall foul of the formula.
“There’s an example of a home which we sold being valued on Zoopla at £177k, but the reality was it was in a poor state of repair and needed significant investment. It sold for £125k so the data led to the property being wildly overvalued
“The system is only as good as the information it has, and in many cases, the data will not be correct. That leads to problems for vendors and also for people in the industry as expectations then have to be managed.
“It is certainly the case with many of the properties we deal with at Fine and Country that they may not have been on the market for many years. An algorithm will never compare to an individual who can dedicate thinking time and apply experience to the equation.”
Miller has decades of experience in the commercial and residential property sector and recently opened a Fine & Country operation in Warwick Road, Carlisle after two years of successfully running a branch in Penrith.
He said, “The business prides itself on the relationships it builds and the service it delivers to clients who entrust the team with the sale of their property.
“Human interaction and building a strong rapport with clients is absolutely at the heart of what we do and it always will be.
“We invest time, energy and effort into this very important part of our business, at the end of which is a valuation on a property. No advances in technology will change this, it is part of our DNA.
“At the end of the day, we seek to get the best possible deal for our clients. It is why we are in business.”