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Use Them Or 'Be Left Behind': Here Are The 5 Most Practical AI Tools For CRE Right Now

The commercial real estate industry might have a reputation for being slow to adapt to new technology, but it doesn’t live under a rock.

Artificial intelligence is already making processes easier for industry members and clients, and with a wave of new apps and plug-ins emerging, CRE is likely only starting its tech journey.


The popularity of artificial intelligence and generative AI technology, which creates new images or designs based on prompts, is increasingly being noticed, if not yet widely embraced, by CRE.

JLL last week found that it is among the top three technologies expected to have the biggest impact on real estate, noting the incorporation of “AI-powered underwriting and processes" would eventually make transactions faster and allow more information to be acquired about properties and the markets they are in. 

According to the JLL report, AI technology is likely to one day power processes like price modeling and prediction for investment management, satellite image processing for asset valuation, and risk management and scheduling for construction and capital projects, to name just a few.

But even today, industry members are already using natural language models to streamline work, the most well-known being ChatGPT and its associated plug-ins, said Spencer Burton, president of Stablewood, an institutional real estate investor that utilizes proprietary data analytics and machine learning.

Adoption is still in the early stages, but gathering steam fast.

“We're so early in this, that a year from now all these things will be different,” Burton said. “Natural language models are going to change how we analyze leases, change how we analyze [offering memorandums], it will ultimately change how we handle documents.” 

Real estate players will likely use AI to semi-automate things they already do, making them more efficient, said Raj Singh, managing partner of JLL Spark, the corporate venture capital group focused on proptech. This automation will allow people to start thinking about things they weren’t doing before, but can now with AI, he said.

“I think it's a safe bet that three to five years from now, we'll be really quite surprised about all the things that we can do with this, most of which we won't have thought of at this time,” Singh said.

The years ahead will also see rapid development of AI technology, apps and plug-ins, Burton said. ChatGPT, in particular, has hundreds of plug-ins now, which will eventually grow to thousands, then millions, he said. 

“It's like apps for your phone,” Burton said. “When the iPhone came out, and they opened this App Store thing, all of a sudden people started creating apps and then there was an app for everything. You're going to see something similar happening with these plug-ins.”

While the technology is developing rapidly, there are several plug-ins and programs already being used because they are highly beneficial to CRE professionals, he said.

“If you're a broker, and you're sending out dozens of emails every day, you're absolutely using these sorts of tools,” Burton said. “If you're not, you should be, because you're going to be left behind by the brokers that are.” 

These are the most practical uses of AI in CRE right now, according to Burton and others: 

Code Interpreter

Code Interpreter — a ChatGPT Plus feature that dropped last week and can read and execute code — or some other version of it is poised to be incredibly valuable in the CRE industry, Burton said. Real estate professionals are constantly digesting data and trying to come up with insights from it, he said. 

“If you're in a real estate firm and you have software developers, five years from now, and it might be two years, it might be 10 years, software developers won't exist anymore,” Burton said. “Who will replace it are prompt engineers … who understand what goes into the code, but won't actually do the writing of the code, they'll prompt the software to do the writing of the code for them.” 

This means people within CRE firms can create code specifically for problems they have, rather than hiring an external person to develop code for problems they don’t understand, he said.

As one example, a firm might need a rent roll converted from PDF to CSV or Excel format, Burton said. ChatGPT could write that code, then Code Interpreter could modify, improve or test it, he said. 

BlueMail GEM AI

BlueMail GEM AI uses artificial intelligence to provide summaries of long emails and suggest responses based on context, according to its website.

It offers personalized recommendations, autocorrection, autosuggestion and grammar checking. The technology is based on OpenAI's GPT-3, bringing the capabilities of ChatGPT to email inboxes.

For example, instead of reading through a lengthy thread, BlueMail can provide a short summary of the conversation.

It can also provide a draft response based off a prompt. When the responder is unable to attend an event they are invited to, they could tell BlueMail to "craft a response that politely declines, but asks to be kept in the loop," Burton said. 

“If you're an independent broker, and time is money, you're absolutely using things like BlueMail,” he said.


Ask Your PDF

Ask Your PDF uses AI to turn PDFs into “conversational partners that are just as knowledgeable as the content they’re based on,” according to its website. 

There are several versions of PDF reader plug-ins through ChatGPT, and they have huge money-saving potential for CRE, Burton said.

“So you might have a lease. If you want to abstract the lease, traditionally what you do is you send the lease to a company, you pay them $300 and they come back and they give you a summary of all the terms in the lease,” he said.

Ask Your PDF and similar plug-ins allow CRE professionals to sidestep that cost.

Though some would argue that AI might not be fully trustworthy, Burton said internal validation would be required in either case. This type of AI will save first-year analysts from combing through 50-plus-page documents, he said.

“These natural language models will do that for you,” Burton said.


Plug-ins like SheetAI give Google Sheets or Excel access to GPT-4 technology so it can be asked questions in plain English, automate tasks and generate insights, according to the website.

SheetAI and similar applications can help craft complex formulas, Burton said, such as one that would determine weighted average rent for one of three types of tenants. Without AI, that would require a code to only consider certain rows of data in a dataset. 

"That's a really complex logic to write," he said of the timesaving possibilities. "You would have to go to the internet and end up deep in some forum to find that logic, or you could just prompt SheetAI or one of one of those integrations of AI into Excel, and it will produce the formula for you."

These types of integrations likely aren’t being used by major CRE firms right now because they have to worry about the legal and data exposure ramifications, given that data inputs are often used to train the model, Burton said. 

"If you're an analyst or a large firm, you can't use these tools like you would be able to if you're a smaller firm with with less constraints around around data protection," he said. 

Chatbot Technology

EliseAI, a company that JLL Spark has invested in, uses generative AI to power a chatbot around leasing, Singh said. This allows lessees to get answers to questions about the property, available units and amenities, as well as expediting the leasing process online.

“You typically need to get ahold of your broker to ask questions of him or her about the thing that you're trying to lease,” Singh said. “This is a way of giving you information 24/7, allowing you to take actions.”

EliseChat can be embedded on a property's website, allowing prospective lessees to immediately interact with it, according to the website.

TermSheet's Ethan, an acronym for "everything has a number," is similar to an analyst, said Sahil Rattan, TermSheet’s co-founder and chief operating officer. It can connect to any data source, whether internal, a document or any other type, and synthesize data in any way, he said.

It can also do work for you, like pulling data for comparable properties and sending documents by email, Rattan said. 

The TermSheet team recently went to Realcomm, a conference focused on technology, innovation and real estate operations, and saw significant interest around AI, Rattan said.

“AI is top of mind for everybody,” he said. “It’s a technology they can understand the value of."