Over the past year, artificial intelligence (AI) has gone from an abstract concept to an everyday reality. Across industries, professionals are embracing AI for its ability to help them increase their productivity and automate repetitive tasks — and the title industry is no exception. A recent Qualia survey found that AI is already used by a staggering 90% of the more than 350 title & escrow professionals surveyed. 

As the industry sprints after this fast-moving train, one question emerges: How can my business successfully get on board? At Qualia’s 2024 Future of Real Estate Summit (FORES24), Charlotte Brown, VP of Product and Design at Qualia, moderated a panel discussion titled Future Forward: Navigating the Next Wave of AI Innovation.” The panel featured Alex Lange, VP of Strategy and Innovation at NAR, and Lucas Hansen, Co-founder of CivAI, who delved into the current AI landscape and its implications for the real estate sector.

The current applications and limitations of AI

The real estate industry is witnessing a surge in AI use and investment. “We’re seeing crazy adoption across the industry,” Lange said. “Real estate [professionals] have not traditionally been early adopters, but that’s not been the case with AI.” 

Lange noted that the industry is testing AI’s limits and using it for everything from updating MLS listings with AI-enhanced photos to automating meeting action items like email follow-ups and appointment scheduling. AI is even being used with a high degree of accuracy to spot appraisal issues at scale. 

Despite all its shiny possibilities, Hansen warned that there’s still a distance to go before AI can be trusted for certain tasks. “Right now, AI is like an intern, and it’s that intern’s first week,” he explained. While AI will improve over time, businesses must understand that it’s not fail-safe, and leveraging AI for high-risk tasks should be avoided. It’s also wise for teams to review AI outputs for any errors before sharing them with external parties. 

Lange warned that blanket AI use could also be problematic for businesses from a regulatory perspective. The real estate industry follows a strict set of consumer protection rules, and some of these rules might be inadvertently compromised when businesses blindly leverage AI tools. For example, if a real estate agent uses AI to change an image and removes a powerline from a listing photo, it could be considered a disclosure violation. Or, if an AI search tool helps consumers narrow in on homes that meet certain parameters, such as “find me a home near a synagogue,” the search functionality could violate fair housing rules.

AI’s dark side: how advancements in AI impact cybersecurity and how to respond

AI’s rapid advancement and availability have opened up game-changing possibilities for real estate businesses. However, these same advancements benefit criminal businesses too.

With AI, the cost of a single attack is much lower. Cybercriminals can now carry out attacks that would have previously taken them days or weeks in just a matter of minutes. Instead of manually scraping the internet for personal details about their targets, criminals can use AI tools to generate hyper-personalized phishing emails and deepfake audio messages instantly. This means that it’s no longer just the large, high-transaction businesses that are primed for attack — every real estate business is now a viable target for cybercriminals looking for a payday.

Hansen shared a demo of deepfake technology and how it can be used to carry out highly targeted phishing emails, phone calls, and even video conferences with minimal effort. In a matter of seconds, he generated:

  1. A highly personalized email that could be used to initiate a phishing attempt.
  2. A fabricated image of the panel moderator, Charlotte Brown, in an orange jumpsuit behind bars. 
  3. Fake audio of Brown requesting that her colleague call her on a different number (a common way cybercriminals intercept secure communications to initiate wire fraud.)

Hansen’s demonstration of deepfake technology served as a stark reminder: seeing is no longer believing, and what appears or sounds human may not be real. Additionally, smaller businesses can no longer assume immunity from cyber threats simply because they handle fewer transactions and are less lucrative to criminals. With deep fake technology, cyberattacks are easier to carry out, meaning cybercriminals are casting a wider net, indiscriminately targeting businesses of all sizes.

To combat these growing threats, Hansen and Lange stressed that teams don’t need to think outside the box. Instead, they need to get back to the basics. “Do the things you should have already been doing [but with more consistency],” Hansen said. This includes ensuring two-factor authentication is set up and used across the company, setting up single sign-on, and reducing email communication where possible with secure communication portals.

Lange also stressed the value of training internal teams and customers to keep security top-of-mind. “Bad actors spend 100 percent of their time trying to penetrate systems, and we spend just two percent of our time and resources trying to protect it,” he said. For instance, Qualia’s 2024 Cybersecurity Trends in Real Estate survey found that only a third of title companies offer cybersecurity training at least quarterly. By keeping cybersecurity at the forefront of conversations, companies can better fortify their business from attackers.

The impact of AI is just emerging

It’s still early innings for AI, or as Lange put it, “This is just the junior varsity of this technology and what it’s capable of.” For now, businesses should consider AI an entry-level intern and assign it low-risk tasks accordingly. However, as AI advances, companies will have more opportunities to integrate it into every layer of their operations.

To hear more from Lange and Hansen, watch the FORES24 panel discussion in its entirety.

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