Imagine finding the perfect apartment in New York City — affordable, central, spacious (as spacious as it gets for New York), then writing to the realtor: “Is the apartment still available? When can I see it?” You wait, then wait some more, only to never get a reply back. After a few follow ups, you eventually give up and move on.
The hot housing market continues in New York, and beyond, where low inventory and high prices rage throughout the summer. Realtors need help now — more than ever — to streamline their communication with potential buyers and renters.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning firms are elbowing their way into the real estate business, changing the way we approach lending, search for homes and evaluate property. Now, automation is helping fill a need in real estate like never before.
MeetElise is a New York City-based technology firm that leaves no email unread — or left with no reply. This tech team is dedicated to modernizing the apartment leasing experience through artificial intelligence and automation. The company’s human-like AI leasing agent, Elise, is a far more sophisticated communication device than your average website chatbot.
MeetElise answers hundreds, sometimes thousands of emails per day, allowing renters and buyers to tour homes virtually and apply for them at any hour of any day. The digital product combines fast email replies with exceptional customer service, helping property management teams by answering every inquiry from every single renter or buyer who shows interest. It’s an easy-to-deploy technology solution that replaces a manual process and produces immediate ROI.
“We launched MeetElise with the desire to make housing more accessible,” said Co-Founder and CEO Minna Song. “But instead of building houses, we decided to take the approach of building scalable software to help existing residential property managers run more efficiently and profitably. Elise is responsive 24/7 and always answers emails, calls and texts immediately.”
So far, they’ve streamlined communication for over 250,000 homes and saw the popularity of their service soar throughout 2020. The number of apartments on the platform has grown by 50% since February 2020 and has increased tenfold over the past year. It proves that automated technology is helping the real estate industry. This demand came out of the urgency of the pandemic but is here to serve in the long run.
The company was co-founded in 2017 by Song and Tony Stoyanov, who wanted to change the housing industry by eliminating inefficiencies through tech and automation. They wanted an AI chatbot to do more than just answer basic questions for prospective renters about apartment availability. Elise also answers questions about floor plans, rent concessions and special rates, and allows web browsers to virtually view a space — instantly. The company is led by investors Navitas Capital, with participation from AvalonBay Communities and Equity Residential.
Investors such as Louis Schotsky, the Managing Partner at Navitas, see the potential with MeetElise transforming real estate.
“Leasing, as we know it, is being fundamentally disrupted, and the pandemic is only accelerating this shift,” Schotsky said. “Apartment seekers are already experiencing a faster, friendlier and more responsive apartment search with MeetElise, which is providing much-needed support to leasing teams at a moment in time when their jobs are as challenging as ever.”
MeetElise saves realtors roughly two to three hours a day, on average, on redundant emails. It frees up their time to focus on other tasks.
“Elise can answer roughly 90% of lead questions without needing any assistance,” Song claimed. “It works over email and text message to serve the prospect throughout the entire process of leasing an apartment, not just generating a lead for a human leasing agent to handle.”
Mat Nieves, the Head of Growth at MeetElise, has helped foster the company’s growth during the pandemic.
“The apartment renting experience is already an incredibly painful process without the overwhelming fear and uncertainty of a global pandemic,” Nieves explained. “Renters are often waiting between 24 to 48 hours to get their questions answered — if they get a response at all. The experience can be inconsistent, and the process takes far longer than it should.”
MeetElise aims to remove the stress out of the leasing process by answering renters’ questions “on their time, not an agent’s time,” Nieves said.
One of the trends Nieves saw emerge during 2020 was the number of prospective renters who reached out to realtors outside of business hours. As part of a 2020 report, MeetElise analyzed over 800,000 leads to understand the habits of today’s prospective renters. That data showed that 48% of the leads made inquiries after 5 p.m., while 20% of all tour appointments were scheduled after 5 p.m.
“Roughly 40% of all the prospective renters which our AI engages with, inquire about an apartment after normal business hours,” he claimed. “Since our AI assistant runs all the time, a renter can get all of their questions answered and schedule an appointment from their couch at 10 p.m., if they want to.”
MeetElise has clearly streamlined communication, but communication isn’t the only area that needs improvement in real estate. So much of the leasing process is still manual and prone to delays, but going forward, “it doesn’t have to be that way,” Nieves said.
The company could potentially automate the entire leasing process, from virtual viewing to the apartment application process, lease management, physical apartment tours, as well as credit and background checks. It would certainly speed up the process.
“We’re committed to going where the renter needs to be, and we believe that means a frictionless leasing experience that allows a renter to move in a matter of days — not weeks,” he explained.
AI is still an untapped resource in real estate, but many companies are finally catching on. This is just one example.
“The pandemic served as an accelerant for adoption of all kinds of new tech in real estate – artificial intelligence included,” Nieves added. “MeetElise’s substantial growth in the last year is a clear indicator that the industry is embracing AI. That said, we’ve really just scratched the surface in terms of potential applications of AI in real estate.”