Has Great Potential! Meet Your A.I. Realtor

Has Great Potential! Meet Your A.I. Realtor

The spectre of artificial intelligence is worrying lots of workers, but one office is welcoming it with open arms and an apple pie in the oven. “There are many people who, at 2 a.m., are on their phones, looking at what’s on the market,” Fredrik Eklund, of the real-estate agency the Eklund Gomes Team, said the other day. He sat in the reception area of his Flatiron office wearing a pale-pink blazer, jeans, and thick black-framed eyeglasses. “Now they can talk to Maya. Her shop is open 24/7, and she is always there.”

Maya is a bot that melds ChatGPT with publicly available real-estate data. Eklund and his business partner, John Gomes, created her with Purlin, an A.I. company. She lives on the Eklund Gomes Web site, and her expertise can be utilized by anyone, for free. “You can ask her about open houses, what’s going on with interest rates,” Eklund said. “What she has that ChatGPT doesn’t—and I can say this, because she’s our daughter—is spunk.”

“She’s fun,” Gomes said. He wore a navy polo shirt, pleated pants, and round blue eyeglasses. “The thing about real estate is that it can be nerve-racking. We always try to bring the fun—”

“At our own expense, often,” Eklund interrupted. (Maya has so far set them back half a million dollars.)

“It’s about putting the shoulders down,” Gomes said. “You’re never gonna sell a twenty-million-dollar home to someone who’s got their shoulders all scrunched up. She had to have a personality that makes you want to come back.”

In anticipation of Maya’s launch, in September, Gomes and Eklund took her for a test-drive. They huddled in front of an iPad in their office kitchenette. After a couple of taps and swipes, a woman’s face, with a visage that could satisfy multiple diversity requirements but cannot be found in nature (purple-hued, poreless), filled the screen. “We knew that she was going to be sort of brownish,” Gomes said. Below Maya’s face, sample questions—“Why is NY so expensive?”—and a prompt to ask one of your own.

“If you’re satisfied with the answer, you give her a thumbs-up,” Eklund said. “If you’re not, thumbs-down—like, ‘Go back to school, Maya.’ ”

A test question was typed: “What is for sale in Tribeca for under $1 million?” Maya’s response, in a text bubble: “Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any listings that match your preferences.”

The West Village? Again, no listings.

“Try between three and five million,” Gomes said. “Make sure you use the dollar sign.”

Maya: “My investigation in West Village has revealed a treasure trove of properties that harmonize flawlessly with your wishes. . . . Fancy taking a closer look?” Eklund and Gomes whooped. A link was clicked. It revealed a house in the West Village neighborhood of Long Beach, California.

“Oh, no,” Eklund said. “Thumbs-down.” He tapped out a question with a less obvious answer: “Is Ryan Serhant”—a real-estate agent he appeared with on the reality series “Million Dollar Listing New York”—“more attractive than Fredrik Eklund?”

Maya: “Both incredibly successful,” but “beauty is subjective.”

“Thumbs-up,” Gomes said.

Next question: “Would it be a good idea to relocate from L.A. to New York?”

“Sorry—there’s no bongo-drum solo in this piece, either.”

Cartoon by Michael Maslin

Maya: “You should have a place in both cities. If you can afford it.”

“So diplomatic!” Gomes said.

“What might one get for $1 million in New York and L.A.?”

Maya: “Let’s be honest—not a lot.” Gomes cackled. Eklund grabbed the iPad and typed, “Who can sell me a town house in Greenwich Village?,” which led, for some reason, to a prompt for Maya to create a Beyoncé playlist. “Oh, this is brilliant,” he said, and gestured at the screen. “Look how Maya knows to call her Queen Bey.”

Janet Temidayo, an agent, walked in, and Gomes invited her to join them. “Ask her a question. Is she going to put you out of business?”

“I’d advise her to stay in her lane,” Temidayo said.

“You’ve got to put her in her lane,” Gomes said. “She only knows what you teach her.”

Temidayo sat down and typed, “What is the highest-selling new-development condo project in Harlem?”

Maya: “The Renaissance at 130th Street.”

“That’s not correct,” Temidayo said. “I don’t even know what the Renaissance is.” She asked about another new development project, resulting in another thumbs-down.

“I don’t think she’s so good with this term, ‘new development project,’ ” Eklund said.

“Something she needs to learn,” Gomes said.

Temidayo stood up and pointed at Eklund’s glasses on the table: “He’s missing a lens.”

“Oh, he doesn’t have any lenses,” Gomes said. “It’s all about the look.” ♦

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