If someone walked into my office 10 years ago and told me that someday real estate agents would have chatbots screening their leads online, I would have laughed in their face. Well, I would have probably asked them if they needed an apartment in the East Village before they could even open their mouth, but yeah, I wouldn’t believe them.
Of course, today, along with virtual staging and 3D tours, real estate chatbots seem to be everywhere. Then again, QR codes were everywhere a few years ago too, so we began to wonder, are real estate chatbots a waste of time in 2020?
In order to find out, we took a deep dive into the weird and wonderful world of real estate chatbots to see if they’re still worth your time.
What Are Real Estate Chatbots?
If you’re like me and still remember when computers were beige and made funny noises to get online, then it will be helpful to familiarize yourself with some basic terms here. For example, what is a real estate chatbot? Real estate chatbots are small software applications that respond to a user’s typed questions with predetermined answers.
AI Chatbots vs Logic Tree Chatbots
Just like your fellow agents, some real estate chatbots are very smart, and others… not so much. The “smart” real estate chatbots generally use a simplified version of artificial intelligence (AI) in order to provide more nuanced answers to a lead’s questions. Essentially, these chatbots can “learn” from interactions with other leads and (hopefully) give them better answers to their questions.
The not-so-smart chatbots are basically like the automated phone trees used by your cable company that all non-robots seem to hate: “To hear your balance, say balance or press 3.”
Instead of learning through interaction, the not-so-smart real estate chatbots are programmed to spit out certain answers or links based on what your lead types. Sometimes they work like the “press one for accounts, 2 for billing” phone systems and only allow leads to select certain questions to ask, and provide preprogrammed answers to those questions only.
Add the Human Touch for the Best of Both Worlds
Of course, as with most things in life, a combination approach will probably work best for chatbots. For example, a tool like Freshchat lets you build a custom real estate chatbot to interact with your leads using Freddy, their artificial intelligence bot, but still lets you or an assistant jump in whenever you want to.
Even better, you can set your chatbot to start chatting with leads based on what they do on your website. For example, clicking over to a listing page might trigger a chatbot to set up a showing. They also offer chat campaigns, and even let you engage with your leads on WhatsApp. Visit Freshchat below to learn more about adding the human element to your website’s chatbot.
Next, let’s take a quick look at the differences between chatbots that live on your website vs chatbots that live on your Facebook Page.
Real Estate Chatbots for Your Website
The most common place agents or teams have real estate chatbots is on their website. The chatbots generally pop up in the lower right-hand corner of the page and offer to answer questions for their leads.
These chatbots can be third-party plugins that they add to their WordPress website or a website they’ve built using a platform like Real Geeks or Propertybase. They can either be the “smart” chatbots that use artificial intelligence, or the “not so smart” kind that are simply programmed.
Real Estate Chatbots for Your Facebook Page
Through their Messenger platform, Facebook also offers agents the ability to preprogram a chatbot to interact with leads on their Facebook Page. You can actually program a simple chatbot using a site like ManyChat, then use a “message” button on your Facebook Page that will encourage your leads to message via Facebook Messenger instead of calling, visiting a page, and so forth.
While they’re the “not so smart” chatbots, they offer one amazing benefit that the others don’t: They require a user to be logged into Facebook to interact with them. That means no more anonymous “how much for the house?” messages to answer.
You can also get the Facebook chatbots to use as a plugin on your website. Instead of anonymous questions, leads will be forced to login to Facebook to use the chat feature on your site. Once they interact with your Facebook chatbot, you can then sign them up to receive updates via Facebook Messenger instead of email. One study found that open rates for Facebook Messenger ads were 180% higher than email.
How Agents, Teams & Brokerages Use Chatbots in 2020
How agents, teams, and brokerages use real estate chatbots depends on whether or not they’re using “smart” chatbots or simple ones. But for both cases, most use chatbots to be able to offer an instant response to leads on their website or Facebook Page.
As you’ve probably learned if you’ve been working as an agent for more than a year or two, buyers and sellers today expect you to reply nearly instantly, and can and will abandon your page for one that offers them that instant gratification. You might think they’re spoiled, but how many times have you left a website because you didn’t feel like emailing or calling them?
Here are a few other ways agents, teams, and brokerages use real estate chatbots in 2020:
To Increase Engagement Rates on Their Website
The psychology of why people decide to reach out to you from your website is dead simple. They want to know if you might be a good fit for their transaction in the future. However, there is an entire industry called CRO (click-through rate optimization) that studies and tests ways to increase the likelihood of a site visitor reaching out to you.
The most important criteria by far is how easy you make it for them. They may not want to call you yet for several reasons, but mostly because it’s more work for them. They’re thinking they might get trapped in a 20-minute call and be forced to listen to your hard sell because they’re polite. Email is the same. But chatting is a low-effort and instantly rewarding way for them to reach out to you.
To Get More & Better Contact & Personal Info From Top-of-the-Funnel Leads
People love using throwaway email accounts to reach out to real estate agents. If you’ve ever shopped for a new car, you know exactly why they do it. Good salespeople in any industry are proactive, and persistent.
For bottom of the funnel leads who are very close to a transaction, they might actually welcome eager salespeople so they can pull the band-aid off and get the ball rolling. Top-of-the-funnel and mid-funnel leads aren’t quite there yet. They just want casual information while they slowly educate themselves about the market. This is why top-of-the-funnel leads can be shy about leaving contact info.
However, if you use a smart real estate chatbot, or a simple one that uses Facebook Messenger, you will get more and better contact information for top-of-funnel and mid-funnel leads. Why? Chatbots using Facebook Messenger’s platform forces them to sign in to Facebook to ask you questions. Response rates for Facebook messages are many times higher than response rates for emails. Even better, some smart chatbots allow leads to get your response via text message with equally high response rates.
To Screen & Segment Leads Into Their CRM
Smart chatbots will allow you to ask all kinds of screening questions and then parse the answers into your customer relationship management (CRM) software. That might sound pretty basic, but is usually far more information about your lead than you might get from a form, email, or open house sign-in sheet.
Chatbots can be programmed to get simple information like what they’re looking for, when they need to move, or other information that will be useful to nurture them properly.
To Schedule Showings or Calls
You can also use smart chatbots to schedule showings or calls and get a little more information along the way. Sure, you can do this with other plugins for your site, but chatbots feel a little friendlier and will likely increase the odds of someone setting an appointment.
To Help Site Visitors Find What They Are Looking for Faster
Let’s face it, many of us will ask a sales clerk where we can find an item in the supermarket rather than looking at the signs above each aisle. Why? It’s faster, and more importantly, that’s what the clerks are there for.
But there’s another reason stores have employees to help people find what they need. It offers them a chance to steer that shopper to something else they want to sell them. On your website, if someone engages with a real estate chatbot about what they’re looking for, you can then recommend properties that fit that criteria, but you can also upsell to other properties you want to move.
To Send Drip Sequences via Facebook Messenger
Another way to use chatbots is to send your leads drip sequences via Facebook Messenger. You can send them listing updates, educational material, or anything else you want.
How Much Do Real Estate Chatbots Cost?
Since real estate chatbots are relatively new technology, pricing is all over the place. You can build a simple real estate chatbot for free using ManyChat or another chatbot builder, and then use a free plugin for your WordPress website.
However, if you want a smart real estate chatbot without the learning curve, you’re going to have to open your pocketbook. Structurely, for example, charges $179 per month for their advanced chatbot that uses AI and integrates with real estate CRMs and lead generation websites like Kunversion, Chime, Real Geeks, LionDesk and more.
Where to Get a Real Estate Chatbot
There are a ton of options for either building or buying a real estate chatbot online in 2020. Here are a few good options for both building your own not-so-smart DIY chatbot, or buying a smart AI chatbot.
‘Smart’ AI Real Estate Chatbots
Here are our picks for the best “smart” real estate chatbots that use AI to engage your leads on your website:
Pricing: Free to $139 per month
Pricing: $179 to $499 per month
Pricing: $119 to $149 per month
DIY Real Estate Chatbot Builders
If you’d rather roll your own, here are our picks for the best DIY real estate chatbot builders.
Pricing: Free to $10 per month
Pricing: Free to $299 per month
Pricing: Free to $15 per month
Press Zero to Speak to a Human: The Case Against Real Estate Chatbots
Well, there’s no real way to put this delicately, so we’ll just come out and say it. Many people HATE being pawned off onto a robot. Who can blame them? The message they get is that you care so little about them that you can’t be bothered to give them some simple human attention. Worse, it signals that you’re so busy you don’t have the time for them. Since they’re looking for someone to help them with what will likely be one of the most stressful transactions of their lives, this is the opposite of the message you want to send.
Instead of a chatbot, why not just install a basic live chat plugin and hook it up to your phone? Unless you’re dealing with a ton of leads, you have two minutes to answer their questions. If you don’t, you should hire someone who can. You can hire someone overseas for a song who will hold down the fort and only contact you if they have a good lead for you.
Instant Gratification = $$$: The Case for Real Estate Chatbots
According to National Association of Realtors (NAR) research, Millennials made up 37% of homebuyers, and there is only one direction that number will go. Up. So if you want to grow your referral base and retire someday, you need to understand what Millennials want from you. The answer is simple, if a little intimidating. They want everything and they want it yesterday. Why shouldn’t they? They’re the ones building the jaw-dropping tech that gives them answers to almost literally any question they have instantly.
They also don’t want to bother with your clunky lead capture forms. They expect answers immediately and know that they can jump to the next eager agent who will provide them that answer when they want it.
So why not give them what they want? You can program your chatbot to alert you when you get a message so you can jump in any time if you want more control. Seems like a small price to pay to give your customer base over the next few years what they want.
Just remember to not rely too heavily on tech like chatbots. Yes, many leads will want immediate answers, but they also don’t like being totally pawned off onto a robot. So don’t try and fool them into thinking they’re chatting with a human, and make sure to at least offer them the ability to text or call you. So brush up on your emoji chops and start building a chatbot today!
Over to You
What do you think about real estate chatbots in 2020? Do you use one? Are you planning on adding one to your mix of real estate marketing tools? Hate them? Let us know in the comments or in our Facebook Mastermind group here.