AI real estate platform OfficeBlocks launched

By Valerie Kor / EdgeProp Singapore | October 23, 2020 6:00 AM SGT
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - The future is now — using an AI platform, a property investor who takes a picture of a building with a mobile phone can now receive its rental estimates and value in their email within minutes.
This can be done via the Market Intelligence App within OfficeBlocks — a commercial real estate industry-first AI and big data tool launched on Oct 15. The platform is a product of the partnership between real estate consultancy JLL and Risk Integrated, a risk management company founded by PhD aerospace engineers.
“The app is powered by multiple AI algorithms. It can analyse the facade of the building and gain an appreciation of the age, size, quality as well as location of the building, which can give estimates of rental or market value effectively, within 10% accuracy,” says Yusuf Jafry, managing director at Risk Integrated and director at OfficeBlocks.
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He draws a parallel with how humans assess information. “It’s similar to how our brains can assess some idea of value and quality from visual impressions. The AI tries to emulate the ability of a human, but you can get more insights from an AI,” Jafry adds.
Aside from the Market Intelligence App, OfficeBlocks offers two other tools. There is the Portfolio Intelligence Platform, which helps investors to list out all the properties and conducts a risk and return assessment when an investor is thinking of acquiring or divesting assets. “At the click of a button, the platform will immediately assess the impact and contribution to your portfolio,” says Jafry.
The third platform, the Risk Intelligence Platform, helps investors to analyse the risk of their commercial property portfolio by analysing multiple data-points. “When you acquire an overseas property, you may have many investors and various lenders involved. You may end up with multiple tiers of loans and in different currencies. These complex factors affect the risk and return of the property investment,” Jafry explains.
OfficeBlocks leverages real estate data from JLL — which covers 14 countries and 50 over cities, drawing from two million data-points — and its domain expertise, and uses predictive models via vast datasets of building images, physical attributes, historical rents and location data, says Roddy Allan, chief research officer at JLL Asia Pacific and director at OfficeBlocks.
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“The more information and data that is gathered, the more accurate the tool will be. The technology could potentially predict today’s market rents for any building, anywhere,” he adds.
The OfficeBlocks mobile app is free and there is also an advanced enterprise tool available on mobile and desktop. The enterprise solution is on a pay-as-you-go cost model. The price of usage varies, depending on each user’s requirements.
According to the company, the tool is timely since Covid-19 travel restrictions are limiting property investors’ ability to travel. A property investor can also explore cities via this app through the Google Street View component, take pictures and get insights immediately on whether to invest.
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The initial launch of these AI platforms will be in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok and Seoul. OfficeBlocks plans to fully cover these cities within the next six months. Allan adds that key markets in the Asia Pacific region, such as Tokyo, Osaka and Melbourne, will follow.
OfficeBlocks’ end-goal is to cut down on time spent on physical visits, data analysis, as well as email and phone enquiries with physical brokers and agents, who will not be armed with rapid and accurate up-to-date data.
However, the two directors of OfficeBlocks reckon that the tool will not replace human middlemen, like property agents, entirely. Jafry says: “Machines do the legwork, and they’re good at it as they are not prone to errors like humans, but humans are still necessary to do the finessing and make judgements.”