It used to be that game-changing innovations would come once per lifetime at best. For example, over 500 years passed between Gutenberg's invention of the printing press and the first digital printer. There was a time when generation after generation was effectively dealing with the same tools and technologies as the generation before them.

But times have changed, and now our world is disrupted and rapidly reinvented on an almost daily basis. Changes that used to occur over several generations can now happen in a decade or less. This is true across the globe and in every industry. No one is safe. And if the rapid rise of social networking has taught us anything, it's that the real estate industry is no different.

One of the biggest new technologies of the 21st century is artificial intelligence, the process by which computers are imbued with the ability to "think" like an intelligent being. To the uninitiated, this might sound a little too reminiscent of bad sci-fi movies, but the truth is that AI can "look" like any other piece of software. In fact, if someone built a robot, programmed it to use artificial intelligence and then sent it after you, you could easily outwit it by climbing a flight of stairs. But if they pitted it against the world's best Go player, they'd be in trouble.

Artificial intelligence and real estate might not seem like a decent fit at first, but think about it. If a piece of AI software can beat some of the most intelligent human minds on the planet, it could pose a serious threat to the average realtor.

If you work in real estate, then, you need to be aware of AI even if it's just as a potential threat. The good news is that AI is actually at its most effective when it's working alongside humans instead of replacing them, and the most successful real estate companies are likely to be the ones which accept this and which embrace AI and use it to revolutionize the way they do business. Here's why.

AI can increase the relevance of recommendations

When it comes to the real estate industry, the best way to get the best chance of securing a sale is to provide clients with the property that's perfect for them. Getting to know your clients will still require talented salespeople who are able to talk to them, to interpret their pain points and to find out exactly what they're looking for. They'll also need to be able to convert what they learn into data that an algorithm can understand.

The AI will then be able to take over by personalizing every customer interaction, bringing all of your marketing activity together in such a way that it can aggregate the data and figure out what will work best at every touchpoint. For example, it can tailor its messaging and the imagery it uses based on what's worked well for other, similar customers.

This will be particularly important when it comes to searching and browsing websites. If an AI-based algorithm can help to surface the perfect properties for each different viewer, you'll quickly become the go-to realtor in your area and beyond. It's all about finding smart ways to help AI to help you to do what you're already doing - but at a much more effective level.

AI can help you to better sell to people

Another of the advantages of AI is that it never sleeps. That means you can use AI-based bots to provide 24/7 coverage to customers who visit your website or your social networking profiles. They can "chat" with customers on your behalf and help you to make money even when you're asleep, and the office is closed.

Chatbots have been gaining in popularity for several years, and they're finally at the point at which they can (allegedly) pass the Turing Test. In other words, the best chat bots are now effectively indistinguishable from real people, and they can come in super useful when it comes to the way that we interact with realtors.

As far back as 2016, Inman conducted an experiment called Broker vs. Bot. They essentially asked realtors to compete with an AI bot called Find More Genius to see who could make the best recommendations. Perhaps inevitably, the real estate journalist who was acting as the buyer picked out the properties that were suggested by the AI bot.

The good news is that real estate agents will still be needed to draft contracts, answer telephones and show people around properties. It's just that they can use AI to automate much of the work and to free up their time to spend it on more profitable tasks.

Long-term relationship building

People don't just use a real estate company at one specific time in their life. Circumstances change and people need to sell their properties and move on or even decide to purchase second and third properties as investments or to rent them out. But despite that, realtors have historically focused on the here and now without thinking about the future. It seems like an inefficient use of time when there are sales to chase.

Now though, thanks to AI, they can continue to develop these long-term relationships through AI-based customer relationship management (CRM) systems. In fact, the technology is now so good that AI can predict whether people are likely to default on their loan or to fail a credit check. And this, of course, helps to cut down on delays and even allows real estate firms to function more profitably.

AI can even be used in the field of property management to monitor vital metrics and to predict when maintenance will be required or when errors might occur. It can even be used to monitor specific geographic areas and long-term trends in crime rates, property prices and more.

So it's clear, then, that AI and the field of real estate are a match made in heaven, and we shouldn't be surprised as they continue to grow closer and closer together in the months and years to come. The real question is whether you're going to be able to ride the wave and take advantage of new technologies or whether you're going to get left behind. It's up to you.