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Luke: bringing AI to first-time home buying

New technologies, such as artificial intelligence, have finally begun spilling into the many different cracks of property and real estate transactions.

While algorithm-based decision making systems have improved efficiencies in ways thought impossible even five years ago, in some spots, it’s still better to have advice from a close friend or expert.

One of the clearest examples of this is buying a home, especially when it’s your first. When it comes to this massive purchase, usually the biggest of a person’s life at that point, it can be hard to find a clear voice that can point you in the right direction.

Luke, an AI personal assistant developed by RealFriends, is trying to provide that voice, and help make home buying simpler for first timers.

“When you go to buy a home or when we think about buying a home, we think about an emotional process. The process requires a lot of specific knowledge that you basically don’t have, and you don’t have anyone to consult with,” Luke CEO Hadar Landao said in an interview with FinLedger.

You may go to Zillow, for example, but you don’t know where to go from there. Add in the fact that Zillow sells your lead to agents (who millennials tend to distrust), and it gets to be a scary process for the first-time buyer.

“Unless your dad used to be a real estate agent, you are basically there alone. It’s a complex process. It takes time in New York City, usually over six months, sometimes even more. And this is why we’ve built Luke,” Landao said.

Who, or what, is Luke?

Image courtesy of Luke (RealFriends).

Luke, in essence, is a mobile app where you can ask questions, backed by real estate experts and AI that is available for you 24/7. Even when your real life Uncle Luke or cousin Vinny may not be.

The platform does offer listings to users, showing them homes and properties it finds they would be most interested in, but Landao says this is only a small part of the service. He says this information is already available on the internet, and that the most important part of Luke is giving users the expertise that they need.

Originally launched in Tel Aviv, Israel as Dooron (Luke’s older, Israeli “cousin”), RealFriends chose to launch Luke in New York City due to its market size and unique real estate obstacles. The company has grown to 80,000 base users in New York City, with a team of 50 spread between its R&D center in Israel and headquarters in New York.

“We decided to start in New York [City] because it’s the biggest market, and we thought that we need to tackle the hardest problems at the beginning. And once we solve the hardest problems then we can roll down to other markets,” Landao said, adding that the company plans to expand to Boston and Miami in the next quarter.

While COVID did affect the launch of Luke, with NYC remaining more silent than other markets through 2020, Landao says that the fourth quarter showed strong growth movement for the company. He says that the city has begun to move forward at a rapid pace, and that rising mortgage prices in the area means a big year is ahead for Luke.

“The main thing about our company is automating the advice part of the agent. We think that the advice is the only thing that you really need, because at the end of the day, looking at listings, getting the best listings, we’re doing it the best,” Landao said about the company’s focus moving forward.

“We will always send you the listings that really fits your criteria because we can chat with you like you’re chatting with your real estate expert, and then we are automating so we’re more efficient. But then the advice part, knowing what to really do, this is where we are focusing,” he said

In addition to expanding to Boston and Miami, based on popular user feedback, Luke also intends to expand its buying team and introduce mortgage consultation into the platform.

In the end, it plans to offer an end-to-end holistic team that can help users with everything they need to buy their first home in a safe, comfortable way.

“Looking a bit forward other than geographies, we’re going to be the best advisor for you in chat. This is our focus. This is our passion. And this is what we think is the most important part in this puzzle,” Landao said.

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