OpenAI Deactivates all Real Estate Plugins — Redfin and Zillow Affected

September 29, 2023
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In May of this year, OpenAI—the firm behind the revolutionary chatbot ChatGPT—rolled out specialised plugins for real estate portals to integrate into their search query offerings.

But now it has emerged that the plugins were quietly deactivated just one month after release. Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman revealed how a conversation with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman prompted a swift response to revoke access to the plugins.

The story goes that research published by real estate news site Inman in June asserted that chatbots posed discriminatory risks in the financial sector, with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finding that financial institutions using chatbots to solve customer faced significant risks by integrating them into their services.

The CFPB highlighted how a chatbot's "effectiveness wanes as problems become more complex", but more worryingly, financial institutions risked violating legal obligations, eroding customer trust, and causing consumer harm when deploying chatbot technology.

In the same month, Inman also conducted and published its own research and findings, asking ChatGPT which neighbourhoods in particular regions in the US had predominantly Latinx, Jewish or black demographics.

While the results ChatGPT offered were reasonably accurate, Inman pointed out that the responses delivered by chatbots like ChatGPT could potentially be used for discriminatory reasons, with buyers specifically avoiding particular neighbourhoods based on 'unfair' questions that contradict the Fair Housing Act (1968).

As Inman put it:

"[The Fair Housing Act] bars discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex and family status. Significantly, though, it applies to 'direct providers of housing, such as landlords and real estate companies' as well as banks and other entities."

Furthermore, Sean Frank, co-founder and CEO of tech-focused Mainframe Real Estate in Florida, repeated the exercise and found that ChatGPT could be prompted to give responses that included links to real estate listings on Redfin's portal—in other words, consumers can search for and filter listings by filters that directly and overtly bypass the Fair Housing Act legislation.

Frank told Inman:

"[The Chatbot] thinks it’s being helpful.

"But it was just way too easy for it to say things that an agent couldn’t say."

A further 28-page report from Redfin was enough evidence for OpenAI to retract its real estate plugins with immediate effect.

Angela Cherry, spokesperson at Redfin said:

"We agree with their decision and are working together with OpenAI to ensure ChatGPT’s responses to users’ questions meet fair housing standards—an issue we raised with them and are optimistic that they’ll be able to address."

Meanwhile, Zillow is "pursuing other AI opportunities", according to spokesperson Claire Carroll:

"The generative AI space is fast-moving, and we’re excited about the ways it will help our customers and partners."

So—for now at least—OpenAI doesn't offer portals any plugins for real estate portals. How long will it take (if ever) for an AI chatbot to respond to customer enquiries without submerging agents in hot water?

September 29, 2023
Harvey is an experienced property journalist and copywriter. He has written about the property industry since 2015, starting at The Property Franchise Group in the UK, before moving to Spain to work for Spotahome. He has blogged for the private rented sector, ghostwritten for UK property experts and written case studies for franchise owners around the UK. Harvey joined Online Marketplaces as a News Editor in 2022.

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