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The GW Hatchet


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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Zillow exec talks using AI to optimize home buying process

Arwen Clemans | Staff Photographer
Zillow Chief Operating Officer Jeremy Wacksman speaks at the GW Business and Policy Forum in the Jack Morton Auditorium.

The chief operating officer of Zillow discussed how the company and other online real estate marketplaces use artificial intelligence to flag and compare property listings at the School of Media & Public Affairs on Tuesday. 

Jeremy Wacksman, who joined Zillow in 2009 and became the COO in 2021, said he is focused on using digitization to improve the real-estate company’s customer experience as buyer demand increases. The keynote was part of Tuesday’s Business and Policy Forum, a daylong event of keynote and panel discussions with policy and industry leaders focused on AI. 

Wacksman said Zillow started using AI in 2006 when the company introduced the Zestimate, an AI model that uses public, user-submitted data and other factors like market trends and location to determine an estimate of a home’s market value. He said the model now shows listings for over 100 million homes compared to 40 million in 2006, and the error rate for market listings decreased from 10 percent in 2006 to under 2 percent in 2024. 

“It continues to get better and learn every day,” Wacksman said. “Today’s version is powered by neural networks. It’s called the Neural Zestimate and it updates in almost real time.”

He said Zillow identifies their customers’ frustrations with the company’s current technology, sets goals and uses AI technology to meet those needs. 

Wacksman said Zillow’s new mission is to ease the home-buying process and alleviate the stress that comes with buying a new home. He said this mission led the company to start the ongoing project of developing their “housing super app,” which will allow users to access all steps in the home-buying process in one place. 

“AI is increasingly playing a role in building the technology to deliver this,” Wacksman said.

Wacksman said Zillow is looking to use AI to improve search tools and personalize listings so users can view homes that are tailored to their individual preferences. He said Zillow created their services to be compatible with mobile devices and the company is working to create a shopping experience for Apple’s Vision Pro virtual reality headset.

“These are all examples of using technology to drive forward for the consumer and thinking about how can AI reimagine some of the experiences we offer to the consumer,” Wacksman said.

Wacksman said Zillow is working to address the real estate industry’s long history of inequality using AI. He said the company is training AI models to follow fair housing guidelines using Zillow’s AI principles, which state Zillow’s AI use is guided by values like fairness, safety and accountability, transparency and inclusiveness. 

Housing disparities account for nearly 40 percent of a 3 trillion dollar wealth gap between Black and white households, according to a 2021 Zillow report.

Wacksman said part of innovating responsibly is making sure AI is used to combat fair housing issues. He said a “huge” responsibility for real estate companies is to ensure their AI technology does not deepen disparities in housing.

“This has been a problem for a long time,” Wacksman said. “It’s been a problem since the inputs that created redlining and it has not gotten better.”

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