Is A.I. a Threat to Manhattan Beach Real Estate?

If you're reading this today, you probably lived through the "golden age of the internet."

And you probably know that today is no golden age.

Rather swiftly, "large language models" (LLMs) powered by artificial intelligence have helped to proliferate gobs of useless, sometimes bogus content online. Google is beginning to display search results using A.I. summaries that can be hilariously wrong. (Hilarious, but really profoundly sad.)

One wag has referred to the impact of A.I. as the "ensh*ttification of the internet."

And it's even hitting Manhattan Beach.

We were browsing the web not long ago – remember browsing the web? – and stumbled across some content on a site that purports to educate people about Manhattan Beach real estate and neighborhoods. (We're not going to name or link to the site, to protect the innocent.) 

A string of articles on the site, which appear to be A.I.-produced, contain a mix of generic observations, pre-chewed summaries of actual facts about Manhattan Beach, and head-thumpingly wrong "facts" and advice about real estate here. For example:

  • An article about great streets in town refers to Valley Drive in the Hill Section. Valley Drive does not exist in the Hill Section, although one border of the Hill Section is Ardmore, which runs parallel. Innocent mistake? Not when you also see that the the always-busy highway is referred to as a "serene escape" with "a tranquil ambiance" that is "known for its spacious single-family homes, expansive lots, and panoramic views." Can we agree that not one word of that salad refers to Valley Drive?
  • The same "great streets" article headlines The Strand as a great street (good job, robot!) but also singles out Ocean Drive as an "exclusive street" (or you could say "alley"). Ermmm...
  • An article about El Porto first notes the area's "reputation" as a tightly packed neighborhood, then says, falsely, "El Porto offers generous 30x90-foot standard lots." El Porto does not offer such lots almost anywhere. The overwhelming majority of El Porto (north of Rosecrans) consists of what we'd call half lots, 30' x 45'. It's a distinguishing feature. The few "full" lots that exist are mostly developed as 2-unit townhomes.

  • Discussing the types of real estate available in town, one article mentions condos and townhomes, and says they "attract tenants or buyers with amenities such as pools and gyms." The problem: There is no set of condos or townhomes in the city of Manhattan Beach that offers a gym. Manhattan Village has two pools and roughly 1,000 hot tubs (someone fact check, please), but, famously, no gym. Now, Chicago may be another story...
  • One article advises potential home buyers to "prioritize" homes with "dedicated parking spaces," since street parking can be competitive. We cannot imagine actually speaking to a person and offering this advice. Homes in Manhattan Beach are required to have garages and on-site parking. It's not some random amenity that only appears from time to time. And what is anyone supposed to make of the same article's advice to consider "parking challenges that may arise" during the winter months? Robot, are you trying to say that it might snow?

  • As climate change creates new risks almost everywhere (snow?), one article purports to provide advice regarding flood risks for Manhattan Beach properties. Warning that during severe storms or high tides, "certain low-lying areas may experience flooding," the article fails to say where in Manhattan Beach that might be, or if it has ever happened within the past, say, 100 years. The article does laud the city of Manhattan Beach for "proactive" efforts to prevent flooding, then gives two examples that have never happened here: construction of seawalls and "periodic sand replenishment." Are we talking about Manhattan Beach here, or just, maybe, "places on the planet"?
  • One post about the seasonality of the local real estate market cites Summer as the "peak season" for real estate sales in Manhattan Beach. Once again, we cannot imagine saying this out loud to another person. It's not correct advice. It's generically true of the real estate market in the United States that Summer is typically busier, partly because it's a time of year when people can actually go outside in some parts of the country that are bone-chillingly cold when our real estate market is getting busy (February, March, April). But no. Summer is the second-sleepiest time of year in the market here, not the "peak."
  • A roundup of architectural styles in Manhattan Beach focuses, weirdly, on "tall-skinnies" in the Sand Section. We have not heard this term used by anyone, ever, in Manhattan Beach, to describe typical 3-story vertical homes by the beach. You will hear the term "tall and skinny" to refer to some homes in Redondo Beach's Golden Hills neighborhood, and perhaps along parts of Valley and Ardmore in MB, where 25' wide lots predominate. We DO find online that "tall-skinnies" are the talk of the town in Nashville, Tennessee, where some new, dense development is being built in that style. Nashville's pretty close, isn't it?

We could go on and on, but we're kind of leery of repeating any more of this false information, only to have Google and various LLMs capture it, digest it and regurgitate it back to some future reader. 

How does any of this happen?

People with websites need content.

One reason is to get eyeballs – to lure readers and keep them on the site. (Crap content is not very effective at keeping readers, however.) Another, often dominant concern, is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You want Google to read your site, figure out what it's about and recommend it to people who are looking for information.

With LLMs, anyone can be a writer, a content producer, a publisher. You don't have to do any research or spend any time writing, you just have to know what kind of content you wish you had. Draft a question ("prompt") and, in seconds, you have an article of any length, style or level of detail that you order.

The articles we've referred to above should have passed by some local humans' eyes before they were posted. You probably couldn't cure the rank insipidness of the articles without major rewrites, but you could at least avoid the howling mistakes.

The "golden age" of the internet – if it ever existed – was a time when people were more dedicated to creating unique, accurate articles, web pages and resources, and Google was good at finding them, ranking them, and helping you to learn what you wanted to know.

That's still what we try to do here on MB Confidential, both to educate and to entertain, and – not incidentally – to showcase our expertise on local real estate. (See our "About Manhattan Beach" articles, just for instance.) Helping local buyers and sellers is how we feed our family, so we want you to know that we know this area, and this business.

If we ever tell you that Summer is a peak season for finding a Hill Section condo with a gym on "tranquil" Valley Drive, and to be sure to prioritize parking and watch out for flooding, you will know that robots have taken over our website, and that you should go hire someone else.


Disclosure: Two images used in this article were A.I.-generated. Because, of course.

Please see our blog disclaimer.

Listings presented above are supplied via the MLS and are brokered by a variety of agents and firms, not Dave Fratello or Edge Real Estate Agency, unless so stated with the listing. Images and links to properties above lead to a full MLS display of information, including home details, lot size, all photos, and listing broker and agent information and contact information.

Based on information from California Regional Multiple Listing Service, Inc. as of July 18th, 2024 at 4:55am PDT. This information is for your personal, non-commercial use and may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties you may be interested in purchasing. Display of MLS data is usually deemed reliable but is NOT guaranteed accurate by the MLS. Buyers are responsible for verifying the accuracy of all information and should investigate the data themselves or retain appropriate professionals. Information from sources other than the Listing Agent may have been included in the MLS data. Unless otherwise specified in writing, Broker/Agent has not and will not verify any information obtained from other sources. The Broker/Agent providing the information contained herein may or may not have been the Listing and/or Selling Agent.