homebuddy

CHALLENGE

RESEARCH

OPPORTUNITY

CONCEPTS

SOLUTION

PROJECT SCOPE

Our project focused on streamlining the process of homebuying for millennials . Our client, Homebuddy, wanted to accomplish this by providing the user with a Homebuddy concierge that would guide them through all stages of the homebuying and home owning experience.

the client

Homebuddy is a startup that originally focused on custom home maintenance reminders based on recommended manufacturer’s maintenance timeframes. Their goal was to help new homeowners keep track of their things, and in the long run, saves them money. Their whole philosophy is to maintain something rather than wait for it to break.

KICKOFF MEETING AND CHALLENGE

The main goal of our meeting is to figure out where Homebuddy is trying to position itself in the market. Ryan, our primary client and Homebuddy’s CEO is essentially trying to shake up the real estate market, turning it from a relationship driven business, into a data driven business. Ryan wants to replace traditional real estate agents, and to an extent brokerages, with a Homebuddy service that will also serve as a concierge post closing.  

Our main takeaway from the meeting was that Ryan and his team need the research to see what their users want, and where Homebuddy could live as a product. They have tasked us with finding potential gaps in the market. Homebuddy does not have to be a digital product, it just needs to be a service where someone can come in and have someone help them with the entire home buying and home ownership process.

RESEARCH

After the client kickoff meeting, we realized that due to time constraints, we needed to find an opportunity in the user journey that would help Homebuddy thrive. In our research, we cast a wide net to find anything that would help bridge the gap between home buying and homeownership responsibilities.

The first thing I put together was a user journey experience of how the homebuying process could go for our target users. The journey map is based on domain research into how someone initiates the home buying process. I also went through the process of finding repair professionals on Angie’s List and Yelp.  Our Research Plan answered the following:

This user journey encompasses the whole home buying experience. I classified the home purchase as the middle point of the journey since Homebuddy wants to focus on both before the purchase and after the purchase.

Our team conducted multiple interviews with both millennial home buyers and millennial homeowners. We wanted to interview both to see if there were any disconnects during the transition of home buyer to homeowner. This also serves as an opportunity to gain insights and retrospective from the point of view of the homeowner, especially since they just went through the home buying process.

MILLennial motivation

The main motivation for buying a home is an investment. Millennial home buyers want to stop renting and start investing in their own property.

Millennials go to websites such as Zillow or Redfin to initiate the home buying process. Half of them finish the process through said websites.

A lot of millennials are also looking to buy newer homes so that they would not have to worry about structural damage or having to do repairs.

Our next step was to see why millennials would rather buy new than do maintenance. We found that 68% of millennials have regrets about buying a home, wishing they had been more prepared going into the purchase. One of the biggest regrets millennial homebuyers have is not understanding the costs involved to maintain a house.

realtor relationship

We assumed that the realtor is a wealth of information for our users so we did some research on their relationship with the home buyers. We found out pretty early on that not all realtors are created equal.

The realtor is an interesting avenue to explore, but it goes against Homebuddy’s business goal of replacing the realtor with a concierge service.

After speaking to our users, we spoke with some of  SMEs to find the gap within the home owning and home buying experiences. We spoke to two realtors and one home inspector to gain their perspectives on the process. We took our interview insights and mapped them according to goals, behaviors, motivations and frustrations.

Here I am leading the affinity mapping session for our user and SME interview synthesis.

Throughout the research phase, there were some very consistent things that jumped out at us about our user group: Millennial Home Buyers

the opportunity

Through interviews and domain research, we have discovered that the home inspection is the catalyst for a home purchase. According to our SMEs, 80% of homeowners who have the home inspection, go through with purchasing the property. The home inspection is the first time that our users are exposed to anything that could potentially go wrong in the property they are viewing.

With the data and the opportunity we found, we narrowed down the problem statement into a more concise part of the user journey. The most surprising avenue we found is the reactivity when it comes to repairs. We also found that a lot of users know very little about home maintenance. We thought that by narrowing down our scope, we could create a product that better serves our user’s needs.

concepting

After our research, we included the home inspection into our user journey because we identified it as the gap between home buying and home owning. Most millennials aren’t thinking about maintenance until this part of the process.

Our users responded to transparent information conveyed in a way familiar to them. Before designing and creating concepts, we kept these three design principles in mind.

These Design Principles were based on some of the user concerns about available content in the web. It is also used to make sure that we are motivating the user to think deeper about their homeowner responsibilities.

We kept these questions in mind:

• How do we motivate millennials to do home maintenance?
• Where does a concierge fit within the whole product we’re trying to make?
• How can we make the repair experience easier for millennials?
• How do we make sure that millennials are paying attention to their home inspection?

The first thing I considered in concepting is how the concierge would work within the product space. I diagrammed a flow exhibiting how the concierge would be connected to the user journey.

By diagramming a concierge flow, I was able to establish and visualize a middle man between the users and the repair companies.

Dashboard concept

An all in one hub for all of your home value, home appliance information, maintenance, repair and renovation needs.

With this concept, we are motivating millennials into maintaining their homes by associating a dollar value into what they are doing, or not doing. We also convey this information in a way familiar to millennials. We used a lot of visual hierarchy to highlight vital information.

The biggest feedback we received from user testing is that users need a way to know what is affecting the change in their home value. We also wanted to consider predictive future home value, as opposed to a past home value.

Scheduling Concept

A scheduling tool for homeowners to coordinate maintenance, repair and renovation requests with Homebuddy recommended professionals.

In creating this concept, we are eliminating a step in booking repair professionals. This concept sets up the concierge as a point of contact for initiating scheduling for repairs.

Our users found the service request helpful, but they found some flaws in our current concept. Users wanted a more concrete explanation of cost breakdowns and where they are coming from. Users also wanted choices when it came to choosing the repair professionals.

the final solution

We wanted to consider three things to incorporate in our MVP solution for Homebuddy:

• Encourage them to maintain their home
• Provide them data about their home
• Help them when they need repairs and maintenance

Homebuddy Dashboard

The Dashboard motivates the home owner by showing them their home value. Graphs of service histories are also included to predict home value into the future. The dashboard is the hub for monitoring everything in the house. Additionally, the dashboard has one distinct function:

By including the home inspection report and a functionality to find the service history for each appliance, we are giving the users access to the information that would usually come from the home inspector. We also included a button to initiate the process of repair scheduling with the Homebuddy concierge.

Repair Scheduling

The scheduler allows the user to seamlessly coordinate repairs and maintenance with a Homebuddy employee. The process starts with the description of the repair that needs to be done. This includes price approximations, and even text input for an opportunity to be really specific.

One of the features that we really considered to include in the scheduler is the ability to select availability. With this feature, it really removes the guesswork the concierge has to make when the user is not at their home during their home maintenance.

Through user testing, we found that users prefer choices when the concierge schedules an appointment for them. Users associate having one choice with shady business practices or sponsoring companies.

Click to view full Axure Prototype

future recommendations

Our client is in the process of incorporating Homebuddy 2.0 into their web platform and recently  been accepted into the New Venture Challenge accelerator. Here are some of his quotes about our work.

"You solved a problem that I've been trying to solve for months" - Ryan, CEO
"What you did in three weeks, I would not have been able to do in four months, and mine wouldn't be as good"
- Ryan, CEO

reflection

This project was very enjoyable for me because I got to explore a lot of concepts and got do a lot of research. I thought that the creation of the product went really smoothly and it really helped out some of the pain points of our users. We created this product with the first time home buyer in mind, but the product we created also serves current home owners as well.

The biggest thing I learned from this project is to always balance client and user needs. In the making of this product, I felt like I made a big contribution in making concepts and testing them with our users. I believe that my process of concepting is my strongest asset and this project helped me hone more. This project really allowed my research to be prominent. I tackled a lot of the UX strategy and planning in the beginning with our users to find and create our journey maps.

One of the things that I would do differently about the project is the testing. If we had more opportunity to test, I would have liked to see how a profile section and inviting family members to the platform would look like. With that profile section, I wanted to also explore how owning multiple homes would work. Finally, I would love to have seen the process of vetting the professionals and how to best aggregate all of the data to the users.

Overall, this project taught me a lot of things and really helped my strongest assets shine.

Interested in hearing more? Reach out to me and I'd love to talk through the rest of my process!