Reimagining the Home Buying Process
Purchasing your first home is a major life event. The process is filled with lots of questions, hours of research, and a handful of reality checks. For every moment of progress, it seems there are twice as many setbacks.
In the tension between expectation and reality, many first-time buyers find themselves in an exhausting whirlwind of emotions. We surveyed 59 buyers who purchased their first home within the last 7 years to understand the various emotional triggers.
First-time buyers have a difficult time prioritizing wants and needs against their budget.
Multiple communication channels across different applications leads to confusion.
Tracking documents, contact information, and coordinating schedules is a hassle.
The age of information has afforded a plethora of discovery resources. Apps like Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia have made the housing market easier than ever to navigate from the comfort of your pocket. The initial home search is the most exciting and dreamy stage of the process—full of possibilities.
Love, however, is blinding. These romantic first impressions of the market often lead to unrealistic expectations. In hindsight, buyers often reflect that they were naive and unprepared in the beginning.
We’re preapproved, but how much can we actually afford?
First-time buyers often enter the process with misguided expectations that lead to anxiety and frustration. They need to be prepared to make compromises between their wants, needs, and budget before viewing homes. By helping buyers define their priorities early and analyzing how their priorities affect their opportunities, a prioritization tool would equip buyers to enter the market with more realistic and aligned expectations.
Mortgage loans are a confusing and foreign concept to most first-time home buyers, and many do not discover how key factors of the loan affect their payment until it's too late. Although online educational articles and mortgage calculators like those found in Compass provide guidance to buyers, they are not often integrated. Addressing this need, we imagine an interactive educational tool that compares key mortgage factors and demonstrates their effect on a mortgage payment — providing buyers with both clarification and confidence before they begin their home search.
At this point, the search becomes official. While the ‘house hunting’ stage is initially exciting and full of anticipation, the longer the process drags on, the more frustrating the experience becomes. Beyond the sheer speed of the market, the biggest challenges over the course of the search are disjointed communication and tracking property visits.
It’s hard to find something decent in our price range.
Discovering and identifying potential homes is a fluid process — changing as priorities and markets change. Unfortunately, most home discovery lists are flat, inefficient, and lack capabilities to place the most immediately important homes in focus. Our vision remedies these problems through a centralized list to prioritize categories, simple interactions to rank potential homes, and smart behaviors to move homes into focus.
Our research also indicated buyers were frustrated with fragmented communication across multiple apps and channels. A single channel for all interested parties would be advantageous to coordinate schedules and quickly reference conversations. Building off applications like HomeSpotter and Folio, we envision a multi-user channel that includes document management, notifications, and property searching in one location.
Life just got real. The complex relationship between the appraisal, loan, and offer come together, leaving many first-time buyers confused and anxious. At this point, buyers feel disconnected from the process and unsure of what to expect next. Compounding this uncertainty is the intense fear of letting that one perfect home get away.
Inspections, lengthy final negotiations, and nitty-gritty financial details complete the trifecta of anxiety. Many buyers must weigh the severity of repairs against their desire to purchase a home or face the purgatory of house hunting again. Additionally, first-time homebuyers are often caught off-guard when their monthly payments differ from their expectations due to factors such as credit scores, down payment amounts, loan types, and local property taxes.
What should we be doing? We don’t know what to expect next.
First time home buyers cite touring homes as one of the most enjoyable aspects to the process; however, many buyers are unaware of what key areas of the home to review and how these might affect the cost of a home. By integrating a smart checklist, buyers would be better equipped to identify and estimate potential issues during the home tour to alleviate uncertainty and inaccuracy after the tour.
Coupled with the home tour checklist could be a repair tool to help users estimate potential costs for common repairs or renovations. By flagging issues through the checklist and providing custom details for each repair, the buyer could see a cost range in real-time. This feature would allow a buyer to save time and quickly pivot to other properties if costs outweigh their interest.