ReallyONE, a real estate broker founded and operated by a group of veteran agents, partnered with Facet Digital to re-imagine their brand and give life to their vision of an all-new web application meant to disrupt the real estate industry by automating the process of buying and selling real estate online and charging sellers significantly lower commission fees totaling only 1%.
ReallyONE was founded by a family leadership team that has been in the real estate game for nearly three decades. Their vision is to disrupt the real estate industry the way e-Trade did for stock brokerages and Expedia did for travel agencies. They want to automate the process of buying and selling homes online in a day and age where the tech savvy customer has all the tools and know-how to do their own research, and doesn’t feel the need to pay 6% commission for an agent to fill out paperwork for them.
According to ReallyONE CEO, Sam Owens, “The Internet has taken much of the guesswork out of buying a home. Online sites allow you to take virtual tours and gather tons of data so the decision is generally made before you preview the home. A Realtor’s traditional role does not apply in most of today’s market.”
ReallyONE needed to design, architect, and build a simple web-based application that would allow a novice computer user to enter property data and, with automated guidance, get their home listed and sold, while making sure all parties were compliant and met expectations. The ReallyONE team needed an end-to-end product development partner that could understand their domain knowledge, translate their requirements into a streamlined online workflow, wrap it in modern web best-practices, and launch it.
The backend technology would need to be built for rapid scalability without over-engineering and breaking their startup budget. Market conditions demanded a short launch timeline for supporting seller transactions in time to catch a hot seller’s market that was building up. Lean planning dictated the need to prove market validation on the biggest leap-of-faith assumption: that sellers would handle certain tasks themselves, without a live agent, such as uploading property photos and submitting their own listing applications, in exchange for savings thousands of dollars in commissions.
Facet Digital’s technical team would need to integrate with many legacy third-party systems like MLS services, county tax records, and title/escrow companies. Designing modern software to seamlessly integrate with an aging industry that has been doing real estate the same way for over a century would be no trivial task. Branding a compelling user experience on a small budget would not be easy when competing for mind-share against established online players with multimillion dollar design budgets and a high bar for UX.
The Facet team members were not domain experts in real estate at the beginning of this project. Fortunately, we have a disciplined discovery process that enabled us to quickly ramp up the domain knowledge needed to build out the initial feature definition for ReallyONE’s MVP (Minimum Viable Product). After a series of “war room” discovery sessions with the ReallyONE founders, we were able to identify all the steps in the workflow for closing a real estate transaction. Through a collaborative process of detailed wire-framing, pixel-perfect design mockups, and user storyboarding, Facet designer, Leif Jensen and team were able to produce a compelling product story and feature set for Facet engineers Jeremy Groh and Scott W. Bradley to architect to. This “Phase 1″ discovery process was the key to critical knowledge transfer, empowering Facet with enough domain knowledge to automate the minimum set of real estate transactions that were needed to prove out the market viability of the product.
By creating a modular software architecture that could connect custom-developed software services, third-party technologies, and human input/output, we were able to take a “man behind the curtain” approach to keeping the launch budget lean. Certain tasks can be managed behind the scenes by a designated agent – all unbeknownst to the user – until the business performance indicators identify which system components need to be automated to cut costs and improve operational efficiency. The theory is that when the agents behind the curtain become too busy to handle the manual workload, this is an indicator that the business is bringing in enough revenue to fund its own further development to automate these areas and enable future growth.
Product development commenced using the Kanban methodology with a focus on efficient, short delivery cycles and tight feedback loops. Post-launch, the same process is used to rapidly adapt to market feedback with the just-in-time delivery that is the hallmark of the Lean Software development philosophy.
Over the years, sites like Priceline, E-Trade, Expedia, and more recently, Uber and AirBnB have provided a means for the consumer to take more control and save significant amounts on the middle-man in their respective industries. Using traditional, time-tested real estate best practices combined with modern, efficient technology solutions, ReallyONE’s online system guides buyers and sellers through everything from listing your home on 1000s of real estate websites to signing the final closing forms.
This MVP release focused on the needs of the tech-savvy homeowner, to safely navigate the home-sales process with automated technology, backed by the watchful eye of a licensed, experienced broker, all while saving 5% commission fees when compared to traditional brokers.
Home sellers have a powerful system that steps them through everything from listing their home to signing the final closing forms in ways that are simple and intuitive – all within our application. We’re making it easy for home buyers who know what they’re looking for to find a home and quickly move through the process of scheduling property visits, inspections, asking questions, and closing the paperwork. Either side of the transaction gets a streamlined feel of modern online tools, the market reach of premier MLS services, and the comfort of knowing that there is always a live real estate agent behind the scenes auditing your transactions to make sure they are complete, correct, and optimal.