The process of buying a home hasn’t changed a great deal since the 1930s. Sure, there are a few more mortgage loans available, agents have mobile phones and websites, and there's third-party syndication, but there hasn’t been any major, disruptive thinking in the overall home buying system. Until now.
While those in a position to qualify to buy a home are fortunate, it can still be one of the most complex, difficult, and emotional experiences in your life. And not just for the buyers--it’s often equally complicated for real estate agents and even the banks. The equation of rapidly rising or declining prices, competition for the ideal home, title companies, inspectors, and indecipherable documents can lead to a recipe for disappointment and confusion.
After going through the process of buying apartments and homes themselves, the founders of Doorsteps  decided to quietly change this complicated system by explaining each stage of the home buying process in-depth and involving all required parties--buyers, agents, mortgage lenders, and banks.
Doorsteps is like Baby Center meets Basecamp for home buying--they want to restore trust and respect in the home buying process and help buyers "see behind the curtain” so they don’t feel misled during their home buying experience. Buyers get unbiased, comprehensive advice for how to make all major decisions and complete all their to-dos right within the app, so that ultimately, they are more organized and empowered at every step. It's the perfect time, and application, to help rethink and redefine the home buying journey.
Doorsteps believes that a portion of the problem in the home-buying experience is the fragmentation; buyers are already pulled in multiple directions and this only adds to the confusion. Doorsteps aims to be the one place where the entire home buying journey can be understood, and ultimately accomplished.
I first met Doorstep's founder, Michele Serro, about seven years ago during a partnership project with IDEO, and I came to really appreciate her genuine, empathetic approach to problem solving. Michele recently explained that she doesn’t “want a world where people lose their homes to foreclosure. Or, on the flip side, who don’t even consider buying a home in their lifetime because they have the wrong information.” Michele doesn't want home buyers to be filled with stress, confusion and ultimately regret. She wants to make the experience what it should be: wonderful.
After speaking with Michele, I noted the following six observations that are helpful when thinking about disrupting legacy systems:
What's the Problem You're Trying to Solve?
Be fanatically clear about the problem you're trying to solve, because many startups and product teams swirl around the issues and get lost. For example, Doorsteps has a product goal to evolve into a "hub" application that allows stakeholders to self-organize according to their own unique journeys. The buyer profile data they will obtain will not only help the agent and lender, but other key stakeholders along the way to find and coordinate their services seamlessly with the home buyers. This will allow the home buyer to have confidence and clarity to make every decision in their own best interest.
What's Your Headline?
Make your purpose clear, and create it into a compelling headline. Doorsteps’ headline is that they want you to find, finance, and move into a home in the most confident, smart, and delightful way possible. They want you to love every single minute of it, and have full confidence in every decision you make.
Prioritize Your Ambitions
Whether you're a startup or an innovation team, once you've specified the problem you're aiming to solve, you realize this is only the beginning. When creating and implementing strategies, it's important to remember to be disciplined and follow an agile approach. Of course you will want to find a way to accomplish your goals, but most importantly, you will want to find the right way.
Know How You'll Grow
Envision how the concept is scalable, repeatable and sustainable. The Doorsteps’ process begins by offering agents an extensive tool to help connect with, organize, and ultimately empower their buyers. In the future, Doorsteps will be incorporating other stakeholders directly into the journey, such as lenders, escrow agents and title companies. Ultimately, Doorsteps aims to be a hub for individuals, paperwork, and businesses involved in the journey.
Don't Be Afraid to Think Big
Don’t be afraid to have a bold vision, but ensure you have the discipline to be able to break that vision down into achievable steps. Doorsteps has only taken the first of many steps planned to reach the ultimate vision. You will want to be perfect, comprehensive, and complete from day one, but you can’t always be, so learn to accept this.
Embrace and Encourage User Feedback
We live in a world today where engaging our users has become a part of the ongoing building and improvement process. The Doorsteps’ team reads and reviews as a team, and answers every single email they receive from agents, buyers, and lenders. One of Doorsteps’ core principles is to be human in everything they do, so they are fully transparent about how they work and what they’re trying to accomplish. So, if you use their product and there’s something specific you’d like to see changed, tell them. This transparency is what is required to truly disrupt a legacy, and the passion of your users to help change your prototypes into dream product experiences.
Shawn Parr is the Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond , an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie's Homegrown, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision. Follow the conversation at @BULLDOGDRUMMOND .
[Image: Flickr user Piermario ]