the nonsense of buying a home

You grow up always being told how estate agents are the worst, but as I actually grow up (wife, kids etc) you realise that it’s not necessarily the estate agents but the system that is the worst.

Buying a house is archaic. It makes no sense.

The user experience of attempting to buy a house is non-existent and has so many flaws and bugs that I’d suggest a complete overhaul. Scrap the last x hundred years and start again. That, I know will not happen.

I’m not even going to touch on the subject of mortgages because that’s an even longer story.

We’re a small family, and so need a small family home to live in, not the hazardous ground floor and basement flat that we currently reside in. We’d need 4 stair gates due to stupid planning and tiny 2 step flights of stairs.

So, you look on one of the property sites and find yourself registered with 400 estate agents, receiving calls, emails and texts letting you know about the PERFECT property which is only £200,000 over your budget. Thanks but no thanks. Then, after months of this you find the ideal place. The this-could-be-my-home place. You go back and look again. “It’s perfect, we’ll come back to you with an offer.” It’s not like shopping for pants.

The formal offer is put in and then you have to wait.

Ring Ring “Hi, it’s the Estate Agent, just ringing to let you know that there has been 95 viewings of the house and everyone is interested so all of them are putting in an offer. There’s 95 (I’m exagerating — it was actually 8) offers on the table. Your’s has been rejected and we invite you to make your best offer.”

“um, so what else have people offered?”

“Well, everyone is in a different situation”

“ok, so what are the other offers”

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you”

Essentially, this has become a silent auction. It’s not homes under the hammer. There’s no way to find out where you stand. They can’t tell you it’s the lowest bid, or the second highest bid or hell, it might be the highest bid and they just want us to put a higher offer in (more commision or something). So…

“ok, here’s our top offer, is that ballpark what they are looking for?”

“I can’t tell you sir” really — is this a sensible business, is it any wonder people tell you that estate agents are the worst?

He went on to tell me that I was a smart guy and that they would come back to me in the morning.

I knew from the moment I put the phone down that we weren’t getting the place, however perfect it was it definitely wasn’t worth punting an extra £20k on because, something else will come up.

We’re happy in our small flat and when the time is right we’ll move on. But today, it wasn’t to be and the continuous nonsense of trying to buy a house will continue.

So, what would I suggest? Where could the business benefit from some serious UX? I’d start with the bidding process. Maybe an ebay style system might be a bit far but it could be nice. I imagine it would be great for the seller. I think the key is that the Estate Agents have to be more helpful. Our guy was great but I honestly don’t think it was his fault, it’s an archaic system that needs to change. Perhaps the agencies could introduce a system where other people can see how many viewers have been to the property and perhaps a system where you are advised about whether the bidding has gone over your maximum budget. I’m thinking off the top of my head here but you get my picture. Focus on the user and make it a more simple system that everyone can benefit from.

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