Consumer SaaS and House Hunting

Grant MacLennan
Jan 20, 2018 · 3 min read

I’ve been thinking a bit recently about opportunities in consumer software and I reckon there’s two exciting areas:

  • Software to help a consumer be better in their professional life. Not software for their company, just for them individually to preform better.
  • Software to help consumers in the “business” bit of their life. Think the admin tasks involved with mortgages, home utilities, finance.

It may be the age group I’m in, but I’m really starting to feel the annoyance of “life admin”. I’m continually identifying tasks I’m having to do — or keep track of — and thinking “why isn’t there an app for this!”. (A topic Zal Bilimoria @ az16 wrote about)

Couple this… with being in a couple. Lots of my “life admin” should be collaborative with my wife but the setup of existing systems make it really difficult to either collaborate or split the work load. For instance my electricity provider only allows one login per account. In my case it’s my wife — I don’t have a clue how to access it…

The biggest bit of admin I have right now is finding and buying a house. I’ve downloaded all the usual apps and their all sh*t. Who are they designed for? House buying is (quite often) a collaborative task but none of these apps take that into account! Here’s my usual flow:

  • Take a look at my RightMove saved search, or get a email notification.
  • Click on the property and have a read. Either dismiss it or put it to the back of my brain.
  • My wife either texts or emails me a link to a property.
  • Take a look at the link. Dismiss or put it to the back of my brain.
  • Reply to wifes text asking if we need anything from Tesco.
  • Eventually think I should view some propetys. Return to the saved search again seeing all the properties I’ve dismissed while trying to pick out the ones I’ve put to the back of my brain.

Pretty inefficient, and I’m sure I’ve missed some perfect properties.

What I’d like is:

  • See a property and make an initial binary decision. If I say no, never show that property to me again.
  • If I save it, put it into some sort of list that both my wife an I have access to.
  • Notify me if my wife adds a property — I then don’t need to see this property in the search.
  • A discussion thread between my wife and I ATTATCHED TO THE PROPERTY.
  • Book viewing direct from the property view.

After a morning driving round the suburbs I thought I’d have a crack at building it. Problem is that it’s Saturday and I don’t want to spend ages doing it. So I need to think of a way to mash existing services together.

RightMove don’t have a public API. But they do send email alerts on notification of added properties that match a saved search. I’d been thinking a bit about email as a public API and this fitted that thought pretty well. This is what I wanted:

  • Sign up to RightMove with a specific email address. (one that is only for this task)
  • Set up some save searched and switch on immediate email alerts for them.
  • When a new property is added RightMove sends an email alert to my special inbox. The inbox is actually a AWS Simple Email Server. The AWS SES fires off a AWS Lambda function that parses the html in the email to pull out the details (Address, Price, Description, Photos, Link).
  • The Lambda function takes the parsed data and creates a card in a shared Trello (between my Wife and I).
  • This means we only ever see new properties (and never see properties we’ve chucked) and then keep discussions in the context of the property (in the card thread).
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Also, inspired after a morning driving from property to property… it automatically generates a google maps route to drive to each of them:

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If anyone wants one of these setup let me know.

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