Redesigning Real Estate

How Opendoor is designing a better way to buy and sell homes

Paul Clayton Smith
Oct 3, 2018 · 10 min read

The problem with real estate

The way we buy and sell houses hasn’t changed much in the past 150 years. Most people still use agents to facilitate the sale, following a process established in the 1800s. Sellers still repair, stage, and hold open houses to sell their homes. Buyers still fill their Sundays with open houses to view homes for sale. Completing a sale still requires an overwhelming amount of correspondence, coordination, paperwork, and in-person appointments. Nothing is easy, nothing is seamless. Nothing meets the one-click expectations of our modern digital world.

Inconvenient at best

For sellers, the traditional model is especially painful. In many areas of the country, people need to create a “show-ready” home by paying upfront for repairs and renovations before putting their house on the market. They must stage the home and keep it pristine while it’s being shown. They must vacate the home every Sunday and whenever else a potential buyer wants to view the house. And after all that, there’s still a chance the offer could fall through due to problems with financing, issues found during inspections, or a buyer change of mind.

More than a transaction

The importance of this sale makes the pain more acute. A home is often the most valuable asset that people own, their largest and sometimes only investment. For most, this is the biggest financial transaction they will make in their lives.

Some of our customers

The Opendoor mission

Our mission is to empower everyone with the freedom to move. We strive to take away the pain of traditional real estate and replace it with convenience and certainty. Whether buying, selling, or trading one home for the next, Opendoor wants to make the process radically simpler and available to everyone.

The role of the design team

As designers, writers, researchers, and producers, we’re responsible for creating the tools, experiences, and products that ultimately add up to a better experience for our customers, external partners, and team members. The Design Team creates everything from consumer-facing products to internal tools for our operations teams to all of our marketing and advertising across the country. The challenges are daunting, but the opportunities are massively inspiring.

Opendoor’s better way to buy and sell homes

We revolutionize the way real estate works by buying homes directly from people and then putting those houses back on the market to resell ourselves. This model allows us to create experiences for our customers that are massive improvements on the old way to do real estate.

The seller experience

With Opendoor, people can do everything needed to sell their house in just a few days. They enter their address in our website, answer a few questions about their house, then we send them a competitive offer. If they like the offer, we’ll send an Opendoor specialist to verify the condition of the property. After the assessment, we finalize the offer with any adjustments. The seller has the option to let Opendoor handle any necessary repairs and simply take the cost out of the price of the home.

The buyer experience

Since we own and completely control the homes we sell, Opendoor can provide a radically better experience for buyers as well. Each house gets equipped with smart locks and security systems, so they’re available for viewing all day, any day of the week. Buyers simply download the Opendoor app to activate the keyless entry system.

The agent experience

Almost everyone buying from Opendoor has an agent. We only own a small fraction of the homes on the market, so buyers need an agent if they want to see all the options available in their area. We embrace this and build products to make the agent experience seamless and easy.

The internal tools that make Opendoor run

Our innovative model creates complex logistical challenges. Some of the hardest design problems at Opendoor aren’t customer facing, but involve building the behind-the-scenes workflows and tooling to make everything run efficiently and effectively. We create many of our internal tools in-house rather than use third-party enterprise solutions. Our needs are often too specific and too important to rely on someone else’s software. In fact, we strive to make our internal tools so good that they’d be considered best-in-class if we turned them into a enterprise product to sell externally.

Logistical tools

Opendoor is buying and selling thousands of homes across the country. We visit each one before we buy it to verify information about the house and ensure we accurately priced it. After we purchase each house, we do varying levels of repairs and renovations. We equip each home with a security system, a smart lock, and signage before we put it back on the market. Then, we monitor and maintain the condition of each home until it sells.

Field tools

We design the apps Opendoor specialists use when visiting homes before and after the purchase. These mobile products help them do their jobs faster, more efficiently, and more accurately.

Financial tools

In addition to complex logistics, Opendoor’s operations involve complex financials. We build tools to help specialists determine home value based on all the data we gather, dashboards to help company leaders understand the state of the market in their city, and data visualizations to provide our finance team with realtime information about the overall health of the business.

Opendoor’s trusted brand

We’re not just designing new products, we’re also designing a new brand. The design team creates the strategy and guidelines to express our brand in every product, experience, and advertisement created by Opendoor. Our brand pillars are simplicity, empowerment, and trustworthiness. We infuse those values into everything we create.

Marketing and advertising

We market and advertise our business across a variety of channels. We concept, write, and design for digital, print, experiential, radio, out-of-home, and television.

Environmental signage

We also design all the signage required to guide people to and through our homes. This includes the for sale signs in front of homes, the instructions about how to download the app and unlock the front door, and a variety of signage inside the home.

Brand principles and standards

Our brand guidelines align our teams strategically and provide tactical rules for different mediums, touch points, and experiences. They provide the foundation for every effort across the design team. They help Opendoor feel simple, empowering, and trustworthy in everything we create.

Opendoor’s design team

Redesigning real estate takes a top-notch design team. Our rapidly-growing group of product designers, brand designers, researchers, copywriters, content strategists, and producers work together to constantly improve the functions and culture of our team. We believe that by being the best team, we’ll be able to create the best products and experiences for our customers.


Opendoor Design

We're reinventing the experience of buying and selling homes to put customers at the center of their move. Join our team of designers, researchers, and writers at opendoor.com/careers.

Paul Clayton Smith

Written by

Head of Design @Opendoor

Opendoor Design

We're reinventing the experience of buying and selling homes to put customers at the center of their move. Join our team of designers, researchers, and writers at opendoor.com/careers.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade