Redesigning Real Estate
How Opendoor is designing a better way to buy and sell homes
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.
At best, this is incredibly inconvenient. At worst, it traps people in their home and prevents them from moving when they want to.
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.
But a home holds more than just monetary value. It also holds the memories of the people who dwell within it. Homes are where children take first steps, where backyard birthdays are celebrated and photographed, where friends and families gather for the holidays. Moving typically signals a major life event like a new job, a marriage, a divorce, the birth of a child, or even the passing of a loved one.
This significance adds stress to an already stressful experience. Opendoor aims to reduce that stress by easing the transition from one home to the next. Moving will always be emotional, but it doesn’t need to be hard.
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.
Sellers fill out all the paperwork digitally and actually get to choose their own close date. No more needing to stress about coordinating the timing of the next move. If they need to leave quickly, they can. If they need to wait a bit longer for the financing on their next house to get finalized, for their kid’s school year to finish, or for any other reason, they can do that too.
All in all, this model provides a massively better experience than anything else in real estate. People can sell quickly and easily, with certainty that their buyer’s financing won’t fall through. They can control the timing of their sale in a way that wasn’t possible before. And they can do everything via a seamless, digital experience that eliminates the hassle of paperwork and in-person appointments.
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 app shows all the other Opendoor homes available in the city. Buyers can browse and visit houses at their own pace and on their own schedule. No more lost Sundays spent visiting open house after open house. No more coordinating with selling agents to find times to visit houses when the owners aren’t home. Opendoor provides a more convenient, more twenty-first century way to shop for homes.
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.
Our agent products organize and consolidate all the information that the real estate agents need to do their job. It helps them coordinate all the tasks and paperwork related to the purchase of the home. By simplifying their work, we simplify the experience of the buyer as well.
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.
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.
This takes a lot of coordination and communication. We design tools to schedule site visits, verify construction work, and manage invoices for vendor partners who specialize in things like foundation repair and roof installation. Every improvement we make in efficiency results in cost and time savings. This helps us lower our fees and provide a better and faster customer experience.
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.
The apps have a heavy online/offline component. Their digital interface and workflows need to complement real-world workflows like climbing on a roof to inspect the shingles or crawling under a house to view the foundation.
Our field tools shorten the feedback loop between the field and our operations offices. Instead of transcribing handwritten notes into a data entry portal back at the office, operators use these mobile products to directly upload information to our servers the moment they gather it. Our operators are more efficient, our operations are more efficient, and our customers get their offers faster.
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.
These powerful tools allow expert users to understand complex data sets quickly and fully. They’re highly customized to Opendoor and the company’s specific needs. They keep our business running, keep our business running quickly, and keep our business running efficiently.
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.
Our marketing builds awareness of our business and lets people know why we exist. It differentiates Opendoor from traditional real estate and highlights the value we provide people buying and selling homes. We make our ads relevant and resonant by considering the medium, the audience, and the stage of business in that location.
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.
Our self-service open house doesn’t require an agent to show the home, so the interior signage does a lot of important work. Some of it is functional, telling visitors what lights to leave on and what doors to keep locked. Some of it is experiential, welcoming visitors to the home and setting the tone for our unique Opendoor experience.
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.
Winning that trust is crucial to the success of our business. We’re dealing with the most important transaction of our customers’ lives. We’re asking them to buy and sell homes differently than how their parents, their friends, and their neighbors bought and sold homes. If people don’t trust us, they simply won’t use us.
Consistency and quality are incredibly important in achieving that trust. Our brand principles and standards drive those outcomes. And our entire design team plays a crucial role in building trust through all the products, marketing, and experiences we create for our customers.
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 is our home, and it’s busy inside this house. There’s a lot to design over here — from radically simpler customer experiences, to cutting-edge logistics tools, to ultra-powerful financial dashboards, to a world-class brand. If you’re interested in tackling any of these challenges and helping us empower everyone with the freedom to move, you’re welcome to come over any time.
Interested in learning more? Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org