How can Kiavi, a market leader in private lending for real estate investors (REIs), better serve its customer's needs? For 7 months, our team helped Kiavi’s internal innovation team design, test, and deliver Neighborhood Explorer, a market research tool designed specifically for REIs.
7 months (Feb - Jul 2022)
2 Product Designers (me)
1 UX Researcher
1 Visual Designer
Kiavi, formerly known as LendingHome, is a market leader in providing loans to real estate investors. It successfully funded more than $10.7B in loans over the last decade and Kiavi had the desire to do much more. My team was engaged to conduct research and design a new solution to help achieve this goal.
In partnership with Kiavi's own innovation team, we embarked on a 7 months-long journey that culminated with a concept design of a new product for Kiavi.
Neighborhood Explorer is a market research and analysis tool that helps investors quickly identify new and upcoming real estate markets. It is designed to aggregate, process, and present key metrics and data on trends about specific neighborhoods.
To truly understand an investor’s unmet needs, we needed to do more than just interviews held remotely. To go beyond what people say and really dig into how they feel about real estate investing, we conducted ethnographic studies where we visited and observed investors during their live fix-and-flip projects.
Investing in real estate is a long and arduous process with high risks sometimes high returns. Based on the success (or failure) stories from 30 investors, we noticed that two stages in particular presented the biggest challenge for investors.
To brainstorm new solutions and possible outcomes for each of the user challenges, we created storyboards - quick drawings that demonstrate the problem, potential solutions, and hypothetical results.
There were many problems worth solving for but we had limited time. To prioritize and converge to a single problem space, we met with 9 investors to test our storyboard concepts. I also conducted a 2-hour prioritization workshop with Kiavi stakeholders to assess the feasibility and potential business value of each, ultimately narrowing down the scope to a single opportunity.
Real estate investors scour through a myriad of data, statistics, and opinions during their market research. Our challenge was to identify the type of information that truly conveys a sense of understanding of a new and unfamiliar market for investors who are often an outsider.
Early user validation helped identify what information is critical for investors. During the same conversations, we also uncovered insights that ultimately led to important design decisions.
Taking in all the research and feedback from user validation sessions, I was responsible for visualizing all our thoughts into low-fidelity designs. We then re-engaged with 8 investors to further test my design which evolved over time.
We adopted the design sprint popularized by Google Ventures and conducted iterative prototyping. Each sprint, we sketched and prototyped a feature, conducted user testing, and incrementally refined the design based on feedback. Below are some of the key design changes that resulted.
Data on specific neighborhood is best consumed when displayed in a meaningful order and particularly powerful if shown as a trend and/or compared against a relevant benchmark (e.g., city average).
Users often missed the legend at the bottom of the map and failed to understand what the colors represented. Moving it closer to the metric selection field clearly showed the relationship between colors and the selected metric.
User testing debunked our assumption that investors will always prefer using exact values as means to filter markets. Limiting the selectable options for metrics to the top 7 and rank-ordering neighborhoods was more effective.
Investors loved two parts of the tool, namely the 'Rehab' and 'Recent deals' sections that are powered by Kiavi’s proprietary data on past deals. Drawing their attention with iconography helped communicate the tool’s value proposition upfront.
Neighborhood Explorer helps investors find, analyze, and invest in the new markets with confidence.
The landing page lets investors search for a neighborhood, a city, or a property of interest. Don’t have one in mind? Kiavi can recommend new markets that are emerging and “hot” for investors like you.
What investors really want is the hyper-local knowledge about a neighborhood - does it have good school district? are streets safe for tenants? where is the nearest coffee shop? The neighborhood deep-dive pages put all that information at the fingertips of the user.
Information on comps (similar properties in the same area) is a gem for investors. Kiavi’s proprietary data on comparable houses can enable an investor to identify hidden costs, project future expenses, and confidently estimate her future return on investment.
We put Neighborhood Explorer to test through moderated user testing with 11 investors, followed by a short survey focused on evaluating the tool’s value to investors. For usability, System Usability Scale (SUS) was used.
From the beginning, we faced the challenge of designing for specialized group of users, namely the investors with specific needs and varying wants. While I enjoyed making design decisions with a targeted audience in mind, it also meant that I needed to be an expert in the domain. I learned from this project that good designs require solid understanding and good designers must become the expert in the subject matter.