EXOS Inspect: Appraise Your Home in 4 Steps

     

8 MIN READ

Guiding through a step-by-step process, EXOS Inspect enables homeowners to self-inspect their property using mobile devices and upload the captured data for a professional appraisal. The product was launched in June 2020, aiming to provide a fully-digitized, fast, flexible, and cost-efficient home appraisal experience.

>> Learn more about the product at ServiceLink Website

App UI Mockup

Summer 2019

Kshitija D.(Product Manager), Jinyi Y. (UX Designer)

Adobe XD, Whimsical.io, InVision

Individual        Group

Enterprise        Consumer

Conceptual     Visual

Executive Summary

Problem

A home inspection in a home evaluation creates blockers in the process, which results in high costs to customers and delays in turnaround times.

Solution

EXOS Inspect, a mobile app (released in June 2020) that allows homeowners to conduct virtual home inspections with significantly reduced turnaround time and up to 60% savings in costs.

My Role

As the sole designer on the team, I collaborated with the product manager, data scientists, and business stakeholders. I designed the end-to-end user journey and mobile interfaces for the application.

1. Background

1.1 Appraisal Modernization

Digitized home appraisal

Over the years, digitization has transformed the broader mortgage process by reducing turn times, providing new levels of transparency, and enabling a streamlined consumer experience. It also has been one of the company’s major missions and focuses. In the field of home appraisal, an interesting opportunity presents itself with the growth in modern technology: A virtual inspection product that removes the dependency on an external vendor for the home inspection, and gives control to the homeowner.

In the summer of 2019, as a product design intern, I was assigned to this experimental project, together with the product manager intern. Given the brand new concept with no existing product on the market, the two of us were challenged to create the proof-of-concept from scratch and deliver a polished demo that can be presented to potential clients.

*Updated 06/2020: During the COVID-19 pandemic, real-estate service providers rapidly moved to virtual modalities. The necessity for a virtual inspection product became even more compelling. The company prioritized the project and launched the finished product – EXOS Inspect, in response to the social distancing mandates.

1.2 Conventional Home Inspection Painpoints

A home inspection gives homeowners an opportunity to discover potential issues within the home. The appraisal value based on the inspection result is one of the major factors in loan approval decisions. Despite being an essential step in the mortgage process, we discovered that conventional on-site inspections could face the following disadvantages:

Image of a person using calculator, representing the high cost of conventional inspection

Expensive

Hiring a home inspector or appraiser typically costs $300 to $415, or up to $950 if requiring both, according to HomeAdvisor.com

Time-Consuming

Requires time coordination between the inspector and homeowner, and leads to long turnaround time

Heavy

A full inspection can be redundant and overkilling for previously appraised properties, especially in the scenario of non-first-purchase

Health Concerns

Increasing risks of performing in-person home inspections given the widespread of COVID-19 (Updated 03/2020)

2. Define the Solution

2.1 Goal Statement

Through researching the problem space and analyzing the current real estate mortgage market, we defined the product design goal as follow:

A digital tool that allows property owners to conduct fast self-service virtual inspections using mobile devices

2.2 Scope

For a product targeting a vertical market, with the business requirement that it should seamlessly fit into the company’s existing product line, it is important to clearly define the scope: not missing key parts nor exceeding what is necessary.

What this product IS

  Tool to accelerate the appraisal process

  Inspection results appraised by professionals

  For Home-Equity Loans or Home-Equity Line of Credit

  For non-complex residential properties

What this product is NOT

  Tool to replace appraisals

  Appraisals done by end-users

  For First Purchase Mortgage

  For complex properties

2.3 User Analysis

Furthermore, we identified the potential users, their use cases and how might the proposed solution be beneficial to them.

Users TasksExpectations

Homeowners
Primary User
Follow the app instructions to conduct the property inspection by filling out the property questionnaire, capturing required images, and submitting the data for appraisal. Affordable home inspection
Quick loan approval and smooth appraisal process
Better knowledge of the property for making informed financial decisions
Security and privacy maintained

Lenders
Primary Client
Place an Order in the EXOS system (the company’s all-in-one mortgage servicing platform) indicating their interest for the homeowner to undertake the inspection process for eligible cases. Accurate appraisal in a timely manner
Reduced cost
Transparency along the process


Appraisers
Internal User
Appraise the property based on the inspection result and other related data (they remain as the expert)
Customize the degree of inspection by configuring pre-requisites and additional questions based on various clients and their orders. 
Complete appraisal orders efficiently
Focus more on the valuation rather than scheduling and coordinating
Digitally configurable inspection requirements

3. Design Process

3.1 Understanding the Domain

Without a systematic understanding of the home inspection and appraisal processes in real life, it would be impossible to translate them into a digital experience. We conducted a series of desk research and built our knowledge base of the domain.

Home Inspection Anatomy

What are inspectors and appraisers looking for?

Appraisal report

Analyze inspection forms & appraisal reports

We read through dozens of inspection forms and appraisal reports of different kinds, congregated key data points, and summarized them into categories.

Home inspection picture

Watch video recordings of home inspections

Although not able to shadow inspectors on-site for privacy reasons, we got to capture the actual inspection process through video recordings.

3.2 Workflow Diagraming

After a thorough analysis of the inspection process, we were able to prioritize the key data points required for the MVP product and put them into a 4-step user flow.

4 Major Steps for Self-Inspection

Step 1: Collect Property Info
Step 2: Collect Interior Data
Step 3: Collect Exterior Data
Step: Review and Submit

Application Flow (Click to view the full-size image)

Self inspection flow

3.3 Iterative Experience Prototyping

A home inspection is typically done by a trained professional. In our case, one of the major design challenges was to capture the essence of the existing workflow and then turn it into a fast, intuitive process that can be completed by non-expert users.

To explore possibilities, multiple prototypes were created along the process, from low to high fidelities. We conducted several rounds of user tests and iterated based on the results.

Wireframe
Click to view the full-size image

Wireframe 1.0

The first lo-fi wireframe allowed us to visualize the high-level user flow and communicate the idea to stakeholders and developers for feedback. After reaching a consensus, we proceeded with revised wireframes and started storyboarding.

Storyboard

Storyboarding

The self-inspection requires users to actively move around in a physical space and capture requested data. To ensure a smooth and intuitive process, we created storyboards to demonstrate the experience and help us better empathize with end-users.

Wireframe version 2
Click to view the full-size image

Wireframe 2.0

After determining the major user behavior through researching and storyboarding, we created the second wireframe with more details sorted out: UI content, layout, and the core interaction flow from onboarding tutorial to post-inspection. It allowed us to further validate the user needs.

Usability testing

Usability Testing

We organized usability testing utilizing Think-Aloud Protocols: we let users conduct “imaginary inspections” with the mid-fi prototype at their home, and talk through the process. We found out what made sense to them, and what did not, and made adjustments accordingly.

3.4 Usability Findings & Design Decisions

Several insightful findings came out from the usability testing that impacted our design decisions.

Graphic: conversational design

Concise vs Conversational

In the usability test, more users tended to prefer the page title being conversational over concise, which provided the sense of “actually being guided”. To keep users engaged, instead of saying “Room Information”, we say “Tell us something about this room.”

Linear vs Non-linear

It is hard to predict the interior layout of one’s home. Our test results also suggested that users prefer retaining the flexibility of inspecting any room at any time, rather than being given a fixed sequence.

Graphic: Non-linear process
Graphic: Finger-tip experience

Designed for Fingers

Performing self-inspection requires users to complete a series of tasks on a rather small touch screen. Some questions may contain over 50 checkable items. We used circular, medium-to-large-sized buttons and checkboxes to mitigate the interaction difficulties, ensuring a finger-friendly experience.

4. Delivery

4.1 User Interface

EXOS Inspect App UI Mockups
Click to view the full-size image

Video Demo

4.2 Outcome

Time icon

From 5 Days to 20 Minutes

The product eliminates the hassle of scheduling appointments, which typically takes 3-5 days.

Coin icon

Up to 60% Saving

With EXOS Inspect, the cost of a home appraisal is estimated to be reduced by up to 60%.

EXOS logo

EXOS Inspect

Released June 2020

Benefit from the power of EXOS Inspect, an industry-changing technology that allows borrowers to conduct self-service virtual inspections. By combining leading industry data with geo- and time-stamped user-generated media, EXOS Inspect will help you streamline a variety of lending and servicing processes and enhance your risk management strategy.

   

4.3 Recognitions

Digital Mortgage Conference Logo

Demo presented at the Digital Mortage Conference 2019, hosted by National Mortgage News, in Las Vegas, NV.

[Learn more]

Forbes Logo

“…(EXOS Inspect) makes the appraiser’s personal visit redundant, but still provides him or her with the necessary information and visuals to complete the appraisal.

[Learn more]

Housingwire Logo

Winner of 2021 HW Tech 100 (top technology innovators in the housing industry), as part of EXOS digital mortgage service suite.

[Learn more]