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, providing a fully-digitized, fast, flexible, and cost-efficient home appraisal experience.
>> Learn more about the product at ServiceLink Website
Kshitija D.(Product Manager), Jinyi Y. (UX Designer)
Adobe XD, Whimsical.io, InVision
The traditional home inspection process during a property appraisal can lead to long wait times and high expenses for the customer.
EXOS Inspect, a mobile app (released in June 2020) that empowers homeowners to perform their own virtual home inspections. This solution significantly reduces turnaround time and saves up to 60% in costs.
As the sole designer on the team, I worked closely with the product manager, data scientists, and key business stakeholders. I designed the end-to-end user journey and mobile interfaces for the application.
1.1 Appraisal Modernization
The digitization of the mortgage process has brought many benefits, including faster turn times, greater transparency, and an improved consumer experience. The company has made this a key mission and focus. 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 pressing. 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 a crucial step in the mortgage process, we discovered that conventional in-person inspections could face the following disadvantages:
Hiring a home inspector or appraiser typically costs $300 to $415, or up to $950 if requiring both, according to HomeAdvisor.com
Requires time coordination between the inspector and homeowner, and leads to long turnaround time
A full inspection can be redundant and overkilling for previously appraised properties, especially in the scenario of non-first-purchase
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 enables property owners to conduct fast self-service virtual inspections using mobile devices
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 have a well-defined 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.
|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
|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
|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 thorough 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?
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.
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
⬩ Application Flow (Click to view the full-size image)
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 multiple rounds of user testing and iterated based on the results.
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.
The self-inspection requires users to actively move around in a physical space and collect requested data. To ensure a smooth and intuitive process, we created storyboards to demonstrate the experience and gain a better understanding of users’ perspectives.
After determining major user behaviors 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.
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.
Concise vs Conversational
In the usability test, more users preferred 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 confined to a fixed sequence.
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.
4.1 User Interface
From 5 Days to 20 Minutes
Eliminates the hassle of scheduling appointments, which typically takes 3-5 days.
Up to 60% Saving
With EXOS Inspect, the cost of a home appraisal is estimated to be reduced by up to 60%.
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.
Demo presented at the Digital Mortage Conference 2019, hosted by National Mortgage News, in Las Vegas, NV.
“…(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.“
Winner of 2021 HW Tech 100 (top technology innovators in the housing industry), as part of EXOS digital mortgage service suite.
Thanks for reading 🙂