Connecting the Wholesale Real Estate Industry
Wholster has started to build a wholesale real estate community, going from 0 to ~2000 users in the 6 months it has been live. Roughly 100 real property offers have been executed since the launch of the platform, reducing friction in what is otherwise a tedious and clunky offline workflow.
Rentals, investment properties, and other types of off-market real estate make up a diverse inventory full of opportunity. For those looking to get into this type of real estate investment, the options are to go to networking events, sign up for courses from seasoned investors, scan Craigslist, or hope for some word of mouth connection. For those looking to offload properties, they rely on building email distros, and have to manage their inventory using spreadsheets, while everyone on the email distro collectively inquires about the same properties, long after ownership has changed hands.
Wholster makes it easy to list and manage properties, while also giving buyers a simple interface for favoriting interesting properties, while hiding ones that they want to pass on.
Wholster seeks to centralize the wholesale real estate community. To do so, the feature set needs to give sellers the tools needed to manage their inventory of available listings. This feature set will compete with email distribution lists, excel spreadsheets, and other forms of note taking software. The feature set also needs to attract Buyers so that they can easily browse available listings that match their search criteria.
Since many Sellers are also potential buyers, it makes sense to create a single interface that is capable of meeting the needs for both groups of users.
1 UX Designer (myself)
2 UI Engineers
1 Real Estate Investor acting as a Product Manager
My Design Process
Meet Seller needs with Inventory and Marketing tools.
Become the central plaform for the wholesale real estate community.
Meet Buyer needs with robust search tools and simple browsing.
Provide a low barrier to entry with a free tier, while offering more tools for serious subscription users.
Focus Group Discussions
Experts Involved throughout the Design Process
Virtual Focus Group Session
The Wholster team is fortunate to have two seasoned real estate investors. Both of these experts have done 10's, if not 100's, of wholesale real estate deals. With their guidance, we worked together to identify the initial requirements and our overall MVP strategy.
To make sure that their insights weren't too limited, we organized several focus group discussions. In these group sessions, I prepared a click through Invision prototype, and sent the link to all of the attendees to use on their phones. From there, I was able to gather real time feedback as the users worked through filtering, adding listings, and favoriting listings they wanted to come back to.
The best outcome from the focus sessions wasn't just validation for the designs and the overall product, but also the list of features users wanted to add to the MVP. The sessions were very organic, and while they may have suffered a little from group think, the outcome was strong, and helped to round out the list of requirements for the first release.
Core Customer Needs
Available properties are the fuel that runs this platform. Sellers need to be able to list and manage their properties. Without our solution, they're stuck with unmanageable mailing lists, and spreadsheets to manually keep track of all of their property statuses.
Interested Buyers need to be able to reach out to Sellers. This communication needs to be in the context of the property being discussed. Although Buyers and Sellers could still communicate via email, or social media, in app messagining reduces friction by aligning conversations with investment opportunities.
Sharing Listings off Platform
The app should provide the single source of inventory management for a Seller. The product needs to enable sharing listings through other systems - email, social media, etc. so that Sellers are not forced into difficult offline, manual workflows.
Make Buyers Feel Welcome
First time Buyers getting into this industry generally feel very intimidated. The feature set needs to be simple and intuitive to overcome any overwhelming emotions.
MEDIUM FIDELITY SAMPLES USED WITH FOCUS GROUPS
The development team worked to build the app based on the Invision Prototype. The team and I worked with the initial focus group to kick off beta testing. This testing consisted of users downloading the apps, and using it to manage their business on a day to day basis.
This testing is still on-going, but in addition to testing for quality assurance, we were also able to identify several other key features, such as including video links for property walkthroughs, as well as allowing users to bulk upload property information.
During this time, I also collected feedback on usability, and decided that the primary call to action buttons should be made more obvious. I moved all primary actions to areas where the user could easily hit them, instead of in the top right corner in the previous iteration. In this iteration, I decided to add polish to the design language throughout as well.
HIGH FIDELITY SAMPLES FOR IMPLEMENTATION
REDLINE EXAMPLES FOR IMPLEMENTATION
Continuous Improvement with User Feedback
Users that were a part of the initial focus groups didn't care much about map views. These users turned out to be power users that don't think about property locations, but instead think about properties as lines of business. As more users onboarded, there were many requests for a map view, that would allow users to jump into the Favorite/Discard workflow of the app.
The app is slated for full release at the beginning of 2023. This release will include all relevant features identified for MVP, while also launching the tiered subscription structure.
Interface Clean Up
App development was focused on functionality, reliability, and accuracy. A polished interface was secondary to making sure that the fundamental features were functional. Now that they are, refining implementation will help to improve quality and overall experience in the app.
Bulk operations were identified as a key need in our testing sessions. Given the complexity of bulk operations, and the timeline for release, these will be slated for Q1 or Q2 of next year.
As the Wholster app hits the Google Play and Apple stores, it'll be important to track and measure several metrics.
Programmatically, I will track and gather usage metrics regarding active users, overall engagement, and user retention rates. This data will help to drive prioritization for improving workflows and new features. If for some reason, retention rates drop, I will organize and facilitate more focus group sessions to see what can be done to improve the app.
It will also be important to track success and failure rates for the most common use cases that the app seeks to service. Once the subscription model is rolled out, it will also be important to track conversions and how much free tier users use the app vs. paid subscribers.
Current Usage Stats from Beta Launch
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© Josh Clark 2023