UX of Real Estate Websites

I am currently in the process of buying my first home. I have been using www.realestate.com.au mainly, as it seems to be the best of the bad real estate websites out there. What’s wrong with it? Glad you ask.

  1. I can’t log in anymore in Safari on OSX Yosemite.
    I log in and it redirects me to a page of one particular property. When I try to navigate elsewhere, I’m logged out. Incredibly frustrating! 
  2. I can’t log in anymore on the app (iOS 8.1) 
    In fact, I’ve never logged in successfully. It looks like I’ve logged in and I can see properties that I’ve stared (favourited) when I wasn’t logged in, but I can’t see my updated favourites associated with my profile. 
  3. The images fall over.
    This happens after long periods of browsing (multiple browser issue – Chrome on Windows 8.1, Safari on OSX Yosemite and Mavericks). After flicking through multiple properties and photos they simply just stop loading. 
  4. Sneaky spam.
    There is a lack of visibility that signing up for property alerts will also sign you up for e-brouchers (i.e. spam) 
  5. Unable to change saved searches. 
    If you change your mind, or forgot to include something, you can’t edit your saved alerts. You have to open the one you want to change, save that (as something else because the name you want is already used by the incorrect alert) and then delete the original one.

Aside from the bugs, it just doesn’t meet my needs as a house hunter. I don’t know that they’ve done any ethnographic studies or research. The website does not support the behaviours I am actually taking within my hunt. Obviously everyone is different in how they search, and manage this journey, but when it’s arguably the biggest purchase in your life you think the website would offer more features so I don’t need to manage a spreadsheet separately.

Homely.com.au looks like they’re trying to disrupt the market in the real estate space. Their website is graphically beautiful and pleasing, but it’s still got some UX issues (and some graphical issues – white text over the main properties picture is often very difficult to read).

As a PSA to real estate websites, I’ve done some work for you.

First let’s build a persona. Let’s call her Kayla.

Kayla is a home-buyer, who like many has a budget which she cannot exceed. She also has her own personal requirements of what she wants in a house – a certain number of bedrooms and the need for a carspot. Some personas will be different, especially if more than one person are buying together, but let’s keep it simple as one person searching on the website.

  • Kayla wants to see properties that she can afford so that she doesn’t get her hopes up and waste time looking at properties that are out of her budget. 

    Seriously – if you’re going to show properties that are over the “Max Price” selection, then why have it as a query filter. Actually this goes for all parameters – make sure all the results actually fall within the parameters. 

Results outside of the "max price" parameter. 

  • Kayla wants to see accurate information so that she doesn’t waste times looking are properties she will never buy. 
    2 bedroom from 350 says the listing. In the description “one bedroom from 350 2 bedroom from 500” MISLEADING. 
  • Kayla wants to be able to select more than one suburb so that she can look at all the homes she might like to live in without having to do multiple searches. 
    Realestate has this covered, but homely doesn’t. If I want to move to St. Kilda I maybe also want to look in the surrounding suburbs. Or maybe I want to about 7km away from the city and I’m not fused on which side. We should be able to select more than one suburb to search for. 
  • Kayla wants to open many properties from one search in different tabs so that she doesn’t lose her place. 
    Another thing realestate has over homely – but this one might just be personal preference. 
  • Kayla wants to see which properties she has contacted so that she can chase them up and avoid duplicate touch-points. 
    Looking at so many listings they all start to blur together. Realestate gives you the ability to contact the agents directly to ask for a price, section 32 or inspection, however it doesn’t show you anywhere who you have contacted already and with what request. This has meant I’ve had to create a spreadsheet separate from the website to manage who I contacted, what they responded with and when I am going to view the properties. 
  • Kayla wants the inspection date and time available with the house information so that she doesn’t have to look at multiple sources. 
    Again, a missing feature. I currently have to copy the URL of the property into my calendar so that on the way to the inspection I can refresh myself of which property this is. I’m also jumping around to the map to make sure I’m heading in the right direction. I don’t like to jump around to three apps. 
  • Kayla wants to be able to take notes against properties so that she can remember important information.
    When I’m at the inspection I’m scribbling notes (body corporate, rates, work that would need to be done to the place) but after so many brouchers and pieces of paper I’m going to get confused. I want to be able to have them digitally against the property.
  • Kayla wants to make a shortlist of properties so she can easily compare them. 
    I want to have each property next to each other, and tick the features I want that it meets, along with quantitative descriptions to easily see which I want to inspect again, get section 32’s on, and seriously consider making an offer.

This is an industry waiting to be disrupted. I hope someone like Homely takes on user centric design to improve the process for home buyers.