How did you buy your last home? If you are like the overwhelming majority of homebuyers, you probably visited a few properties with a realtor, picked something you liked, then queued up at the bank to get a valuation and submit a mortgage application.
Working with DBS Hong Kong, we looked at this lengthy process and saw an opportunity for a technological disruption. We wanted to reimagine the role banks play in personal residential mortgages. What if instead of being gatekeepers of mortgage loans, banks could become enablers?
We also aspired towards giving homebuyers greater autonomy in searching for property themselves. To that end, our app incorporated Century 21’s property listings, totalling over 6,000 properties, for users to browse through at their leisure, without help from real estate agents.
When building this app, we aspired towards creating an intuitive user experience, where users could find all the information and resources they needed to make an informed choice. We wanted to make the process of property hunting and mortgage application not only convenient, but also enjoyable.
No place like home
We created a simple home page for our app. While the animated background creates dynamism and excitement, we kept it simple by directing users to the 4 main features in our app. We were particularly excited about our VR integration (more on that later!), and we highlighted it in red to encourage users to explore this unique feature.
Clicking on the dashboard to the side opens up a full list of features.
Personalised property shortlist
Via the ‘Properties for Me’ section, users can view a shortlist of suitable properties based on their financial standing. Based on monthly income and maximum initial down payment, users will get an estimate of how much they can afford to spend on housing. We envisioned this app as a way to simplify personal finance and encourage individuals to begin property hunting on their own, so it was important that users could get instant appraisals of their financial position without needing to consult a financial advisor.
The shortlist of properties within the user’s budget can be filtered by geographical location, price, or saleable area. Where homebuyers had to previously rely on realtors to recommend properties meeting their criteria, we provide users with the information at their fingertips.
Explore your dream home with VR
Going to view properties with a realtor is one of the most time consuming parts of the home buying process. With the lowering costs of VR and an availability of VR contents taken inside properties, DBS Hong Kong and Altitude Labs saw a great opportunity to introduce VR as a way of allowing users to take virtual tours of properties they are interested in.
Using 360 degree photos and VR contents, users can browse through multiple properties from the comfort of their home. While homebuyers may feel more reassured by physically visiting properties before making a purchase, VR technology can help narrow down the list of choices, and generate excitement about the process of property hunting.
To make VR integration on our app a reality, we had to port Google’s VR module - which was written in native code - to the react-native code we were using for our app. We wrote a wrapper for Google’s VR software development kit (SDK) and pushed out the VR function within 3 months of working with DBS Hong Kong.
Make an informed choice with valuations
We also built a property valuation service within our app, powered by DTZ’s database. This would help users determine if an asking price on a property is fair. Property valuation is one area homebuyers have traditionally relied on real estate agents and banks, and we believe the ready availability of property valuations on our app will inspire confidence among users to browse for properties on their own.
Once users have identified a property they like, a natural next question is how much the down payment and monthly repayment is. Nestled within each property listing is a link to a budget calculator, and by answering a few questions about their financial position and loan tenor, users get an immediate estimate of how much they should expect to pay.
Crucially, the values shown to users are inclusive of stamp duties, solicitor fees, and agent commission, making them as accurate as possible.
Submit instant mortgage assessments
We believe our app has most value as a one-stop portal for homebuyers, so we worked with DBS Hong Kong to allow users to instantly assess their mortgage affordability on our app. We also incorporated the formulae based the latest regulatory requirements into our app so that we could let users know their preliminary assessment results on the spot.
Once the application for instant mortgage assessment is submitted, a reference number is generated, and a representative from DBS Hong Kong will reach out to the customer to assist the formal mortgage application. From start to end, we present users with the autonomy and resources to conduct the home buying process on their own terms. Of course, approval of all mortgage loans is subject to the submission of a formal mortgage application and all required documents as well as DBS Hong Kong’s final approval.
Can’t wait to try this great app? Click here to download and experience it yourself!
Over to you
We worked very closely with DBS Hong Kong to deliver this project on a tight deadline, and we are excited to share with you what we have conceptualised and created. To find out more about what we do, and explore how Altitude Labs can work with your enterprise, do reach out to us here.
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