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Simplifying the homebuying process

We developed a framework to better support first-time buyers through the complex process.

For many households in Boston, the dream of buying their first home seems out of reach. With housing prices rising and competition fierce, we saw a growing need to support potential homeowners.

In spring 2016, we completed user research with potential first-time home buyers and those who recently bought a home. From this input, we created a new homebuying framework. Based on feedback from more than 500 residents, we tested and improved this framework.

In our work, the Housing iLab worked with the Boston Home Center and MassHousing. The Boston Home Center put in place the final framework in its programs and resources.

Questions? Contact:
BOSTON, MA 02108-2501

Why we did this

We believe input from residents is essential to keep our work grounded. We want to understand the pain points and perspectives of real people. This helps keep our work relevant and useful.

The experiment

Our hypothesis? The homebuying process is confusing and each person takes their own unique path. A great framework would keep unique perspectives in mind. There would also be flexible entry points to jump in and understand the process.

Three entry points

The framework we created has three entry points based on users:

  • those who are curious
  • those who are planning, and
  • those who are buying their first home.
Four key areas

For each interest level there are four key areas:

  • the home
  • the money
  • the team, and
  • the process.
Keeping it simple

This framework simplified a very complex process. We provided relevant information that depended on where a person was in their personal homebuying journey. The Boston Home Center is now using this framework to connect residents with the right resources. They’re also using the framework to meet their diverse needs and interests.

Results and lessons learned

The process can be the product

The original intent of our user research was to gather input for a digital platform. What we learned along the way created space for a new framework. We’ve helped shift the structure of how we support first-time homebuyers at the City.

There is no one way to buy a house

We expected to come out of our user research with a journey map of the homebuying process. We realized that each homebuyer has unique interests, needs, and a personality all their own. Creating a one size fits all product just won’t work.