Client: House Into Cash
Industry: Real Estate
Funnel Stage: Envision, Validate, Bootstrap, Build
“We buy houses for cash” — you’ve probably seen the advertisements before from different investment companies. They’re intriguing. You might have even asked, “Is that a legitimate way to sell my house?”
This is exactly the question House Into Cash was faced with from their prospects. As a cash investment company focused on real estate, they needed to glean a better understanding of what would help legitimize their business and speed up the process of moving prospects from leads to customers within their pipeline.
Based in California, House Into Cash investors buy houses for cash and either flips or resells them. With an online presence, they ran Google Ads to generate leads. But despite advertising, they saw little success. House Into Cash needed to determine a way that helped legitimize their business and streamline the time (and the overall process) between someone being interested in selling their house and getting an actual cash offer.
Once the company connected with our team at City Innovations, it was clear that we would need to start workshopping.
In order to solve the challenge, we made it a priority to understand the business holistically. We held several workshop sessions with House to Cash to better understand what was happening and where the company needed to go.
We started out performing a Lean Business Model Canvas, which provided the perfect one-page framework for constantly validating our idea by gathering feedback, performing experiments, and iterating on the idea based on the findings in order to build the right product in the long run.
The canvas helped guide us through the logical steps starting with problems House Into Cash’s customers faced all the way through to the company’s unfair advantage. It also helped deconstruct ideas into key assumptions, which later helped to create metrics for testing and reworking their business process.
To better understand what metrics would help boost this company, we fell back to determining Pirate Metrics, fondly known for its acronym AAARRR. Pirate metrics help start-ups and SaaS companies measure growth, success, and most importantly, sustainability.
We also analyzed competitor activity, fleshed out the company’s customer personas, and created unique journey maps.
House Into Cash was originally under the impression that legitimacy was explicitly linked to app creation. However, an app is just one option — and can be a very expensive one. We also noted that an app may not provide the necessary legitimacy and won’t always speed up your sales funnel. Ultimately, solving their challenge needed to rely on researching and testing the right solutions. So we provided several other next steps and possible options.
Validation and Bootstrap
We brainstormed options that would allow House Into Cash’s customers to receive cash offers faster, especially options that would be low effort for the company to implement. This is where the idea of creating an offer calculator was born. It was fleshed out through experimentation and one concrete goal for the company: more home inspections = more leads = more sales. The hypothesis behind this? Getting estimates on a cash offer to customers quicker leads to more inspections.
We found that the lag time between customers reaching out and getting the estimated offer was the problem. The offer calculator meant we could get estimates to the customers faster, moving them through the funnel quicker, which converted leads into sales.
Based on research and in-depth analysis of current success rates for the company, we determined email was the best avenue for contacting customers and Zillow — which is a well-known and reputable company — was the right choice in getting an estimation. Knowing this helped us develop the right kind of offer calculator for their prospects.
Once we had validated and bootstrapped a solution, we essentially needed to test out the enhancement/improvement feature. This was a minimal viable test to see if the hypothesis was correct and would actually make a difference in the company’s sales pipeline.
The next step in our process was to build. Our team of developers built out an estimation calculation and linked it to House Into Cash’s existing webpage. The calculator was also connected to the Zillow API, making it contingent on the condition of the house, which was added to the form as well.
Once the prospect received the offer estimate, they could schedule an inspection through a Calendly link that automatically populated. This allowed House Into Cash to officially inspect the house before any transactions happened.
Our team also built a progress bar into the offer calculator, as well as a button to schedule an inspection right on the website. This meant that everything a customer would need to do to engage with House Into Cash was in one easy spot. The completion of the form and generating an estimation would trigger an email that reiterated the information and also provided a link to schedule an inspection, in case a customer didn’t already schedule an inspection through the website.
In order to determine whether these improvement features were working, we needed to understand the client’s baseline metrics. Before creating the offer calculator, the client was averaging 2-4 scheduled inspections, with 3 inspections a month being a success metric. Once we established that, we looked beyond that to see how best to measure success in the future and what could trigger that. We ended up digging deeper with the client into public records and eviction records that could help inform marketing and attract even more sellers.
In the end, we made improvements to features that were trackable, using our contextual knowledge to better inform their process and determine success.
After about two weeks of implementing changes, the House Into Cash reported that more people than usual were requesting inspections. During this time, House Into Cash had even closed a deal and when asked, their customer said that they made the decision to work with them because they offered an instant offer estimate, unlike other companies. Using this information, the company modified their Google Ads and overall campaign. Overall, House Into Cash went from 3 scheduled inspections in one month to 5 inspections in the next.
Two weeks is a very short time period, and typically, not long enough for data to coagulate. However, in this case, we had significant activity in two weeks. We ensured that the client had all the necessary tools to keep tracking month after month, and also provided insight into where the client could continue to make adjustments to see improvements.
In the end, it was important for us to provide a solution to House Into Cash that was solely focused on what would provide the most bang for their buck, while working to develop the right solution in the most fiscally responsible way possible.
About City Innovations:
City Innovations is a venture studio focused on building digital businesses that will matter to the world. Our strategists, technologists, and capitalists all work to make sure clients build the right thing and get it to the market faster — supporting entrepreneurs every step of the way, from idea to launch. Learn more at cityinnovations.com.