A new way to approach home ownership
Lead Product Designer
November 2021 - January 2023
Product Design, UX, Research, Illustration
It also just so happened someone was working on this in my own backyard.
Enter Acre Homes. Acre offers a unique new take on home ownership, marrying the best parts of buying and renting.
Acre customers can effectively purchase 5% of the home, with Acre paying the rest in cash. Acre residents pay a monthly fee to live in the home, while earning wealth through appreciation just like a mortgage.
Unlike a mortgage, Acre customers avoid major fees and costs, and potentially earn more wealth in 3 years than if they had purchased the home outright.
Prove the model and demand by successfully closing on 50+ homes.
My success was largely evaluated on designing, testing, and building a foundational MVP and infrastructure for Acre Home’s first offering.
The Mighty Team
As Acre’s first designer and second hire, I had the opportunity to contribute to nearly every part of the business.
This case study aims to capture the breadth of work accomplished in my year+ at Acre Homes.
Brand & System Design
Built a comprehensive design system and expanded the Acre brand for touch points across physical and digital experiences.
Product & Visual Design
I lead design and strategy for our entire product flow, from sign up, approvals, offer flows, calculators, marketing website and more.
Marketing & Research
I played a primary role in helping define our target audience, building pitch decks and testing for product market fit.
I recruited several key members of our talented engineering and product teams.
While a design system for an early stage start up isn’t necessary, it can help speed up product iteration and reduce design debt in the long run.
I brought my experience from building Pendo’s design system to Acre, creating an extensive library that accurately captured each part of our product. I constructed this with my engineering peers, ensuring we utilized naming conventions, color tokens and more for accuracy between design and build.
I’ve worked at several product companies now I’m still shocked to find that most don’t invest the time in building out a screen library of their application.
Having the latest screens ready to go was beneficial for product, marketing, and even founders who needed images last minute for things like pitch decks.
On Stock Photography...
We coordinated photoshoots with customer closings to build up an asset library to help distinguish our brand from competitors - many who used the same stock we had been leveraging.
This proved to be an invaluable investment that we used to set us apart in all our materials.
Variants for Modular Content
I built out more complex patterns (like listing modals) into chunks, with prototype settings like scroll behaviors baked in. Separating complex sections into toggle-able components meant we could quickly update small parts of the application in Figma for testing or quick product iterations.
I also used Figma’s variants for controlling different user states, such as logged in / logged out views that changed throughout our product.
Our brand strategy centered on people. We wanted to convey the idea that a home is more than a financial investment and used imagery and colors that represented clean, open spaces that customer could imagine transforming into a personal haven.
We incorporated greenery to complement our name and the theme of growth. The phrase "Lower the temperature" was often used to describe our role in the home-buying process, and this theme was reflected in our branding choices, which were intended to be calming and reassuring.
Our listings are an aggregate of Acre approved homes, meaning they meet the requirements we look for in a quality of home. Buy box, location, year built, expected appreciation and more go into the decision making for Acre qualified homes.
The first product offering allowed customers to choose how much they wanted to put towards the home which affected the overall discount received on monthly payment. I utilized the listings as a way to educate on our model and add interactivity to help you predict how your unique financial decision may play out over time.
This later changed as the markets soured. Instead, we switched to 2 product offerings of either a discounted monthly payment -or- increased share in appreciation. All versions were optimized to help you come out ahead of a traditional mortgage for stays under 5 years.
We knew having a clear and transparent financial picture of Acre’s pricing and wealth building potential was important to help potential customers consider an Acre home and help breakdown the numbers for agents who may not be familiar with our offering.
Rising Rates: Our calculator was designed to pull in the average rate for comparison, which was universally shared across all our calculation based components.
Customizable: Customers could change the rate to match what they were being offered by financial lenders for more accurate comparisons.
Premium Feature: We experimented with gating our calculators (on listings and the individual calculator tool) behind user accounts to incentive account creation.
One of the more challenging pieces of the Acre puzzle was simplifying and automating (as much as possible) the customer approval flow. We added more functionality over time, starting with Plaid and expanding to custom modules for gathering customer data on assets like home equity, pensions, social security and more.
Painless: The process was intentionally designed to take less than 5 minutes, with approval coming in the form of an email with the amount shortly after. Unlike traditional financing, we won’t hound you with phone calls and texts.
Partnerships: We worked closely with Plaid to test their newest features for income and asset verification. I even worked with their team to implement design in their product specific to Acre’s needs.
Barometer for intent: Approval served as an important funnel for distinguishing between ‘serious’ buyers and those who were just browsing. This flow was a major action we pushed users towards, as it also provided financial insights into the types of customers who found Acre appealing.
Finally, the last part of the initial sales funnel was the purchase flow. While not quite “buy it now”, the design intent was to move us toward that experience. Knowing that eventually Acre would have inventory that would need to be filled or customers would move between homes, I tried to think about how to make the entire “purchase” flow feel simple and straight forward.
Legal Eagle: I partnered with our legal team to build a flexible experience that still met legal requirements. Since the actual home purchase wouldn’t be made until we won an offer, this flow needed to set expectations and help ensure our buyers were serious.
Intent to Purchase: We designed a non-refundable deposit flow at the end to help cement this as a ‘serious’ moment.
Agent Communication: While we didn’t manage to build this in my time, I did roughly outline an agent / acre / customer “War Room” as part of the Acre experience, where customers could stay updated on Acre’s progress, review counter offers and upload documentation.