In our quest to interview innovative and design-driven brands, we spoke with Alex Bowman, cofounder and CEO of Casamatic, the home buying platform that instantly matches people with their perfect home. Injecting the excitement back into the home search and buying process, Bowman told us how Casamatic is changing how people discover their next home—and where this fast-growing startup is headed next.
Casamatic: “eHarmony for Home Buying”
A little over a year ago, Alex Bowman and Chris Ridenour shared stories on their recent home search and buying experiences.
Over lunch, they agreed that they had separately experienced a process that was much more frustrating than it needed to be. “We both had really, really frustrating experiences finding our perfect homes. We both ended up uncovering our homes in areas of town that we weren't looking in—places the conventional home search sites weren't showing us,” Bowman explains.
When someone is looking to decide where you're going to live your life for the next five to ten years, if not longer, it’s an important process, Bowman adds: “So why are home search sites making you do all of the work of picking neighborhoods and sifting through every single listing?”
Identifying an opportunity to help people easily search and discover homes based on the things they really cared about, Bowman and Ridenour set their sights on helping people find a home based on what they love to do, who they want to live near, and their favorite property characteristics.
Capitalizing on a Trend
Not only did Casamatic cofounders Ridenour and Bowman see that the home buying process could use an overhaul, they saw that an improved experience would also fit Millennials’ needs and wants, too.
“We saw how Millennials are now the biggest and fastest growing group of home buyers,” says Bowman, explaining that for Millennials, this kind of platform made perfect sense. “The way that home buying works today, it's not built in such a way that it is interesting or exciting for Millennials.” Despite the current, outdated way of searching and sorting though listings, Millennial home buyers crave a more modern way to look and find a home.
That’s also part of the reason why, from the beginning, the Casamatic team has turned to Millennials to help create the platform. “It was the first thing we did: we spent two months doing 50 interviews with Millennials that had recently bought houses…It was fun and it was interesting, especially at first,” says Bowman.
He says it’s critical to do that research early on in the process to try to answer the question: what does your target demographic actually care about?
Hearing people’s unique stories helped the team understand the needs, wants and desires of the target audience. “We stumbled upon one couple who had started the home search process by creating a spreadsheet of every single city and neighborhood in the Cincinnati, [Ohio] area, and they had rated them on 5 different categories. You start to find things like that, and that's where you start to really figure out how you're going to develop your product and what it's going to be.”
After asking lots of questions, empathizing with their target users, and iterating (and then repeating that process several times over), they had more intelligence around what they wanted to build.
Bowman says those early notes are still important today. “Our product is built around this home matching algorithm, but the home matching algorithm is based on a score that we created and data that we're pulling in based on the things that we learned were important from Millennials when we did that research,” he says. “If we didn't do that research, we wouldn't be around still.”
Iterate, Iterate, Iterate
For Bowman, iteration helped build the early version of the platform, but it’s also optimizing the trajectory of the product.
“Feedback is a constant process…When we launch in new markets, we talk to users to make sure that we're doing the right thing there. Then also, it's really important to talk to the users who aren't using your site anymore and to figure out why,” adds Bowman.
The platform’s users continue to volunteer their ideas and share feedback with the Casamatic team. Bowman stays committed to improving the user experience, but some of the ideas suggested by consumers will have to wait to be implemented. That’s because they want the consumer journey to stay as simple as possible.
“We strive for simplicity,” says Bowman. The team has identified the main things that people look for when they buy a home, and they want to stay focused on those core factors. “Simplicity is so important, especially when you're getting someone to sign up. We try to make that as quick and easy as possible.”
And they succeed in doing so: once buyers sign up for an account, they fill out questions based on what they love to do, who and what they want to live near, and their favorite style of homes, among a few other variables. The process takes less than 5 minutes to complete and can incorporate answers from another person. It then instantly gives users a curated list of personalized homes that match their desired lifestyle.
Realtors are supporters of the more modern way of scouting for a home, too.
“When our buyers want to go see a home, we connect them with a real estate agent, and the real estate agents pay for that.” That means Casamatic is sending realtors buyers. (In many cases, realtors can’t do what Casamatic does due to real estate regulations.) Realtors also benefit because users may fall in love with a home they would not have considered using the conventional search process.
What’s Next for Casamatic?
“We've solved the issue [for searching and finding a home] for a broad group of people, and now we’re working on a way to learn more about users over time,” says Bowman.
Already established in Cincinnati, Dayton and Chicago, Bowman says they want to scale Casamatic across the entire country. For Casamatic, lead generation and lifestyle-driven search is just the beginning of making home buying more personalized.
“In the short term, we'll be taking Casamatic nationwide,” says Bowman, but there are many more sectors that could benefit from the technology. “Our vision is doing what we've done for home search, simplifying and optimizing it for Millennials, and taking that across the entire home buying and selling process.”
Find out more about how through personalization and curation, Casamatic makes the hardest part of buying a home, easy.
About Alex Bowman
Alex Bowman is cofounder and CEO of Casamatic, a digital platform that matches buyers with their perfect home. Casamatic is a graduate of The Brandery and the Ocean Accelerator and is currently an 84.51° Resident Company. Bowman is a Startup Weekend and AngelHack organizer, and is heavily involved in the Cincinnati startup ecosystem. Before Casamatic, Bowman was the Head of Growth Marketing at ChoreMonster and spent time in marketing and sales at Amazon and BlackBerry.
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