Doorsteps is a web application that organizes buying a home. It breaks the process down into a sequence of digestible chunks, gives the user relevant tools and context at each step, tracks progress, and optionally allows the user to collaborate with a real estate agent. Using old-school enterprise software terms, Doorsteps is a Groupware WMS with a dash of CRM. It's a lot more exciting than that sounds.
The innovation in this product is best viewed through the lens of the problems it solves:
- The Road is Long and Winding - My experience is that first time home buyers don't know what they are getting themselves into and that repeat buyers forget a lot of what they had to do the last time around. Doorsteps lays the whole process out from very start to very finish so that you can see what you've done, where you are, and what is coming. This is daunting at step #1, useful at step #50 when you have to go back and find that one form that you filled in that one time, and encouraging when you are almost there at step #407 (numbers for illustration purposes only, not saying there is a step #407 in Doorsteps).
- Situation Normal - Because there are so many details involved, it's hard to keep track of where you are and what you are doing. The context switch (that's techie stuff) from normal mode to home buying mode can be a big one. Having an application that keeps track of your state makes it easy to pick up the hunt again fresh after an interruption from all of those parts of life that are not about finding a home.
- Are You There REALTOR
®? It's Me, Home-buyer - Real estate agents and their clients used to communicate via in-person meetings and phone calls. They also used to drive Buick Skylarks, drink Manhattans, and vote for Eisenhower. The norm today is indexed asynchronous communication. With a collaboration platform, customers and agents can contribute new information as it comes in and absorb new information when they have the time. Everything is recorded for later reference, limiting the number of questions that get asked twice.
Groupware is not new. WMSes are also not new. CMSes are very not
new. Doorsteps is not bringing any new acronyms to the table, but I
think that their combination of these elements and application of them to home
search is novel and their presentation is excellent. The application comes wrapped in an interface that is
easy, and easy on the eyes. Emphasis on design and beauty is something
of an innovation itself in the world of online real estate, but I won't
call that out too strongly. The fact that boring products will fail is about as not new as Groupware is old.