The Brief

November 2019 - August 2020

⏳ Background

Problem statement

Agents rely on paper checks and low-value manual processes to submit and get receipt of earnest money. Current payment solutions are also expose sensitive information and open the door for fraud.

Understanding real estate

Before Earnnest there was no option for 100% digital payments for real estate. We are driving change is a massive market with very entrenched ways of doing things. Checks or wire transfers are still the norm. Processes are very manual and time intensive.

Understanding the real estate agent app

By 2019 it was obvious the agent web app had overstayed its welcome. We had learned a lot about agent's needs and had gained insights into primary use cases. What we learned made clear to us the current solution we had needed a complete rethink. In late 2019 we started our journey to a native version of the agent app.

Target audience - real estate agent

We don't ask for demographic information from the agents who use our web app, so we rely on the annual National Association of REALTORS reports as guidance. In its latest report, NAR says the average REALTOR is a 56-year-old woman. I suspect the average age of Earnnest users is in the late 30s to mid 40s, but we want to design for the edges so that we catch what's in between. Because of this we prioritized accessibility and ease-of-use for an audience who may not be comfortable with latest trends in design.

📢 What we needed to address

Better use case alignment

Most agents used Earnnest on their smart phone. The web app worked, but lacked the rich experience and features of a native app.

Bad decisions and faulty assumptions

The seemingly benign decision to let agents set up requests ahead of time resulted in a lot of pain for us and agents. The decision was partly based on a use-case that existed only in our original market, the Southeast. It was time to rethink the request flow and align with our product vision of moving money, not managing pre-request workflows.

High support costs

Our request flow also led to high support needs. If a request needed to be deleted, canceled, or resent it required contacting support. If a homebuyer hit edge cases like manual bank account verification, that led to support calls. If an agent lost the email with the payment receipt, that required support. A lot of agent frustration centered around not being informed enough to help their client.


The web app had no onboarding within the UI and therefore resulted in frustration and support calls. We needed to build an onboarding experience.