“We want to be every Kiwi’s independent, digital coach into their first home”

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Fiona Fraser

First Home Coach says property buying stats only tell half the story, and it’s the people who don’t crack that first home purchase they’re here to help. Their newly launched, completely free, digital coaching app does just that.

Property stories are everywhere. Home ownership is at its lowest level since the 50s, the headlines scream. There’s the apparent failure of the KiwiBuild scheme, steeply rising house prices and first home buyers being outbid by wealthy investors.

But now, two New Zealanders freshly home from overseas have launched a completely free app that helps solve the problem, step by step.

The First Home Coach interface

“Buying your first home is about as Kiwi as it gets,” says co-founder Matt Taylor. “We developed First Home Coach after hearing time and time again how first home buyers were missing out on buying a home, and that they fundamentally didn’t understand the process, leading to stress, anxiety and making decisions under pressure. We learnt that there are so many people falling down between the cracks and giving up on their home buying dream, because they’re confused and overwhelmed by the process and the industry jargon – OCRs, LVRs, LIMs, property reports… the works. Official stats only tell the story of those who have been successful getting into a first home. The problem is these stats miss the most important segment, those who don’t make it. We’re here for them.”

First Home Coach is a mobile-first app and desktop platform that acts as an independent, digital coach. The idea originated in the UK, where Taylor and fellow founder Jonathan Curtis saw how successful it had been in helping buyers navigate a pathway to home ownership. “Both the New Zealand and UK versions operate the same core platform, dubbed ‘LifeHub’ internally,” explains Taylor. “To bring this to New Zealand, we essentially swapped out content, rewrote articles, and designed the home buying process for a New Zealand buyer. We also reprogrammed the digital coach to offer relevant suggestions on the next best action and to speak with some key Kiwi-isms!”

The app is loaded with helpful tools and calculators to keep first home buyers focused on their goal, and includes a tailored property buying plan that clearly demonstrates how much they’ll need to save for their deposit, legal expenses and other costs, a time frame to purchase and how much they’ll need to put away each month to get there. To do this users enter some basic details – such as where they are in their house-hunting journey, their location, what type of home they’re searching for, their income, and the general budget they have in mind and the app does the rest.

As the core platform was developed in the UK, it’s also completely GDPR compliant. “GDPR provides the user with some really important and cool customer outcomes that are currently not required under New Zealand’s existing data laws,” Taylor says. “This includes users being able to delete their account and all associated personal data at the click of a button. We believe so strongly in data protection that you can use the whole proposition end to end without actually having to ever sign up or provide any personal data that could identify you – that’s pretty unique.”

While some app users are already well on their way to home ownership, First Home Coach trends show that many first home buyers in New Zealand are really stuck. “Most are couples earning over $100,000 per annum combined, and are more than ready to service a mortgage, but they are deposit-poor.”

That’s where the First Home Coach platform really helps, with bite-sized articles written in a chatty, jargon-free style to educate a potential buyer on how best to leverage interest rates and what government assistance might be available. The app also allows you to build your “home buying team” – adding in, for example, your partner, or a mortgage broker.

Matt Taylor hopes to help solve the housing crisis

It’s a simple concept, done incredibly well. “Isn’t that what people say about all great ideas?” Taylor teases. “The special thing about First Home Coach isn’t the fact we are providing first home buyers with information, because there are plenty of companies doing that, although we’d argue they are largely ineffective with their efforts. The secret with First Home Coach is a combination of an engaging platform, a conversational style of writing and our independence from the buying process. That independence is almost impossible for existing providers of information to replicate – banks can hardly be independent when talking about how to get a mortgage, for instance.”

It’s only been live a few months, but Taylor and Curtis are already planning how to further develop the platform in response to the needs of Kiwi first home buyers. “What you see is just the beginning. We want to vertically integrate into many of the experiences on the first home buying journey. So much duplication exists throughout the process currently. So, we’d like to see the first home buyer only giving a piece of information once which is then securely passed right through the process. We’ve already started down this road with some of our integrated partners.”

Taylor says the feedback from some of the 6,000 users so far is overwhelmingly positive and that makes he and Curtis certain they are on the right track. “Our digital coaching seems to have really resonated with Kiwis. There really hasn’t been a one-stop-shop for first home buying advice like this until now and buyers were very much relying on absorbing info from parents, extended family, the banks, and their real estate agents, which was pretty worrying as the latter two have a vested interest in the process. We want to be every Kiwi’s independent, digital coach into their first home.”

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Fiona Fraser

Fiona Fraser spent 18 years as a journalist and editor before founding Contentment Agency, her content and public relations business. From first getting behind a radio sound desk as a teenager, to thrashing podcasts as an adult, she appreciates the myriad ways tech can enhance communication and connection.

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