OWNR offers new possibilities

OWNR is the new way of achieving your dream of home. Following their slogan “You search. We buy. You live.“ OWNR offers new possibilities to future home owners. What does this mean for you? You move into a newly renovated property, live there for a fixed leasing-period and choose one of three options afterwards – buy the property, continue living in the property as a lessee or move out of the property and release it for another OWNR. Following the motto: Try before you buy. OWNR has access to almost the entire market, through the biggest German real estate platforms, to provide the most significant offer of properties available for buying in Hamburg at the moment. They want to offer an alternative to renting and buying homes and created a more flexible and efficient concept of leasing homes. The customer can search for their favorite property in the OWNR Meta-Search, which will then be examined by a professional surveyor. With OWNRs modular concept the customer can design the kitchen and bathroom of the chosen property. Right after, OWNR calculates the customer’s monthly leasing rent depending on the object and the level of refurbishment required. Subsequently, the customer can move into the property, lease a certain period and afterwards can decide whether to buy, rent or leave the property. OWNR has designed their business and developed unique programs to help customers reduce the cash required to buy the home at the end of tenancy. 

The digital real estate market

The real estate market is a quite conservative and fragmented market when it comes to technologies. Thousands of small businesses participating with different data formats and technologies in place, having phone, fax, email and PDF files as common ground. 

Building a foundation for a business that brings together lessee and their dream house is not easy. This process includes several stakeholders like the customer, the seller, real estate agents, property valuators, OWNR employees and other parties. They all require access to quality real estate and finance data to bring OWNR customers into the home of their dreams. 

How OWNR uses AWS technology

This is why OWNR is building a data lake to bring all data regarding properties, neighbourhoods, city districts, refurbishment data, customer and financial information together. The information can be shared with relevant parties and fuels the OWNR business processes and investment decisions.  

The OWNR datalake receives data from several sources and provides data normalization and validation to make sure that OWNR operates on data of the highest quality. It also serves as a single registry so that imported or federated data from 3rd party services and systems can also be retrieved using the OWNR datalake. 

The most visible part of the OWNR datalake is our OWNR meta-search, a search engine that can be used by the public and contains a great overview of the real estate markets relevant to our customers. 

The search engine receives updates pushed from the data lake regularly, but only for very short durations of a day; therefore, AWS Lamba is an excellent tool to run updates in a cost-efficient manner. 

The search engine is the most visible component of the OWNR infrastructure. OWNR decided to run it in a dedicated AWS account and therefore VPC to improve security. This bulkhead design pattern helps to keep the blast radius very small in case of any problems and to achieve our compliance goals. An additional benefit is that this architecture helps us keeping track of cost allocation and making forecasts. 

The OWNR meta-search application itself is a typical ReactJS single page application. We use the standard AWS building blocks like Amazon S3, AWS CloudFront, Amazon Route 53, Amazon API Gateway and AWS Lambda to host the meta-search application. 

Static resources like HTML, CSS, JS and images are hosted by Amazon S3 and delivered through the content delivery network (CDN) AWS CloudFront in order to deliver those resources to the clients fast. 
The dynamic content, consumed by the metasearch, is delivered by AWS Lambda functions that act like a facade and can be accessed through the AWS API Gateway. The Lambda function abstracts from the ElasticSearch Query Logic and combines multiple queries if necessary. 

The static website source (stored in S3) and the API are combined using Amazon CloudFront to simplify the web application and to utilize the caching capabilities of the browser and the content delivery network. There are, for example, some OWNR search API requests, that are very well suited for caching, like zip codes or histograms regarding the distribution of properties to city districts. 

A valuable addition from the operational point of view is that everything deployment-wise is automated using Amazon CloudFormation and the AWS CLI, with a little support of the serverless.com framework. So, if any source code updates (HTML, CSS, JS or NodeJS) hit the git repository, the changes will be deployed to the right environment (e.g. development or production). 

AWS meets OWNR

At the moment, OWNR is getting ready for the customer. To achieve this without having a large team, we combined commodity components like AWS, external partners and of course, hard work.

In the last months, OWNR realized that we could rely on the AWS components to build a competitive first iteration of a datalake and search engine with a small team and very little code.

But AWS has been supporting us even further on things we weren't imaging when we started. Using AWS organizations, accounts and IAM permissions, we were quickly able to enable our integration partners to manage their subsystems autonomously and still hit our compliance goals. Additionally, they were able to achieve this, without much support from the OWNR team, which was a great relief given our limited resources.

The key to success

... is the right mixture of experienced engineers and people willing to learn these new technologies, architecture and approach to computing. Here at OWNR, we will continue on this road of learning. Of course, we had our setbacks, but the OWNR systems are evolving every day with every iteration better than the one before. 

In conclusion, one can say that OWNR profits from the whole AWS Cloud as it is simplifying workflows, enables the possibility to scale according to the growth in demand and supports OWNR by integrating over different technical solutions, to prevent simple flaws and errors in creating the technological infrastructure for OWNR. Fitting our future-oriented concept it is self-explanatory to use a modern technology of one of the biggest players in the digital market. We hope to increase our achievements with AWS Cloud day-by-day to provide the customers an easy user experience not only by considering interface design, but also usability and information architecture. It allows us to change our platform according to the customer’s requirements promptly. 

If you would like to learn more about OWNR click here to visit our OWNR concept and here to find your dream property.