Tackling the absurdity of buying a home with Assemble

In partnership with Assemble
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Housing affordability in Australia has been declining since the 1980s. As more and more of us move to metropolitan areas, buying a high quality home in an Australian city is becoming increasingly out of reach for many of us.

Assemble is a human-centred property developer on a mission to design new ideas for a better, fairer housing system. They offer a unique purchase pathway, designed to help bridge the gap between renting and owning a home.
Through it, people can rent one of their apartments for up to five years while they save a deposit, giving them an option to buy at the end of the five year period.

Assemble came to us at a key growth turning point. They were scaling from 150 homes to 3,000. However, conversion rates were well below target, with a tough market and many residents deciding not to purchase a home before the 5 years were up. This created a significant pressure point for the business.

We worked with Assemble to uncover the resident experience, and develop recommendations that would ensure each project was occupied by purchasing residents.

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We ran design research with 45 people including current, former, and prospective residents. We learned about their hopes, pains and experiences through conversation, usability testing, and co-design.

Assemble’s purchase pathway had been designed around the challenge of saving enough money to buy a home. We discovered the challenges that people are experiencing in the housing market went well beyond this. People were struggling with rapid rises in rental agreements, a sense that the goalpost of home ownership were always shifting, and anxieties about buying from ‘dodgy’ developers. They described the home buying experience as ‘absurd’.

We mapped the end-to-end, 5+ year journey that residents would go on with Assemble, identifying opportunities for improvements at each stage of the experience. Based on our findings, we undertook a significant evolution to the customer strategy—who they serve, what they offer, how they communicate their value, and the channels they use to reach them.

We used this as a basis to reimagine the customer experience, developing a new marketing campaign and digital experience that helps residents explore Assemble’s apartments and pricing model. We developed a new platform—‘Imagine less. Experience more’—that deliberately challenged the absurdity of the housing market.

This platform came to life in the digital experience, where we stayed true to a strategy of transparency—giving people the information they want, where other property developers would hide it or hold it ransom in exchange for personal data.

We also built a thoughtful calculator, designed to help people do the “back of napkin” maths to figure out whether Assemble was right for them.

Simplicity and an intuitive experience were the cornerstones of the calculator, to encourage users to explore and experiment with the options available and help them imagine themselves on the rent-to-own journey.

This was integrated into their property management system to provide accurate, detailed, and importantly, live data on prices and availability to users.

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By deeply understanding the challenges people are facing in the property market, we were able to make adjustments to Assemble’s model to deliver on their vision of a fairer housing system, while still remaining commercially viable.

In the first four months of being online, the pricing guide has been used 13,000 times by prospective leads, and more than 1,300 leads have been brought in. These leads are highly engaged, better quality and further down the commitment funnel than previously experienced.

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Mary Nguyen

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