Recently we had the opportunity to interview Ali Sheibani, Habitat for Humanity’s family selection manager for Seattle-King County. Seattle-King County’s Habitat for Humanity is dedicated to eliminating substandard housing locally and worldwide through constructing, renovating and preserving homes; by advocating for fair and just housing policies; and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions.
Briefly talk about why you initially started looking for a tool like HomeKeeper?
We recently had two affiliates merge and needed to consolidate the two separate databases into one. Each one utilized a combination of spreadsheets and paper files. One affiliate had separate files for finance as well as family services information and demographics.
HomeKeeper provided us with a single source of information on our families and properties. The added benefit is our ability to filter families and homes by demographics, income, and size. The reporting function is the most useful part. We can easily pull historical information and homes that have closed and the completion of the sale. We are planning to expand it to include our applicants, but that’s not been implemented yet.
The reports I find most useful are the reports that we didn’t know we wanted.
What do you find the most useful about the HomeKeeper reporting?
The reports I find most useful are the reports that we didn’t know we wanted. Certain questions come up from our grant writers or compliance people about grant requirements. For example, “In 2011, how many families had a female head of household that we serviced from this point to this point?” We now have easy access to the data to show we are compliant with a grant. Before, the process was, “Who has been here the longest and with the the best memory? What do you think? Can we corroborate?” Now it’s just an easy report to run. That’s the real value with HomeKeeper. It’s not any particular exact report. It’s the flexibility in sorting the data and having a central location for that information and an agreed upon consensus or getting an agreed upon consensus, as far as the validity of the number. That question comes up now, we answer that question with, let’s say 5. Because I’m not pulling that number out of a hat, 5 years from now, if they ask that same question, the number will still be 5. That’s the nice thing there.
Is there something that you had wished you knew when you started that you now know?
I would have liked to have known the importance of the national rollup fields. National rollup fields are compiled across HomeKeeper and provide aggregate homebuying demographics. Not only is it our data that we’re able to look at for insight, but access to this aggregate information provides greater learning about the affordable homeownership market. Some of the information in those national rollup fields is information that we track. Other information, we’ve never tracked before. After we realized the value of the national rollup fields, we started to track all of them. But initially I did not make it as high as a priority as I do now. The aggregated homebuying data in the national rollup fields has provided valuable insight for us.
How much effort was it to get all that historical information in?
It was more work than I thought it would be. We’ve been around since 1986. These old files, you literally pull them out, and there’s dust that you blow off the papers. The files were full of awful carbon copies. Some were the old thermal fax papers you have to try to decipher after they’ve been sitting in a file for 20 years. Myself and 2 other members spent about 25-30% of our time over a month focused on this. We also had some full-time volunteers helping out. There was quite a bit of information to get in there. We did it once and now we have the information in a single source. It was worth it.
Would you recommend HomeKeeper to others?
Yes and I have recommended HomeKeeper internally to other groups. We are going to expand our usage of HomeKeeper to use it with the home repair side of our mission.