When building castles in the air becomes reality

This story about MesonImmo, my side project during my time at gluoNNet, shows that going out of the comfort zone can literally open new worlds. In my case, two challenges came at the same time: I wanted to improve my programming skills, and my husband and I were searching for a house. When we found what we were looking for after crawling through webpages of real estate agencies for a long time, we compared the offers with typical prices in the region. I wondered where the data came from. Motivated by the relatively high prices, I found out that the French governments publishes anonymized square metre prices for France. Being a data scientist, I knew that we had a chance for negotiating a better price if we present our findings clearly, and without the typical bulk of tables and numbers. We needed a good and easily understandable visualisation.


At my former company gluoNNet, my colleagues and I already had developed a user interface that visualizes flight data, so my idea was adapting the algorithms from flight to house price data. I asked my supervisors Daniel and Karolos whether they would allow me dedicating some time to this pet project, which would improve my programming skills at the same time as hopefully optimising the cost we would have to bear for the next two decades.

Own your project

Daniel had a valuable advice: Own your project – this meant writing a business plan, giving the project a name, designing a logo by myself. Writing the business plan helped to refine the project. I gained an overview about companies who tried the same and I learned what would be important. It turned out that many house purchases fail due to a too high markup price for the real estate agent. Writing the business plan took a lot of time, but was a valuable experience. Now finding a name turned out more complicated than I thought. I wanted the name representing the two parties: the buyer and the seller. Maybe because of my background in particle physics, I thought of the two families of particles as an analogy. Baryons, such as protons, contain three quarks, representing the case of buyer, seller, and agent. Mesons, which contain a quark and an anti-quark, somehow represent cutting out the middleman, and just leaving the buyer and seller. So, the name MesonImmo was born. An unexpected coincidence was the same French pronunciation for meson and maison, the word for house. After I realized this, the logo was rather easy, fusing name and phonetic spelling.


While being busy with my programming project, which started to take shape, the project “house” progressed, as well. I noted down the questions that we asked the real estate agents and — of course — we had to discuss mortgages and amortisation at some point with the bank. Triggered by the complicated bank documents, I wrote a small programme that I embedded into the user interface, which allowed us to import the full calculation as either excel or csv file. My user interface provided then square metre price as a heat map, mapped onto the lots of the houses, a price development for the specific village per year, the selection of a price range per square metre, and an amortisation calculator. Some small extras included charging stations for electric cars and other infrastructure.


The project came to an end as we got the keys for our house and my time at gluoNNet ended, after which I started working at CERN. Maybe MesonImmo is more an idea now, but will hopefully see the light of day in the future.