Is the data from your property inspections saved in an easy-to-reference system for future use? These tips and best practices can help you do more with your information
There are a number of opportunities for somebody to try to file a claim, even years later, and say that you didn’t perform the inspection correctly.
Do you retain your data so that you can refer to it in a case like this? Do you want it to flow up into a report that is saved somewhere that you can retrieve later on? Are you okay with the data just evaporating after you do the inspection and print out the report?
Make Data From Property Inspections More Useful
There’s a different level of sophistication required for the data after the inspection to keep useful reports. There are plenty of tools that can allow you to create a form, for example, and you can check things off of a form — that’s not the hard part. The hard part is building intelligence into that form and the reporting so you can make use of that data later on.
If you’re inspecting property units, you may want to find out how many refrigerators need to be replaced, and at what cost, and what the total cost will be as a result. Or how many beige carpets you have versus avocado green in a report that shows that information broken down. That is difficult to do with a basic form.
You need a robust tool that supports customized forms and reports so you can use your data in ways that matter. And you can pay $100-200 per month for a subscription service tool. It’s not typically a one-off something you pay for and then you can do unlimited inspections. That’s kind of that pricing model.
If all you want is something in the field on a mobile device that isn’t Microsoft Excel, you can almost do that for free. But that limits your inspection data to the most simplistic uses.
Getting Away from Excel
There are advantages to getting away from Excel.
First of all, not everyone is a good Excel user. A good inspection form tool should be easy for everybody to use.
Secondly, if you want to complete a performance inspection in a mobile environment, on an iPad or smartphone, it’s hard to do that with Excel. It’s hard to create the checklist and use intelligent forms.
You can also build features into a digital form to speed up inspections that Excel can’t provide easily.
For example, 90% of the units that you inspect will be fine. They won’t have any issues at all. You should be able to get through those very quickly without too many clicks or selections. The carpet is okay, the refrigerator is okay, and so on. If you have a default set, or just need to make a quick note, that should be a quick-and-easy box to check.
That kind of stuff becomes cumbersome in Excel, and more so in a paper environment.
Advantages of a Property Inspection-Specific Tool
There are quite a few advantages to using an inspection-specific tool.
Accuracy & Consistency
First, you get more accurate information. If inspectors are writing things down or typing things out, you’ll get some variation. If different inspectors are inspecting in their own way, they’ll call an issue one thing, and the other inspector will call it something different.
Through an inspection tool, you can enforce consistency regardless of who’s doing the inspection. And that can come into play later on when you’re trying to report against that data.
Let’s say, for example, that you want to find out which units have stainless steel refrigerators. If one inspector called them ‘stainless’ and another called them ‘silver,’ you’ll miss those in your query. So having a form that reinforces inspection consistency is useful in addition to speeding it up.
Save Time at Every Step
You can also set those defaults and drop-downs up to roll through inspections quickly and save yourself a ton of time.
Sometimes property inspections that last for days can be compressed down into hours. It’s possible through some thoughtful design decisions.
For example, taking multiple photos quickly without using the device camera’s native application, which requires you to take and save each photo or choose a library for each photo. Turning two clicks into one across multiple steps and multiple processes can vastly reduce the time it takes to do inspections. If you can get right to the answers that you need quickly, you’ll compress that time significantly.
Clients who go from paper or basic inspection forms to Leonardo247’s inspection format have more time. They have time to do things more accurately, and a broader ability to do things with their data afterward.
Intuitive for All Staff
Some of the folks that use the application are doing maintenance. When they’re out turning wrenches with their toolbelts on, they won’t have much patience for a tiny inspection form where the arrow has to be just right. You need to be able to accommodate your users so that it’s easy for them to use.
Those are some of the thoughtful elements that go into the design of our forms and our application. And those things make a difference in users’ quality of life. Going faster, being more accurate, using a simple format that isn’t frustrating so they don’t break their phones in half.
It’s important that the application makes users feel like their lives are easier and they aren’t getting saddled with yet another thing to use.
More Productive Interactions with Residents
Generally, with residential leases, 24 hours’ notice is sufficient to schedule an inspection. If it’s an emergency, immediate access is typically acceptable. Commercial leases can be up to 48 hours.
Another advantage of Leonard is that you can take over an inspection easily, even if you aren’t prepared, without taking too long to get it done.
If you plan on giving somebody 24 hours notice to inspect their unit, you should be thinking about what that inspection will include a long time before that. If you aren’t thoughtful, you can waste a lot of time and energy.
Let’s say you want to note the finishes, the fixtures, and the appliances in an apartment during a unit inspection. If you don’t set the form up, your inspector will have to type that data in. That can take a very long time.
An effective form pre-populates options and establishes a baseline when inspectors go into the unit. Instead of typing in the finish, users can select from a range of finishes. You can pre-populate the appliances for selection instead of inspectors typing them in.
Even more abstract questions, like, “What is the condition of the carpet?” Can be answered with standard options, with an option for notes if something is unusual. But you can cover most of the responses in the form beforehand so inspectors can get through units and properties quickly.
So while you may need just 24 hours notice for the inspection itself, taking the time to get a form ready for that inspection is worth the time it takes.
Types of Property Inspections
Inspections that are performed in Leonardo247 generally break down into three buckets.
Due Diligence Property Inspections
One is a very specific kind of inspection or set of inspections which relates to due diligence.
Acquiring a multi-family property, for example, requires two or three inspections that almost everybody performs. You want to run a unit by unit inspection to get a sense of what condition the units are in. You want to verify that they’re occupied or not based on the rent roll and note any capital expenditures that you can expect post-close.
Lease file audits, in which you compare your digital property management records with what’s on paper, are also common. They don’t always match up, and those comparisons are important.
And then there are general capital works. The goal of these inspections is to produce some data that, as an acquirer of real estate, you can use to make closing decisions. That post-close information will help you decide what kind of expenses or capital reserves you’ll need to upgrade the property or mitigate deferred maintenance. That’s one general class of inspections.
Second-class inspections are more intense maintenance inspections. Roof inspections, boiler inspections, chiller systems, parking lot blacktops, and other feature inspections have processes to follow. There’s a set of things to check every time.
Further, there might be data to collect for use later. For example, you might want to know if the pool pH is above 7.6 during an inspection, because that can lead to chlorine burns. That second category is another standard for our clients.
There are only so many ways you can inspect a pool. We can give them a leg up on those inspections because we have a library of standard inspection templates, so if you don’t have a starting point, you can use ours. Leonardo also provides guidance on inspecting and maintaining equipment or amenities.
Client-Specific Property Inspections
The third kind of property inspections are usually bespoke to the clients themselves. And it’s entertaining to see how Leonardo gets used to measure things that we didn’t consider when we built the software.
There are things like regional manager inspections or regional maintenance inspections that are very particular to a specific client. They’ll rank certain answers and produce grades at the end, or include a star rating based on those inspections.
There are also less obvious reasons for using property inspections that have been valuable. A lot of COVID-related inspections have come up, for example.
People are using inspection forms to take and record the temperature of employees and share that information with the corporate office. People are using inspections to check on personal protective equipment (PPE) stocks to make sure that they’ve got adequate masks and things on hand.
Those are bespoke or ad hoc inspections that we help clients create. Users can also create and customize forms themselves within Leonardo247 easily.
Anticipate Inspection Expectations
The real secret to a thorough property inspection is to anticipate what you can expect to see as much as possible before the inspection. If you can do that, you’ll save a ton of time during the inspection and still gather all of the data that you need.
If you’re inspecting 400 units at an apartment building, for example, you can anticipate the finishes you expect to see. The same is true of the countertops, the carpet, the appliances, and so on. Then you can the questions up with pre-populated answers so that rather than having to write notes, the inspectors are just selecting answers.
Even something that seems more open, like, “What’s the condition of the carpet?” or “What’s the condition of the paint?” can have standard answers. “Mild staining,” for example, or “needs touch-ups” or “needs complete repainting.”
With Leonardo247, you can give them the option to say “none of these apply” if the inspector wants to note something specific. But 99% of the time they can select what they want and move on.
Getting through the inspection as fast as you can is half the battle. People cost money. You’re impinging on the time of the people that live there. You want to move things along. So it helps that property inspectors can select what they need from pre-populated or default answers.
(That’s another good tip. Have defaults set up so that maybe they don’t have to say anything.)
If everything looks good, maybe they only have to touch the device once. Properties or units that look good can be saved with default answers so you can move on.
Smart Forms with Smart Triggers
And in terms of being thorough, again, if you can think about, “Are we likely to run into water intrusion issues?” And if so, let’s set up a question to capture that information.
One of the great things about the design of Leonardo247’s forms is that you have a lot of flexibility. You can get through inspections very quickly if nothing is out of the ordinary.
Certain answers, however, can also trigger additional questions. If an inspector answers ‘yes’ to “Are there signs of water intrusion?” the form will ask for more information. But you don’t have to burden everybody with those same questions that don’t apply.
Leonardo247 will only trigger those additional questions if they apply in that situation. Further, if they answer ‘yes’ to the water intrusion question, the form can ask if the water has ruined the carpet. And a ‘yes’ to that can trigger a work order, or a budget item, or a follow-up task after the inspection is completed. The form, on its own, generates a task for the carpet installer to provide an estimate on the carpet in that unit.
Setting Up Property Inspections for Success
If you take the time to set those forms and triggers up, you’ll gather more data during your inspections and your reports will be much more thorough.
These are some of the triggers that you can set up within Leonardo247. It makes sure that you’re only giving people the information they need when things are simple, while still capturing all the data you’ll need when things get complicated.
That information will provide greater insights into your cost of ownership, potential capital expenses, and other things you’ll want to know beyond the typical yes-or-no inspection answers.