EPMEPM: Technology & Social

The Future of Property Inspections

Alan Hashem discusses some of the new innovations in property inspections, including a new revolution in video.

The property inspection process has come a long way in the last 10 years, but it still has a way to go. Looking back, pen and paper inspections were a nightmare. Inspection apps flooded the market when we finally got our heads around apps and since then progress has been incremental. We saw a few time-saving features added at a time, to the point that you’d barely recognise the original apps from the ones you see today.

It begs the question – what’s next? What features have we yet to uncover to streamline the process? We’re constantly re-evaluating things at Inspection Manager and searching for the next big idea. I thought I might share a few that we’re really excited about releasing this year, as well as have a look at where inspections are heading.

You’re doing an inspection and as you walk through the house, you hear a weird noise. You search around and solve the mystery. Thank God, it’s not a murderer, just the air conditioner in desperate need of repair. Relieved that you’re no longer in immediate danger, you write down your notes. How are you going to describe that noise? Was it a wrrrrrr? Is that too many Rs? So many questions.

We’re introducing video inspections for a variety of reasons, not just that specific example. It’s just another way to document things and show them to landlords, tenants and – heaven forbid – tribunals. Being able to send a 10-second video, time- and date-stamped, is another way to insure yourself and make sure you can back up your claims when images just won’t do. You can also talk during the videos as reminders to yourself if you have to watch them later.

As with all of our features, we’re certain that you can and will find other uses for videos beyond the ones we’ve dreamed up. The important thing is that you have a variety of tools that will save you time and allow you to do the best possible job within that time. We speak to property managers who routinely take 400 to 500 photos for their inspections. Having a video to replace 500 photos would not only save these property managers a huge chunk of time on site, but reduce the hassle of sifting through until they find just the right photo.

All inspection apps currently offer some kind of customisation in the final report, particularly with company logos and information on the cover page. The next step is not just enhancing that branding, but allowing flexibility in the structure of the report. Obviously there is no way around a few unmovable elements of legislative compliance, but each office has different requirements and expectations around what a report should be comprised of. A one-size-fits-all mentality is no longer viable.

After a lot of customer feedback, we are now developing a report editing tool that allows you to chop and change different parts of your reports, beyond just layouts. There could be a personalised disclaimer that you want to add, or something you want to flag for an owner’s attention. If you want one photo larger than the others to highlight damage, that will all be possible.

More importantly, features like this have to be incredibly easy to use. Many of you will remember editing and formatting your own reports in Word, and we are definitely not trying to revisit that. You should be able to structure your reports however you please, without the hassle of trying to build your own report every time.

We use systems and technology to save us time, yet too often we end up with six different systems operating independently, defeating the original purpose. Fortunately, all service providers are moving towards integrating with other software for your convenience.

When we started five years ago, we were the only property inspection app that had an exclusive integration with a trust accounting software in REST professional. Moving forward, this won’t be as rare, as businesses are recognising the importance of convenience. Newer cloud-based products like Property Tree are springing up that will be far more user-friendly and easier to plug into. That’s great news for you, as it means not having to remember five different passwords and having to transfer information between systems. These processes are becoming automated.

This is the most exciting part. As much as we try and predict future trends and dream up features, we genuinely don’t know where we’ll be in five years as far as inspections are concerned. We also don’t know where these ideas will be coming from.

We recently opened up a competition with our customers to make suggestions for new features or improvements to Inspection Manager. There’s one simple reason for that – the reality is that you spend about 20 per cent of your time performing inspections, which is about 20 per cent more than us. What comes next should be driven by the industry, from people who conduct inspections all the time.

Whichever app you happen to be using for your inspections, I’d encourage you to send through your suggestions and have your say. After all, you’re the ones using them.

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Alan Hashem

Alan Hashem is the Head of Product at Inspection Manager, which he started in 2011, and has over a decade of experience in real estate technology. For more information visit inspectionmanager.com.au.