What you need to know to take advantage of the latest field tech.
The age of scribbled notes and paper checklists is over. The need for faster and more accurate unit inspections has created demand for digital tools that can give property owners and managers an edge in this increasingly complex field.
Enter: Mobile property inspections apps. Combining intuitive programs, data analytics, and back-office connectivity, these byte-sized tools are designed to optimize every aspect of a unit inspection, accelerate turn-overs, and virtually eliminate the margin for error.
“More and more property managers are turning to mobile inspection apps as part of their paperless strategy”, says Elik Jaeger, CEO with SuiteSpot Technology. “Generating reports and documents is a time-consuming task since it often requires compiling multiple forms, photos, and notes from multiple sources into a single document”.
How do mobile inspection apps and software work?
For years, property management owners and managers have relied on physical checklists and disconnected tools to tackle property inspections. And for years, the process has been mired in lost or illegible documents, inaccurate data, and drawers of forgotten reports.
Here's where mobile inspection apps are making a difference. Tools like SuiteSpot allow mobile users to conduct all facets of a property inspection in a live, connected, and digital environment. Using pre-loaded templates with checklists for every unit type (e.g., apartment, common area, condo, facility, etc.), they enable users to track every step of the process, record notes, and capture picture and video evidence.
Once complete, the app can be set-up to seamlessly (and securely) share that with colleagues back in the office, vendor partners, or with other professionals related to preventative maintenance, repairs, and unit turnovers.
“Centralized data management means that you are never more than a few clicks away from accessing the data you need, whether on desktop or mobile” added Jaeger
Typically, mobile inspection apps are broken down into two categories. There are simplified digital checklists to start, and then there are sophisticated versions like SuiteSpot which integrate inspection data into critical property management software. The former can be helpful in more straightforward projects, while the latter can help organizations track inspection, repairs, costs, work orders and everything in between over a large volume of assets.
Whether streamlined checklists or all-in-one tools, mobile inspections apps are designed to make the inspection process quicker, more accurate, and more integrated with one's property management strategy.
Can they really make a difference?
Put simply, mobile apps make it easier to get the job done. What's more, the ability to feed inspection data back to the home office gives property management stakeholders the means to track, analyze, and monitor large volumes of unit data across portfolios of any size. This contributes to stronger data analytics opportunities, greater head office transparency, and better workforce accountability. Moreover, it ensures assets are being inspected regularly and that risks to their market value are detected in advance.
Residents can also benefit from these mobile applications. By giving inspectors the means to collect and organize accurate evidence, they can ensure that resident chargebacks are accurate and backed by hard proof.
What's in your app?
Mobile inspection apps can come pre-loaded with many features, depending on their intended use. Suitespot's mobile inspection tools, for example, are designed to accommodate any and all inspection requirements. Therefore, they come equipped with a host of inspection tracking and sharing functions, as well as the ability to add even more digital tools down the road.
By and large, the more sophisticated inspection apps like these will include:
- Customizable templates: Populated with checklists of inspection items/activities required for specific units and properties.
- Real-time collaboration: Live workflows and real-time project tracking enable field staff, managers, office professionals, and trusted vendors to track their role in any inspection. Users can also share real-time feedback and updates, escalate exception reporting, and streamline team communications.
- Head office integration: When connected to an organization's digital network, the data from inspections can be integrated with accounting systems, portfolio databases, and other strategic systems. This can go a long way towards streamlining budgets and cost allocations, ensuring compliance, mitigating asset risks, and executing data-driven strategies.
- Real-time metrics: The ability to feed inspection data directly into back-office systems gives organizations the ability to track everything from turnover histories to resident chargebacks, portfolio performances to unit ROI, and spending anomalies to property value fluctuations.
- Work orders management: With the click of the screen, field staff can send work orders to preferred vendors and have all transactions cataloged for future reference.
- Online / Offline capabilities: Field staff can use the apps offline in areas without wi-fi or phone coverage, and then upload their data when online systems return.
- Optimal battery life: Long battery life ensure the job is done before the phone calls it quits.
- Device compatibility: Apps like SuiteSpot can be used on virtually every mobile device, and its information can be shared between various platforms.
- Safe digital storage: Inspection photos, videos, and written notes are securely stored in the cloud.
- Ease of use: Intuitive menus and navigation allow all users to learn the app no matter their tech experience.
How much does a property inspection app cost?
There is no one-size-fits-all price. Mobile inspection apps are used by a wide range of players, each of which requires different tools to work with varying unit types. As such, the cost of using mobile inspection apps can vary based on usage, the frequency of usage, and complexity of the job.
As with any app innovation, there will always be free options. As the saying goes, however, you get what you pay for; and more often than not these free alternatives lack the support, functionality, connectivity, and reliability of more reputed options. Moreover, many no-charge inspection apps lack the tools to use one's inspection data to derive true value from the inspection process.
“Integration with Property Management software removes duplication of work since details can be pushed and pulled as needed. Also since this happens electronically, transfers happen in real-time and errors in data entry are eliminated” added Jaeger
There may also be instances where the staff doesn't own a mobile device to begin with. Fortunately, many telecommunications providers offer corporate smartphone/device packages that can get them equipped. If that's not an option, consider starting a reimbursement plan to help employees tackle the cost. This can be pricey, but given the uptick in productivity and inspection accuracy, a small bit of support can go a long way.
Getting staff on board
Introducing new technology to any process can be disruptive, and even the most user-friendly mobile app have a learning curve. So while there are many benefits to adopting mobile inspection apps in one's operations, it is equally beneficial to implement them with a strategy.
- Do your homework: Each mobile inspection app is unique in terms of design, functionality, and cost. Determine what functions matter most to your organization and how much you are willing to invest. When crunching the numbers, keep in mind that mobile inspection apps generate a strong return on investment (ROI) over time in terms of faster turn-overs and more accurate results.
- Reach out to the vendor: No one knows a mobile inspection app better than its developer. SuiteSpot's team, for example, are as dedicated to maintaining its app as it is helping clients learn its systems and unlock its full potential. While shopping around, don't hesitate to contact the vendor for support. And if no support is available, consider that a red flag.
- Staff training: Apps like SuiteSpot's are designed to be intuitive and user-friendly. Nevertheless, it may take a training session or two to get staff comfortable with using it in the field. Consider working with the vendor to roll out a training program and provide helpful “how-to” manuals, videos, or other resources that can be accessed at any time.
- Do a test run: Before making a full switch to mobile inspection apps, try a few test runs on select projects. This will help identify any training gaps or missing features, which can then be addressed before full adoption.
- Make it your own: More sophisticated inspection apps like SuiteSpot's enable users to customize their features and options. They also enable new "integrations" to be added down the road to expand their functionality. Here again, it pays to work with the vendor to customize the app to match both your staff's preferences and the scope of their projects.
You can read a lot about mobile inspection apps, but the best way to realize the difference is to get one in your hands. Contact SuiteSpot to learn to get Demo, visit our website for more information.