Last modified on September 13th, 2022
By Marc Frenkiel
Property maintenance is essential, but it’s also one of the most costly and time-consuming parts of property management.
However, with AI and automation technology, maintenance is seeing an overhaul. Technology can make the process faster and more streamlined – which benefits everyone involved.
We spoke with Cat Allday, VP of the AI Initiative at AppFolio, and explored the benefits of automating the maintenance process with AI technology. She broke down how new technology is a win-win for residents, property managers, investors, and maintenance workers alike.
To hear more, listen to the podcast here or keep reading for some key highlights.
The future of property maintenance
Like in any business, leaders want to scale, improve efficiency, and grow without having to pump more money into recruitment. Technology has bridged the gap and made this easier, especially when using tools with AI and automation.
Cat’s prediction is that the future of property maintenance looks similar to an Uber-style system.
Uber revolutionized the ride-hailing and food delivery industries by bringing a mixture of tech, convenience, and transparency into the mix. Cat believes we could adopt something similar for property maintenance.
She envisions a future where residents will be able to see a picture of the maintenance tech who will be coming, along with a tracker to show when they’re on route as well as license verification, all on an app. After all, when we have maintenance work done on our homes, we’re inviting strangers in. Having greater transparency in the system can help residents feel more comfortable and taken care of.
Traditionally, maintenance techs leave a paper note on the door informing the resident that they carried out work on the property. Cat describes this as is “antiquated.” Instead, she’s calling for more electronic communication in real-time.
“Wouldn’t it be great if he could just speak into his phone and say, ‘here’s what I did, I fixed X,Y and Z, and I need to return next week with the part,’ and that gets transcribed into the work order and the notification is sent directly to the tenant.”
This will go a long way in creating a great experience for the resident while also streamlined the maintenance process.
How AI and automation can standardize the maintenance process
One of the most significant benefits of AI and automation technology that it helps to standardize processes . In maintenance specifically, automation can standardize two main things – the maintenance process and data collection.
AI greatly reduces repeatable tasks. Things like notifications, reminders, or updates on job statuses can all be handled by automation, keeping the whole process ticking over smoothly.
This will not remove the need for human workers, Cat says, but will instead change their roles and eliminate more tedious elements of the job.
Cat goes one step further and says that smart locks should be a key feature in the future. This can help with security issues and put residents’ at ease when maintenance techs need to come and go while the resident is not home.
Smart locks and other smart devices can also help with proactive maintenance – this is the process of predicting possible issues and fixing them before they become problems. But for this to work, data collection also needs to be standardized.
Standardizing how data is collected and stored
Collecting and storing data helps to standardize the process of maintenance because AI can analyze historical data and help with decision-making.
For example, if all the maintenance on a particular appliance is recorded and centralized, property management teams can use automation to predict when that appliance is due for another repair or a checkup. This helps to make the system more proactive in nature and reduces the number of bigger jobs and repairs that residents have to deal with.
The system can then automatically start scheduling visits for techs, with the resident able to confirm. But for all this to happen, good data collection, automation, and a centralized system are essential.
What property managers can do to make maintenance more streamlined
Cat’s top tip for property managers is to ditch the paperwork altogether. Relying on paper notes is a method prone to errors, lost information, or miscommunication. Instead, a digital system where details are recorded in real-time and accessed online in a centralized location is much more convenient.
Maintenance techs likely have phones already, so property managers should make sure that they have access to the internet and the ability to keep digital records of the work they’ve carried out.
But Cat goes one step further. She believes that centralized technology with features such as order tracking, notifications, and route tracking results in a more streamlined experience for residents and maintenance techs.
“I think as far as things that they need to start thinking about investing in, look at purpose-built technology for maintenance and work order tracking, whether that’s in a product like AppFolio, or another type of ticketing software.”
Overall, automation in the maintenance process is not something to be wary of. By investing in this technology, property management companies can create a more efficient process (both in time and money) that provides security, transparency, and assurance to the resident. Long-term, this can help with resident retention rates which can further protect your bottom line.
For more insights into the technology side of property maintenance, catch the full episode here.