Last modified on June 16th, 2023
By Megan Eales Monroe
Managing onsite inspections across an entire portfolio can be tough for any maintenance team. Staying on top of scheduling, communication with residents, and thorough follow-up is time and resource-intensive. However, there are many ways that you can make this process easier on everyone involved, by building a scalable system for inspections powered by digital tools that are easy to use.
Joining The Top Floor podcast is AppFolio’s Senior Product Manager, Kelly Dean, to talk more about how her team has approached developing technology to transform the entire inspection process.
Keep reading to learn more, or tune in to the full episode below:
Building a system around preventative maintenance
Waiting until something is broken causes your resident frustration, and is more costly and disruptive to fix. But with regular inspections, maintenance teams can pinpoint areas that need extra care in your units and make repairs before those issues turn into bigger problems.
Residents expect faster communication and for property managers to deal with any issues swiftly and effectively. And so, the key is to have a more proactive approach to inspections. As Kelly describes:
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I think that definitely applies when you think about routine inspections.”
This isn’t just a win for residents. Being more proactive and one step ahead on maintenance has great benefits for your team and overall business goals. Proactive, regular inspections help you budget for repairs, address supply chain issues earlier, and also reduce any long-term damage to the property — all of which adds up to better profitability overall. Kelly goes on:
“Anytime you can catch an issue early and prevent long-term damage to your property or to your assets, that goes straight to your bottom line.”
This also helps to improve your relationship with investors because you can keep them in the loop, let them know about issues way ahead of time, and help them budget for repairs.
What inspections should you be doing?
Most property management companies will do move-out inspections when a resident vacates the property. But Kelly believes you should add another two types of inspection to your process:
- Move-in inspections: This is the clearest way to compare move-in versus move-out conditions. If your residents countersign it, it leaves less room for debate later.
- Preventative inspections: These are ongoing inspections that could happen quarterly or yearly of both the units themselves and any common areas.
One of the benefits of routine, preventative inspections is that you’re more likely to find issues before they cause long-term damage. Residents are also more likely to report issues if they expect routine inspections.
Common issues with onsite inspections (and how to fix them)
One of the most common issues that maintenance teams face with inspections is access to WiFi. If you need to upload lots of photographs as part of the inspection, not having access to WiFi or the right devices can be a roadblock. Some maintenance staff may end up using their own devices and data, which isn’t ideal.
The solution to this is offline inspection capabilities in your property management software. This means that you’re not held back by connectivity problems when you need to document the state of the unit.
This is a great example of why you should replace manual, cumbersome processes with more tech-first, automated features.
Another common problem is when maintenance teams have to rely on pen and paper during onsite inspections. This just leads to double entry, potential data loss and errors – all of which can be very frustrating for your team. Since retaining great talent can be tough these days, it’s more important than ever to keep your team happy and supported with the right tools.
When you conduct an inspection, your team should ideally be able to flag areas with issues and directly create work orders in your property management software to resolve them. Within those work orders, they should add notes on the problem and photos to provide further context all in one place, so they’re ready to assign to a maintenance tech.
Kelly also explains that solutions like a digital unit turn board can help maintenance teams stay on top of unoccupied units after an inspection. All work orders that are created for an unoccupied unit will be tracked in your unit turn board so other members of the team can see progress towards the make-ready effort. As Kelly puts it:
“Digital tools and all-in-one solution can help make your team faster. It can help communication between team members and just gives you that view all in one place. So that really helps your team move faster.”
How to nail onsite inspections
Kelly’s first tip is to set yourself up for success with inspection templates.
A template helps clarify for your team what needs to be inspected. Once you find an issue, you can flag it as you turn it into a new work order ready to be shared with owners and residents. Even better, use smart digital templates that will adapt to the bedroom/bathroom count of the unit being inspected.
Another tip from Kelly is to try and shift from a reactive mindset around maintenance to a proactive one. If you can get ahead of repairs before they become bigger problems, you keep your residents happy, your team saves time, and you protect your profitability. Fixing a small problem before it becomes bigger and creates more damage is much more cost-effective.
Software for inspections can also separate work orders by those that are resident requested and those that are internally created. This helps teams prioritize jobs more effectively. Teams can also use data to predict when the portfolio is going to be most active in terms of resident requests. For example, summers are usually busy for people moving in or out, and so you’re more likely to need more inspections and maintenance during that time. Having the tools in place to prepare for those busy periods will help streamline your entire operation.
The future of inspections
The AppFolio Property Manager product team is hard at work thinking about how to support property managers throughout their entire workflow. That means thinking about how inspections affect the entire management process rather than viewing them as just a small part of it.
Kelly’s team views routine inspections as a key part of their vision for preventative maintenance, which has wider effects on the business, including resident retention and profitability.
Overall, Kelly’s advice is to focus on repeatable processes that can reduce wasted time for your staff and residents:
“If you can set up repeatable processes for scheduling, conducting, and then sharing your inspections, that’s going to be so helpful for you and your team.”
For more advice and insights into how you can maximize your maintenance operations, download our free guide below.