Unraveling the ROI myth in multifamily: why diligent, mobile inspections can save you money

A calculator can’t always prevent a crisis. When it comes to multifamily decision-making, it’s critical to look beyond the lens of ROI. Here’s why diligent, mobile inspections will save you money — right now and in the long run.

A calculator can’t always prevent a crisis. When it comes to multifamily decision-making, it’s critical to look beyond the lens of ROI. Here’s why diligent, mobile inspections will save you money — right now and in the long run.

Unraveling the ROI myth in multifamily: why diligent, mobile inspections can save you money
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A calculator can’t always prevent a crisis. When it comes to multifamily decision-making, it’s critical to look beyond the lens of ROI. Here’s why diligent, mobile inspections will save you money — right now and in the long run.

It’s not news that inspections take time and cost money. From a solely ROI perspective, the math might not look pretty. But these disappointing numbers have much to do with the downsides that stem from a paper approach. Whether it’s uploading endless photos or seeking misplaced forms, the headaches entailed in such an outdated system can beg the question: wouldn’t life be easier without inspections?

In a word: “no!”

Across the multifamily industry, inaction can have tragic consequences. The case of a deadly fire at a San Marcos, Texas apartment complex last summer showcases the importance of diligent inspections. The father of one of the five people killed along with four other plaintiffs who survived the fire are now suing the property management company, alleging it failed to properly install and inspect fire alarms. The accusation holds even more weight as the property already lacked a sprinkler system, a decision in line with code requirements at the time the building was constructed.

It’s just one example of missed inspections proving much more costly than consistent maintenance. But as multifamily executives know well, it’s not just the fear of losing money that should inspire action. The opportunity to make money inspires business transformations, too. A switch to mobile inspections satisfies both appetites. Transforming your operations this way will unravel the myth that inspections were ever at odds with your ROI. From labor savings to legal avoidance, a custom ROI analysis can reveal powerful results that could be yours. Here’s what’s possible when you rethink the value of diligent, mobile inspections.

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Steer clear of lawsuits: prevent disaster with mobile inspections.

apartment on fire

Investing in high-quality mobile inspection technology is the best way to prevent a dangerous situation — and a costly lawsuit — in your multifamily communities. Last May, a Portland resident was awarded over $20M after he fell through a rotting walkway at his 600-unit apartment complex and tore the meniscus in one knee. Robert Trebelhorn’s attorneys argued that the California-based property management company running the property “had a history of telling maintenance workers to paint over rotting wood that supported the walkways,” and, worse still, instructed them to “apply a thin veneer of concrete over cracking walkways or stairs to give them the appearance of safety.”

Even more bleak was Trebelhorn’s attorneys’ argument that the property management company took advantage of Portland’s incredibly tight rental market to defer a decade of required maintenance. Trebelhorn’s attorneys note that, despite a 98% occupancy rate at the complex in question, “over one year, 70 percent of the people who have moved in have moved out.”

Luckily, a range of solutions can bring red-flag maintenance issues to light. Mobile solutions paired with a management control center can help prevent site-level negligence by providing line-of-sight visibility remotely, give your management team real-time access to inspections and property conditions, to better protect residents and your company’s reputation.

But negligence isn’t the only legal arena where diligent, mobile inspections prove game-changing. They can also ensure you never fall prey to a bait-and-switch acquisition. The $67M sale of a 306-unit luxury apartment complex is now at the center of a lawsuit launched by Southstar Capital Group against developer Hines. At issue? According to Southstar, a host of undisclosed defects, ones that “violated local building codes.” Southstar’s attorneys say: “walls, breezeways, floors and balconies began to crack and deflect” after residents started occupying the building, prompting evacuations and thorough inspections that revealed the alleged violations.

Fortunately, mobile inspections are a major step in the right direction, helping multifamily executives unearth issues like these during the Due Diligence stage. Unlike the traditional paper approach, mobile inspections can feature the kind of customizable templates and advanced rating system it takes to have comprehensive, reliable data. With a mobile solution, Southstar executives might have connected the dots and discovered the unsettling truth.

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Replace parts, not machines: the power of preventative maintenance.

repairing HVAC

At their core, inspections build knowledge. But if the data collected lacks photo proof or gets jotted down on paper and misplaced in a filing cabinet, all of that time and effort by your maintenance techs go to waste. Luckily, with the switch to a mobile system, everything your property managers and maintenance technicians learn is saved and accessible in the cloud.

This means early warnings about furnaces or HVAC systems can spare you major expenses down the road. For example, entering a subpar rating for this kind of equipment in a mobile inspection system could signal the need for a follow-up visit to replace a filter, a significantly cheaper step than the standard narrative: an urgent visit to replace the entire furnace altogether. In Massachusetts, for example, where residents reportedly pay the eighth highest utility bills in America – $469 per month — the U.S. Department of Energy stresses the importance of “regularly replacing filters for furnaces and heat pumps” as a form of “long-term savings.”

By switching to mobile inspections, property managers can replace parts instead of machines — proving the power of preventative maintenance. We’re at our happiest hearing results like this…

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"HappyCo helps us prevent neglected items from deteriorating — allowing us to reduce liability, drive down replacement costs, and raise NOI by 1.2%, or $1.5 million dollars."

Jaren Bradley
Senior VP of Ops, AMC

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Move-out charges so long out of reach? Yours at last.

pest inspector

When it comes to damage costs, mobile inspections finally provide the proof you’ve been lacking: time-and-date stamped photos of your units. A before-and-after look at a damaged fridge or dishwasher can finally add up in your favor. In addition, HappyCo solutions can change the narrative of resident disputes. Since implementing HappyCo, our customers have experienced:

— 9% increase in damage charges across their portfolio annually

— 50% fewer resident disputes

•   •   •

"Damage charges increased 340% to $11,000 this month from $2,000 to $3,000 before HappyCo. The new system helps with former customer relationships by backing up our charges, and really encourages the residents to trust our judgement because we can now show them visual proof. In the event of a dispute, our corporate team is able to remotely view our photos to decide if the charges stand or not. It's almost like corporate is there walking the unit with us. The visibility we're able to give the head office is amazing!"

Amber Marceau
Assistant Community Manager

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By making the switch to a mobile inspection platform, your teams can experience the same relief — the certainty that move-out charges won’t turn into move-out tension.

Shatter the myth, reap the benefits.

The moral of the story: don’t let a textbook ROI equation deter you from transforming your business in powerful ways. It’s time to shatter the ROI myth and reap the benefits. As Forbes makes clear in this article on ROI restrictions vs. IT innovation, “establishing oneself as an innovator and leader may be the primary criteria for making an investment decision, and the cost of inaction or delay in action could be the loss of a leadership position that might be difficult to later regain.”

Stressing that the cost of doing nothing is simply “unaffordable,” the author cuts to the chase: “inaction today leads to an uncertain future.” Our advice: leave that fate to your multifamily rivals. Look beyond the lens of ROI and learn the benefits of mobile inspection solutions today. As a custom ROI analysis illustrates, annual recurring ROI after a mobile inspection switch could reach millions of dollars.

Jennifer Tyson
About the Author
Jennifer Tyson

Jennifer Tyson is a seasoned marketing professional with more than 15 years experience at leading Silicon Valley companies and startups. During a decade at Apple, Jennifer launched three generations of Apple Internet services including the blockbuster iCloud 1.0 launch in 2011. iCloud became the fastest growing Internet service of its time acquiring 45 million users within the first 30 days and over 300 million in less than two years. In December 2015, Jennifer joined HappyCo leading marketing. Jennifer holds an MBA from Dominican University of California and a BA from the University of California Santa Cruz.


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