It has been some while since surveyors turned up at properties with little more than a pen, pad and measuring tape. Nowadays, big data and artificial intelligence (AI) play their part in a smarter and more agile way of working. A tablet has become a surveyor’s stock in trade, although not all technology that offers the industry a helping hand is of equal value.
When the management at Radweb’s Property Inspect saw the need for a service that would take some of the standard strain out of the RICS Home Survey Level 2, they were coming from a position of having already produced highly effective inventory reports, building reports and property inspection tools for professionals involved in the global property industry. The popularity of Property Inspect (which was adopted by Airbnb for its work in the Olympic Village during Tokyo 2020) meant that the team felt it had the building blocks with which to negotiate the needs of chartered surveyors.
“What we wanted to do was replicate the success we had with the inventory software by adapting it for the surveying market,” says Steve Rad, managing director of Radweb Property Inspect. The company has come up with a new product, RICS Home Survey software, within the Property Inspect platform. “Our programme ticks a lot of boxes and it helps surveyors to streamline and automate the process by cutting down on the amount of admin and reporting. Inventory providers often say that Inventory Base (the sister software) is the only horse in that race and we want to do the same for property surveyors.”
The idea is that Property Inspect takes a surveyor through the steps of a Level 2 Home Survey, prompting responses and comes pre-loaded with about 300 standard phrases. It does, however, also allow the surveyor to fill in any area on the survey with their own words, should they wish to. A firm (or individual surveyor) can create its own survey template should that be necessary and adapt it to the local market. For instance, coastal erosion or flooding might be a concern in the locality in which they carry out much of their work so extra responses could be added for these conditions. So far, Property Inspect is the only survey software that has RICS branded and compliant level 1, 2 and 3 reports.
“We wanted to raise standards in the RICS survey system,” says Warrick Swift, Property Inspect’s commercial director. “Our platform helps our customers be more efficient and effective in their role.”
The core idea is that Property Inspect makes the production of surveys more efficient and audit compliant. It does this by automating the process as much as possible, allowing for the pre-populated responses on site, the simple addition of photographs and video evidence and the entire report can be then assembled in a few clicks. This means that there is very little post-production to do once the surveyor has left the site.
There are three main benefits to this:
The surveyor can spend more time on site inspecting the building, rather than negotiating a clumsily designed form, and so can give a more thorough survey
It cuts down on tiresome admin work meaning that they can do more surveys
The client gets a more detailed and audit compliant product that will help the surveyor, should a litigation case be raised later
Emma Walker MRICS, owner of EW Estates in Morpeth, Northumberland, was an early adopter of the technology. “I used to be a lettings agent and had been using Inventory Base’s property inspection software,” she says. “We tried a couple of different software options for surveys but the ones we used took a lot longer and needed a lot more manual input than Property Inspect. It is really easy to understand and it’s in a logical order; we’ve had software where after inspecting the roof, we’ve had to go up a ladder into the loft, then go back outside again to look at other external features.”
Another advantage is that the package is ‘white label’, meaning that it can be matched to a company’s existing branding. If the software is adopted by a larger firm, it can also be used by a central administrator to schedule appointments and keep a live log of who is doing what and where, plus track the progress of individual surveys. Every part of the report is saved to the cloud and kept for 15 years, giving an invaluable digital audit trail and the ability for anyone on the team – or an individual working independently – to call up any paperwork if needed in a dispute resolution, for example, or just to indicate that the survey has been completed and delivered.
MD Steve Rad points out that Property Inspect integrates easily with other third-party programmes. It’s now at the stage where the developers can start to integrate it with accounting packages such as Quickbooks or Xero, as well as add features that would make it compliant with other forms of property inspections such as asbestos or fire safety reports. The software also allows surveyors to share only part of the report with a third party, should confidentiality or relevance be an issue.
While Rad and Swift say that they are always open to further refining their software, the verdict so far has been positive “It’s meant that we can generate more work,” says Walker. “It’s meant that our surveyors can provide more detailed reporting and that’s meant better feedback.”
“It’s meant that our surveyors can provide more detailed reporting and that’s meant better feedback” Emma Walker MRICS, EW Estates