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Traditional draw inspections have been conducted in a very low-tech way for over a hundred years. In recent decades, the emergence of digital photography has made inspection reports more robust, but the overall process has remained inefficient and time-consuming. This is due in part to the aging workforce of construction inspectors, most of who are over 50, are often part-time and underpaid, and rarely have real homebuilding experience. As a result, lenders face a supply and speed problem, as well as a quality and consistency problem in progress evaluation results. This is where virtual draw inspections come in.

Virtual Construction Inspections

Virtual construction inspections (VCIs) offer a solution to these challenges. VCIs are conducted remotely ideally, by a licensed General Contractor who reviews photos, video and documents submitted by mobile apps by borrowers or their onsite crews. VCI platforms also include communication tools to make it easy for folks onsite to provide additional info to remote inspectors and answer questions. VCIs offer a number of advantages over traditional inspections, including:

On-demand inspections

VCIs can be scheduled on demand, eliminating the need for borrowers to wait days or weeks for an inspector to be available.

Reduced scheduling delays and padded draws

Because VCIs can be scheduled on demand, borrowers are less likely to pad their draw requests to account for inspection delays or unqualified inspectors who don’t know construction.

End-to-end project monitoring

VCIs can be used to monitor a construction project from start to finish with the same construction expert, providing lenders with a consistent view of borrower competency and potential risks.

Adherence to lender reimbursement policies

VCI platforms can be configured to adhere to specific lender reimbursement policies, ensuring that borrowers are properly credited for their work.

Development of insights into borrowers

VCI inspectors and companies can develop insights into borrowers as they interact with them while gathering media and ask questions about the job. This information can be used to identify potential risks and opportunities.

Lender access to comprehensive project notes

Modern VCI platforms provide lenders with access to comprehensive internal notes about the project and the borrower. This information can be used to track progress, resolve issues, and make informed decisions.

Informed by parcel and construction cost data

VCI platforms can provide inspectors with access to a variety of property data, including prior owners, last renovation scope, and original building materials. This information can be used to benchmark progress and identify potential risks. The best platforms have real-time labor rates and materials costs to help with accurate benchmarking.

Access to appraisals and original condition photos

VCI inspectors typically have access to appraisals, BPOs, and original photos. This information can be used to assess true progress from start to finish and gauge project velocity.

Consistent process

VCI inspectors and the quality control teams overseeing them follow a consistent process for each lender’s unique requirements, ensuring that inspections are conducted thoroughly and accurately.

Elimination of conflicts of interest

VCIs eliminate the potential for conflicts of interest that can occur when on-site inspectors have an existing relationship with borrowers or contractors, which can happen frequently in localized and rural markets.

Creation of risk data

Comprehensive, data-driven project monitoring creates ongoing and historical risk data that lenders can use to evaluate borrowers, areas, and more.

Summary

VCIs offer a number of advantages over traditional construction inspections, making them a valuable tool for lenders and borrowers alike. By providing more frequent, consistent, and economical progress checks, VCIs can help lenders to reduce default risk and improve the overall efficiency of the construction loan process.

If you are a lender interested in learning more about how VCIs can benefit your business, please contact Sitewire today. We would be happy to discuss your specific needs and show you how our platform can help you to improve the efficiency and reliability of your construction inspections.

Virtual inspection is the next wave of construction progress monitoring. It is an established and critical tool in large-scale commercial construction, where 360-degree cameras and 3D visualization software have been used for years.

Virtual inspections have demonstrated incredible utility in keeping projects on track and typically deliver the following benefits:

  • Faster, cheaper progress monitoring: It is typically cost-prohibitive to send a third party to a job site very often. Most inspections cost anywhere from $100 to thousands, depending on the scope of the project. Additionally, getting someone to the site involves scheduling and can be a distraction for the project manager or workers. By relying on existing site personnel, it is possible to get more frequent updates on progress and catch problems before they get out of hand. Many large sites do daily or weekly progress checks.
  • Full visual documentation for legal, insurance, and maintenance purposes: Virtual inspections create a long-term archive of everything that went into the build. If you need to produce documentation for legal or insurance purposes, you now have a high-fidelity visual record of everything. And if you need to repair or extend a building once built, you now know what’s behind the walls and under the ground.

However, virtual inspections have historically been the province of commercial job sites for three big reasons:

  1. The 360-degree cameras used are expensive, fragile, and require training for a project manager or foreman to operate. They are also easily lost.
  2. A person on-site must typically follow a path or overlay the images they are collecting on a 2D or 3D floor plan. This is a time-consuming process that interrupts the project manager or foreman’s work and adds labor cost to the inspection. Many cameras only have an 8-foot effective range for taking quality images, so large swaths of the building may not be captured accurately.
  3. The data is massive. Many virtual inspection technologies don’t work offline because the files they create take a lot of space to store and time to transmit to the cloud. Because of this, WiFi access points are usually needed at the job site.

A new iteration for residential construction:

The next evolution of virtual inspection technology is entirely mobile and takes advantage of the increasingly amazing hardware that’s in everyone’s pocket. A few years ago, phones weren’t up to the task for high-fidelity virtual inspections, but now they are:

  • Camera resolution: The smartphone companies are in a never-ending race to deliver high-resolution images that, when blown up, would be the equivalent of 3 to 4 foot wide prints. With good resolution, it’s easy to get into the fine details of a job site and catch details that an on-site inspector might miss.
  • Image stabilization: Modern phones have sophisticated stabilization technologies for both photos and videos that produce relatively blur-free images.
  • Image cleanup: The right software can automatically optimize video and photo on the phone and in the cloud to account for poor lighting, out-of-focus areas, and more.
  • Image AI: Phones now have the horsepower to analyze images and video as it’s being captured. This AI can look for problems (like subtle water leaks) that even a trained human eye might miss.
  • Storage: Modern devices have massive amounts of storage for collecting 100-2,000 images and videos of the site without having to worry about running out of space.
  • Compression and transmission: Another benefit of phone horsepower is better and smarter compression for optimizing video and image file sizes during virtual inspection. And it’s now much easier to intelligently determine when the right time to send the data to the cloud is—to optimize phone battery life and ensure data will get synced fully.
  • Sensor data and AR: Phones are equipped with an array of sensors and Augmented Reality (AR) tools to share GPS location, height, altitude, movement speed, and more. All of this can be used to position the phone’s user in 3D space without them having to plot where on the parcel a photo or video was taken.

Modern virtual inspection technologies also often incorporate computer vision to assist the remote reviewer in understanding what they are looking at. Computer vision can look for problems as well as identify objects in scenes and even look up their cost.

If you’d like to learn more about virtual inspections, reach out to us.

We get a lot of questions from folks outside the industry about what a construction draw is, and how software can aid in the process. 

A construction draw itself is the act of requesting funds from a project budget, either base on milestones completed or progress to-date. You can think of Constuction budgets, whether funded by a Lender or a Real Estate investor (or both) as money that is held in a sort of escrow until work is done. Each money request “draws” down against the budget. Real Estate investors draw money down from lenders and other co-investors in projects to fund their General Contractor. General Contractors draw down from the Real Estate Investor’s budget to pay their crews, subs and material bills. 

Construction draw software therefore, blends the needs of project and progress management into financial management. It helps Real Estate Investors, Lenders and Construction professionals streamline their workflow, track progress and communicate effectively with project stakeholders.

Here’s a general overview of how construction draw software works:

1. Property and Site Setup: The software allows users to create a new property by defining location, start and end dates, and other relevant details such as the summary scope of the project. This information serves as the foundation for the construction schedule.

2. Creating Tasks and the Budget: Construction draw software enables users to break down the project into smaller tasks or activities. Each task represents a specific action that needs to be completed, such as excavation, foundation pouring, framing, plumbing, electrical work, and so on. Each task is assigned a budget target. For example the budget for Pluming might be “$25,000”. 

3. Tracking Progress: In commercial construction, sophisticated software is used to track hundreds to thousands of tasks that might occur of several years. In homebuilding and smaller projects, progress is typically tracked by how much money has been consumed for each Budget Task. For example if $12,500 has been spent of a $25,000 Plumbing budget, then the progress is 50%. Progress tracking is often combined with audio / visual inspections and walkthroughs of a property to see the evolution of each task, and help capture the progress at a specific point in time.

4. Document & Expense Collection: Construction and Real Estate development includes a wide array of documents to track and store for future reference—from lien waivers to updated title reports to materials expenses. Good construction draw software can help store all the files related to the project and also tag them by draws, GC payments and other categories and events. 

5. Communication and Collaboration: Construction draw software often includes features for communication and collaboration among project stakeholders. It may offer tools for sharing project updates, exchanging documents, generating reports, and facilitating discussions between team members, contractors, and clients. Good construction draw software supports SMS texting and email notifications to keep folks in the field working. 

6. Reporting and Analysis: The construction draw software generates various reports and analytics. These reports can provide insights into project risk, speed, budgeting and more. They help stakeholders make informed decisions, identify areas for improvement, and ensure the project stays on track.

7. Mobile First: Since both Real Estate Investors and their General Contractors are on the move, the best construction draw software is “mobile first”, providing a mobile app for field users and “responsive” web pages that work on smaller laptop, tablet and phablet screens for cloud users. 

Overall, construction draw software simplifies the complex process of project management, offering a centralized platform for planning, scheduling, tracking, and collaborating on construction projects. It enhances efficiency, reduces errors, and improves communication, ultimately leading to more successful and timely project completion.

At Sitewire, we’ve made construction draw software very easy to use, and also augmented it with virtual inspection capabilities so that tracking progress is simple. Other vendors in the market offer heavier packages that overlap with loan portfolio management software. They also cater to large construction projects for regulated banks that have multiple branches. 

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