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Digital stock condition surveys: a game-changer for housing providers

March 8, 2023
digital stock condition survey - spotr

As a housing provider, optimizing the use of funds to enhance the quality of homes and living conditions for tenants is always a top priority. But determining where to invest for maximum impact can be challenging. How can you effectively monitor the condition of all properties to identify maintenance needs and prioritize upgrades? While stock condition surveys offer valuable insights, they can be costly and time-consuming in their current form, and may not always provide the necessary information.

Fortunately, digital stock condition surveys have emerged as an alternative solution. They are faster, more affordable, and provide enhanced insights to pinpoint the buildings in need of maintenance and sustainability upgrades. By leveraging this technology, housing providers can make strategic investment decisions that maximize the value of their properties and benefit their tenants.

For housing providers with a vast number of properties, it can be challenging to maintain a detailed understanding of the condition of each home. While stock condition surveys are a standard way to gain insights, the traditional approach is a manual one where an inspector visits each property individually. This approach is often fraught with difficulties and complexities.

Randomized surveys & expensive, unused reports

Consider this: when conducting traditional stock condition surveys, a small group of estates is typically selected at random for inspection every year. Surveyors then visit these properties individually and note their observations on paper.

While this approach is intended to provide a representative sample of the entire stock, there may not be sufficient data available to determine which properties require further attention. This means it is impossible to get decent insight into the condition of the entire portfolio. Additionally, surveyors may unnecessarily visit properties that have recently undergone renovations, and may not be able to inspect certain areas, such as rear facades or roofs.

Consequently, the expensive stock condition survey reports generated from this approach often remain unused, tucked away in a drawer. This is largely due to the fact that these voluminous PDF documents require a significant amount of time to read, and make it difficult to overlay information to gain a broader understanding of the property portfolio. Without a comprehensive view of the entire stock, it's impossible to develop a data-driven maintenance strategy.

As a result:

  • Only a small portion of the portfolio's condition can be examined in depth.
  • Numerous properties are affected by inadequate upkeep, resulting in issues such as mould and leaks.
  • The expense of conducting new inspections rises every year.
  • Data that has been accumulated over time is often discarded or underutilized.
  • There is no yearly evaluation of the portfolio to ensure that maintenance and sustainability are being efficiently prioritized for the appropriate properties.

Therefore, housing providers end up losing out on the critical information necessary for enhancing maintenance, preventing unforeseen expenses, and attaining sustainability objectives.

digital stock condition survey - spotr

The stock condition survey goes digital

The idea of a "digital stock condition scan" emerged as a solution to the frustration of lacking critical information to efficiently manage housing stocks. This approach provides a faster, more accurate, and focused insight into the condition of your properties, via a digital scan.

The scan categorizes properties into three groups: 'poor', 'average', and 'good'. Properties labeled as "poor" require immediate attention due to significant defects. "Good" properties, on the other hand, are in excellent condition and may not require maintenance for the next year.

The "average" category usually generates the most debate. With traceable condition data and images, these properties can be manually reviewed from behind your desk, followed by a minimal number of targeted surveys to further research any identified issues.

How exactly does the digital stock condition scan work?

To prepare for the digital condition scan, we first create a visual twin of the property portfolio. The housing association provides us with an address list, and we handle the entire process. We gather images from various sources such as Cyclomedia, Google and Getmapping to capture street-level views of the buildings and their surroundings. We also use satellite images, as well as aerial images from aircraft and drones, and open data such as heat maps and foundation data.

Moreover, there is an option to import legacy data, including pictures taken on-site by tenants or surveyors, as well as images collected over the years by the housing provider. We bring all these images together on a single platform, creating a comprehensive digital and visual profile of the portfolio.

The inspection of the roof and facade is then conducted separately, and each element is assessed to determine whether it is in "Good," "Bad," or "Average" condition. For instance, loose roof tiles or the state of the bitumen are evaluated for the roof, while the current paint cycle of the facade is inspected. The scan provides a rapid overview of an estates’ condition, allowing for an immediate identification of estates that require further investigation for maintenance and those that do not need any maintenance in the current or upcoming year.

It is also possible to receive a detailed digital stock condition survey in accordance with the Dutch method called ‘NEN 2767’. This assessment involves separate digital inspections of the facade and roof, where visible defects are identified on each image per building component, and the scores are aggregated to determine the building's and estates' condition. The digital stock condition survey can be utilized for both the interior and exterior of an estate.

An example of a facade and roof stock condition survey in Spotr

Aren’t on-site stock condition surveys much better?

At first, people's initial response to condition surveys done through images may be skepticism, with many assuming that on-site surveys are the only way to assess the quality of a property. However, several housing providers like WoonPlus, BrabantWonen, and Viverion have been converted to using digital stock condition surveys.

While the digital condition scan is not intended to replace on-site inspections entirely, it offers a more cost-effective solution for targeted inspections. The scan can help identify which properties require an on-site survey, rather than having to inspect all properties, or a random selection, every year. This results in a significant reduction in surveying costs and an increase in data coverage.

In addition, on-site surveys usually only allow for a limited view of a property, such as the front facade, missing out on critical information. By using a digital condition scan or survey based on images, it is possible to view areas that are typically difficult to access, such as the rear facade or the roof. This approach provides an insight into the overall condition of the property portfolio every year.

How does the outcome compare with traditional methods?

A frequently voiced concern is that housing providers want to carry out stock condition surveys fully in compliance with standard surveying methods, like the NEN 2767 in the Netherlands. That's why, next to a stock condition scan, we offer the option of conducting a digital stock condition survey, which is entirely in accordance with NEN 2767, just like the traditional method. But, instead of inspectors being out on the field inspecting the property, the digital stock condition survey is carried out from behind a desk.

We have tested with our customers to see if there are any differences in the outcomes between the digital stock condition survey and the traditional stock condition survey. Our customers' research has shown that there are no differences in the outcome between the two methods. Moreover, all condition scores are traceable and can be found visually in Spotr. Scores can be accessed, tested, and adjusted if necessary at any time.

Better collaboration with maintenance partners

In addition to the significant cost savings and the wealth of updated information provided by the digital stock condition scan or survey, it also adds value to the collaboration with maintenance partners.

In traditional way of working, maintenance partners often repeat the surveys on their own to assess the building's condition and make an accurate offer. Although they receive the report with the condition score, they still prefer to visit the location themselves to assess the building's condition. This means that two site visits are required, which can be time-consuming and costly.

With Spotr, maintenance partners can use the images and condition scores of the properties. As a result, considerably fewer site visits are necessary, which saves time and money for all parties involved.

Where do you start?

More and more housing associations are switching to digital stock condition scans and surveys. But where do you begin?

Our suggestion is to take things one step at a time. Start by running a pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of the digital stock condition scan or survey on a small segment of your portfolio. This will allow the method to be tested within your organization and build support.

At Spotr, we have created a tailored pilot program for housing associations for this purpose. Would you like to learn more about what this pilot involves? Request a demo below, and we'll gladly provide further information: