HappyCo

Equity Residential

A Top Multifamily Owner and Manager Transforms its Move-Out Inspections

Case Study — Multifamily Residential

Equity Residential

Equity Residential is one of the largest apartment owners and managers in the U.S. with almost 80,000 rental units across 302 properties generating more than $2 billion in annual revenue.Their properties are located in New York City, Boston, Washington DC, Seattle, San Francisco and Southern California.

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Up arrow 9%Damage
Charges
Up arrow $850kCost
Recoveries
Down arrow 25-50k HRSTime Savings
Annually
Down arrow 30-60 MINSTime Savings
Per Inspection
Down arrow UP TO 50%Fewer Resident
Disputes
Up arrow 9%Damage
Charges
Up arrow $850kCost
Recoveries
Down arrow 25-50k HRSTime Savings
Annually
Down arrow 30-60 MINSTime Savings
Per Inspection
Down arrow UP TO 50%Fewer Resident
Disputes

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Equity Residential owns and operates almost 80,000 apartment units throughout the U.S. Equity focuses on maintaining residential communities that best reflect each city’s environment, offer the highest standards of amenities and are sustainable and socially responsible. To improve the resident move-out experience and give management visibility across its portfolio, Equity turned to HappyCo to transform its move-out inspection process. Since implementing more than a year ago, Equity has increased its damage chargebacks by 9%, equivalent to $850,000 in cost recovery, reduced labor by 30 – 60 minutes per inspection across 50,000 inspections annually and substantially decreased disputes, with some properties reporting up to 50% fewer disputes at move out.

Dining and living room of Equity Residential multifamily apartment unit


Mobile Inspections Translate to Increased Compliance & More Consistent, Quality Data

Prior to deploying the HappyCo platform, Equity Residential used paper inspection forms to perform move-outs across their 80,000 apartment units. “When we’re working with paper files, compliance is really tough to keep a handle on,” said Edward Leigh, VP Property Operations at Equity Residential. “We didn’t have easy access to the documentation that we needed to back up the charges that we had. So this was a big problem for us.”

Move-out inspections are critical for apartment owners and managers: without visual proof documenting the difference between move-in and move-out conditions, residents often dispute damage charges; and unless apartment companies can provide visual evidence, the law sides with the resident.

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"We've developed app functionality together with HappyCo, and I always feel like I have an open ear. The HappyCo team listens to what we're trying to do and prioritizes our needs because they recognize that other companies will benefit from these changes too."

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Edward Leigh
VP Property Operations

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The move-out inspections Equity previously used included only the basic condition of rooms without a high-level of detail on specific items. Along with these paper inspection forms, Equity required that inspectors document issues with digital photographs, but Equity’s management team had no visibility into whether inspections had been performed to corporate standards — or at all. “Photos were one of the hardest things to keep track of. People would end up with photos on their iPhones, photos on their camera,” said Leigh.

Bedroom in Equity Residential multifamily apartment unit


With the HappyCo platform now in place, Equity benefits from consistent, high quality data. Rather than generic inspection reports lacking itemized photos and comments, the company now produces a comprehensive report for every inspection that includes per-item photos, ratings and comments, — information that generates critical business intelligence to improve operations across its entire portfolio. HappyCo also implemented a custom integration that enables Equity to schedule all inspections through the MRI Software platform, automatically pushing required inspections to the Happy Inspector mobile app.

“You can just go into the app and everything’s ready to go — the inspection loads the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms in a unit. It’s really easy,” says Brian Heitz, Service Manager at Vista 99. “Then you can upload and take the pictures as you go and put your comments in. Once you walk into the office and connect to WiFi — boom, it sends the report right out! Perfect!”

Equity Residential admin using Happy Manage


Being able to check that inspections are completed in real time is one of the primary benefits of the HappyCo platform. “Visibility is incredible because you can log right into the HappyCo website and look at any inspection report that anybody has done anywhere in the country,” said Dybowski. “It’s very easy to see who’s doing it well, who’s putting too little detail, who’s putting too much detail, etcetera without ever leaving your desk.”

“If a step is missing in the workflow, like generating a resident report from the inspection, or missing information, I can see it remotely and call up the property manager and help them resolve the issue,” said Leigh. In addition, Equity has increased its inspection compliance with HappyCo. “Now, we have online access to every inspection across the portfolio, and we get almost 100% compliance where the move out inspection is done,” said Leigh.

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"Visibility is incredible because you can log right into the HappyCo website and look at any inspection report that anybody has done anywhere in the country. It's very easy to see who's doing it well, who's putting too little detail, who's putting too much detail, etcetera without ever leaving your desk."

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Steve Dybowski
First VP, National Facilities

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HappyCo Platform Increases Damage Recoveries & Time Savings While Reducing Disputes

Previously, including the necessary photo documentation for inspections proved time-consuming and inefficient according to Leigh: “You know one of the biggest time savers was actually in the office, where in our previous process, a community manager would upload every photo that was taken during the inspection into our system. It was an incredibly time consuming process, a lot of times we had up to a hundred photos, and it would take 30 minutes to an hour just to upload photos for one move out inspection. With the HappyCo process we were able to completely eliminate that step and now, it’s a complete package. Photos, notes, the whole shebang.”

Reducing labor by 30 – 60 minutes per inspection across 50,000 inspections annually is equivalent to a huge time savings that can be applied to other critical property tasks — the time saved extrapolates to 25,000 to 50,000 productivity hours or $650,000 to $1.3 million saved annually (based on a national median salary of $26/hour for Residential Property Managers).

Most critical to its financial performance, Equity has increased its damage chargebacks by 9%, returning $850,000 in annual cost recovery to its bottom line. “We’ve seen about a 10% increase in our average damage charge and it’s not because we’re charging more; it’s because we’re actually being more consistent in doing our inspections,” said Leigh. In addition, moving to HappyCo’s mobile platform has substantially decreased resident disputes, with some properties reporting up to 50% fewer disputes at move out. “It’s not a debate anymore, residents see the proof, they see the evidence, they see the pictures, they see the documentation, it goes straight to their account,” said Alan Bradford, Community Manager at Vista 99.

Equity Residential Service Manager Ken North using Happy Inspector

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"We were able to roll out the product to all of our users in a fairly short period of time. We just got them together and in about a 45 minute training session, we were able to give them all the tools that they needed to be able to do these inspections."

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Edward Leigh
VP Property Operations

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Courtyard fountains at Equity Residential multifamily apartment complex



Global Deployment in Single Month Across Entire Portfolio

The HappyCo Platform sets itself apart from other ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software vendors by offering a solution that can be deployed across large enterprises quickly and easily. According to Leigh, “We were able to roll out the product to all of our users in a fairly short period of time. We just got them together and in about a 45 minute training session, we were able to give them all the tools that they needed to be able to do these inspections.”

With 302 properties distributed across the U.S., deploying the HappyCo platform was seamless, and within a few weeks, approximately 400 users were set up across every property. Equity trained the key stakeholders at two bi-coastal meetings for regional property managers and maintenance supervisors. After the training session, managers returned to their home territories and began training their onsite property staff. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and almost every inspector was using the app successfully after only a week in the field.

Equity Residential Service Manager Matt Buck using Happy Inspector



“It was pretty easy,”” said Matt Buck, Service Manager at Parkside. “I train our new hires; I had a new hire, and in a matter of minutes I had them trained on Happy Inspector. It doesn’t take long at all. Five to ten minutes, — you got it. You pretty much got it.”

Offline Inspection Capability Ensures Quality Data and Saves on the Bottom Line

Due to WiFi connectivity issues in apartments, resulting from the buildings’ concrete and steel cores, Equity needed a solution that worked flawlessly offline and synced reliably back to the cloud when reconnecting. “We didn’t want to deal with data problems, and HappyCo handled the transition between areas with coverage and those without coverage flawlessly,” Leigh said. “There’s no risk of data loss regardless of Internet connectivity, which is key for us.” Not only is offline capabilities critical for data integrity, but it also means Equity can avoid the expense of cellular data plans required by a solution that requires an Internet connection. With cellular data plans at $35 per user per month, Equity avoids close to $150,000 annually in data costs other Internet-dependent solutions would entail.

Another key benefit of the HappyCo platform has been resident transparency. Processing damage deposits and refunding money slowly can lead to friction and resident dissatisfaction. With HappyCo, Equity can ensure a speedy yet comprehensive inspection process and issue refunds in a timely manner. According to Leigh, “Our residents have more transparency into the inspection process and to the results of our inspections, and when you come down to it,we have fewer disputes, which ends up adding to our bottom line because we have better documentation and our process is really tight.”

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"We've seen about a 10% increase in our average damage charge and it's not because we're charging more; it's because we're actually being more consistent in doing our inspections."

Avatar

Edward Leigh
VP Property Operations

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Aerial view of Equity Residential multifamily apartment complex

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Key Challenges

  • Management had limited visibility into whether inspections had been performed across the portfolio
  • Paper inspection forms included only summary information by room, not per-item detail
  • Photos were often not linked to inspections as the uploading process was arduous, costing community managers 30 minutes to an hour per inspection
  • Resident disputes were more commonplace without accompanying photo documentation easily at hand.

HappyCo Solutions

  • Happy Inspector app ensures standardized, consistent, high quality data capture across every inspection, including per-item photos, ratings and comments
  • Integrated per-item photo feature ensures every inspection includes visual documentation that is timestamped and automatically collated per item
  • Seamless online and offline capability provides for reliable data collection regardless of Internet connectivity
  • Happy Manage web console gives management real-time visibility to access inspections as soon as they are completed in the field and address issues immediately

Successful Outcomes

  • 9% increase in damage charges, equivalent to $850,000 annually
  • 30 – 60 minutes saved per inspection by eliminating manual photo upload, equivalent to 25,000 – 50,000 hours annually or $650,000 to $1.3 million saved in productivity
  • Global deployment across 302 properties and 400 users in just a single month
  • Real-time visibility to completed inspections has led to better management oversight and compliance
  • Fewer resident disputes; some properties reporting 50% fewer disputes at move-out
  • $150,000 annually avoided in cellular data charges
  • Improved resident transparency in assessments for damage charges leading to better resident relations

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