Joel Zwart is a qualified builder – and a worried one. He could see a disturbingly high number of hidden faults in the houses his friends and family were looking to buy. We’re talking about leaky buildings, botched repairs and serious structural flaws. With a massive mortgage required to buy the average Auckland home these days, buyers ran the risk of being landed with some massive, unforseen bills.
Buyers still had the option of protecting themselves with a builder’s inspection report, which costs around $700. But that’s a lot of wasted money if you end up unsuccessfully bidding on a succession on properties. So Joel decided to put his expert building knowledge to good use, and set up a business called House Pre Purchase Inspections (HPPI).
Joel developed a systematic approach to assess all major areas of risk in a building. He developed Word templates and standardised copy-and-paste responses that enabled him to compile cost-effective reports for buyers. Even so, he was still only able to complete a limited number of reports.
“I would leave the address with photos and then go back to my office, open up a Word template and start filling it in. This worked fine at first, but after completing a few hundred reports, I could see how slow and repetitive it was.”
But there was an even bigger issue with this approach. Joel knew the future of HPPI lay in scaling its services. He wanted to employ qualified builders to carry out the inspections, because they have the in-depth building knowledge to identify construction faults. However, most builders are better with a hammer than a computer keyboard. As Joel says, they’re not great spellers or report writers.
The solution: Build a house inspection mobile app.
Joel envisaged a custom HPPI app to run on mobile tablets. It would be populated with dropdown menus, fields and tick boxes to cover the many, complex options in New Zealand homes. For instance, the section on roofs alone would require 10 different multi-choice options. Armed with such an app, any HPPI employee would be able to compile a detailed, bespoke report in a standardised format. It could be set up in such a way to require all sections to be completed, so there would be no risk of a lazy or careless individual skipping something vital. Here’s how Joel summarised the challenge:
“How are we going to get people to produce consistent reports to a high standard, day after day? Just give them an audit and when it’s complete, they press Send.”
It was simple in theory – but what about the execution?
Custom mobile app development vs AMS.
While Joel knows a lot about house building and business processes, he would not claim to be an IT expert. He assumed his house inspection app would need to be created from scratch by highly skilled software developers. The problem here is cost. There’s no point developing an app to save money or generate revenue if it costs your business tens of thousands of dollars just to create a working prototype.
Fortunately, the people at Fuel who had designed Joel’s website had a better idea. They suggested he talk to AMS, to see if his house inspection app could be built on the AMS platform.
Working together, Joel and Jan were able to put together a prototype within a few weeks. They explored the capabilities of the AMS platform to deliver the functionality Joel wanted for his HPPI app, with Jan opening his eyes to some unconsidered options and taking responsibility for matching the solution to Joel’s vision.
“Jan made it real,” Joel says.
Next step: Grow the business.
Joel’s business now has its own custom-built app that captures all the information an HPPI employee needs to complete a house pre-purchase inspection. After just four weeks of training and consultancy, Joel was able to unleash the app in the hands of his employees. As a result he can now step back from the hands-on aspect of the job and concentrate on building his business.
Joel says his inspectors can now carry out two full pre-purchase assessments per day, and sometimes more. The information and images relating to the property are captured by the app, with the ability to generate a range of reports from the same set of data. It means HPPI can serve house-buyers more efficiently – and start to grow its footprint.
“We’re looking to expand nationally,” says Joel. “With AMS I’ve been able to turn my business IP into a tool that I can put in the hands of any qualified builder, and be confident they’ll turn out standardised reports without delay. When you’re looking to buy a home, that’s the sort of service you need.”
The story took an unexpected twist when Jan Hilder, as a result of getting to know Joel, asked for an HPPI report on a house she was looking to buy in Auckland. The report uncovered a serious roofing issue that changed her mind about the property. She pulled out of the purchase and subsequently bought another house.
Information is power. With AMS, that power is always in the hands of the buyer.
- HPPI offers house pre-purchase inspections for buyers of Auckland residential property. The business model is to offer affordable but reliable reports that arm prospective purchasers with the information they need to go ahead with a purchase.
- Founder Joel Zwart – a qualified builder – had the know-how to deliver house inspection reports, but was limited by a reliance on Word Doc templates when generating his customised reports.
- Joel sought to encode his house inspection expertise in a mobile app, but was initially held back by the costs of paying software developers.
- He was led to AMS, and realised the potential to build his desired solution on the AMS platform for a fraction of the cost of developing a one-off app.
- Joel worked with AMS Affiliate Jan Hilder to build and test the new app. This saved development time up-front and ensured the full capabilities of AMS were utilised.
- The HPPI app has enabled Joel to hire staff to carry out pre-purchase inspections using the system and standards he had developed. The result is a consistent standard of reporting, no matter who carries out the inspections.
- HPPI is now ideally placed to expand to other locations in New Zealand, with cost-effective pre-purchase inspection reports that provide prospective homebuyers with peace of mind.