Remote Inspection for Vacation Rentals: Pros and Cons

If you’ve downloaded our Ultimate Guide to Short-Term Rental Inspections, you know why post-turnover inspections are a critical tool for every property manager.

Inspections can eliminate 98% of all mistakes made during turnover. 

You can save thousands every year by catching those mistakes before your guests see them.

There’s just one problem: in-person inspections are expensive.

Which means that it’s worth considering whether you can perform your inspections remotely – without sending someone to each property after your cleaning crew is done with the job.

How Does a Remote Inspection Work?

In a regular inspection, someone on your staff walks through each property to determine whether any tasks have been missed.

In a remote inspection, your cleaning crew takes photos of each room once it’s completed and any tasks that are critical for guest satisfaction.

Someone at your office then reviews those photos in real time and lets the cleaning crew know if anything is missing or needs to be re-done.

The cleaning crew fixes the problem before they leave the property.

Easy, right? But, as with all solutions, remote inspection has its pros and cons.

Remote Inspection Pros

Remote Inspections have a lot of advantages over in-person inspections – and cost is just the beginning.

1. Remote inspections are less expensive.

With an in-person inspection, you need to pay for the time it takes to physically send someone to each property that needs to be inspected.

If you have 10 turnovers in a single day, you’ll need several people performing inspections. No one person can visit and walk through 10 properties in various locations in the time between turnover completion and guest arrival.

Despite the amount of time it takes to perform all of your inspections, any given inspection only takes an hour or so.

This means you need attentive, conscientious people who are available for a few hours a week on your constantly-changing check-in schedule. 

That’s pretty hard to find.

Switching to remote inspection means that one person can perform all your inspections, and it becomes a task that can be assigned to someone on your regular staff.

2. Remote inspections can be just as effective – with a proper process.

You’ll need to make sure the tasks you include in your regular inspection are re-formatted as requests for photos.

Once you’ve done that, however, remote inspections become as effective as in-person inspections for catching the mistakes your cleaners make.

Cleaning staff can easily forget tasks that aren’t easy to spot and aren’t part of a typical house cleaning process (but are essential for vacation rental stays).

Setting out linens, restocking supplies, emptying dishwashers and refrigerators, verifying that appliances and electronics work, and checking the entry method are all tasks you can turn into photo requests.

You may even find that remote inspection is a more effective way to catch these problems.

Your inspectors are just as vulnerable to forgetting some tasks as your cleaners are. If your inspector AND your cleaner both forget to check that the fridge has been emptied, your guest is going to be pretty annoyed.

With a remote inspection, your cleaner has to take a photo of the inside of the fridge. Think there’s any chance they’ll forget to empty it when they’ve done that?

3. Remote inspection catches and fixes the problem immediately.

The mere act of taking the photo will usually alert your cleaner that they’ve forgotten something. If you ask for a photo of the inside of the dishwasher, your cleaner will quickly realize they forgot to run it – which means they can fix the problem themselves.

No need for an additional person to remedy the problem when your cleaner has a handy reminder to double-check the task was done correctly.

You won’t need to spend the additional time to have someone go out to the property to fix the issue. It’s checked, and double-checked, in the same time period.

Without the immediate fix, you can run into problems that can only be resolved with multiple trips. If your cleaner fails to notice a broken TV, and your inspector catches it, you’ll still need to send someone to fix it.

After you’ve already conducted a clean and an inspection, how much time will you have left to fix the problem before your guest arrives?

With remote inspection, the cleaner is asked to take a photo of the TV turned on. They’ll catch the broken TV right away, and you can have a repair on the way well before the guest arrives.

4. Remote inspection leaves a paper trail.

Many property managers have run into the problem of the guest who claims that the property was “filthy” when they arrived – even when the manager knows that isn’t true.

If you have an inspection as part of your process, it can be especially frustrating to get into a he-said she-said situation with a guest. After all, you have both the cleaner and the inspector saying the property was cleaned correctly – you know there’s no way the guest arrived to a dirty property.

With remote inspection, you have photographic evidence that the property was ready for their arrival.

Guests who are acting in bad faith aren’t usually prepared for this. In our remote inspections, we’ve seen property managers shut down guest complaints like these very effectively.

Sample conversation:

“The property is filthy! There’s no towels, nothing has been cleaned, we want a refund.”

“That surprises me, because I have photos of every room of the property after the cleaner was finished, including one of four towels stacked on the bathroom sink.”

” …. oh.”

Photos are also incredibly helpful to have if you need to prove that damage occurred during a guest’s stay, or if Airbnb or Vrbo ask for evidence in a dispute with a guest.

Remote Inspection Cons

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that remote inspections have their cons. That said, we think those cons can easily be mitigated.

1. Remote inspections don’t catch as many errors.

While a walk-through catches 98% of all errors, we’ve found that remote inspection catches 87% of all errors.

However, the remaining errors include things that can’t be seen in a photo, such as a sticky floor or dust on furniture surfaces. This means that your inspection is, effectively, not catching a mistake your cleaner made – they’re catching your cleaner falling down on the job entirely.

Inspections aren’t (or shouldn’t be!) a safeguard against your cleaners failing to clean at all. 

If your cleaning staff is failing to mop the floor and dust the furniture, this isn’t a problem with a one-time mistake. It’s a consistent issue that indicates you need more conscientious cleaners.

Inspections should catch the kinds of tasks that your cleaner might forget by accident. Forgetting to check for left-behind items in the drawers and closets is understandable. Forgetting to mop the floor? Not so much.

If you’re relying on your inspectors to clean the property over again because your cleaner can’t be trusted to do it, your problem is much bigger than inspection.

2. Remote inspections are only as good as your process.

You need to be sure you ask for a photo of the tasks you know might distress your guests if they’re missed. 

For example, it’s easy for your cleaner to forget to run the dishwasher, because the dishwasher is closed and the problem is out of sight.

You can fix this problem by asking for a photo of the inside of the dishwasher to be sure the dishwasher was emptied.

If you don’t ask for that photo, however, there’s no way for your team to notice and remedy the problem.

3. Remote inspections need to be tracked correctly.

Having a photographic record of your inspections is great. Trying to remember which cleaner sent you a photo on what day for which property? Not so much.

It can also be difficult to determine whether your cleaner sent you all the photos you asked for. You can send your cleaner with a physical checklist that includes which photos you want, but you’ll have to remember whether they sent each photo.

Using Properly is a great way to track all your inspection photos in one place. 

The checklist and the verification photos are all in-app and assigned to each job and each property, so it’s easy for your cleaner to make sure they’ve taken all the photos you asked for, and easy for you to keep track of the record for each property.

4. Remote inspection requires real-time attention.

If you don’t have time to double-check your cleaner’s photos, you may not catch errors quickly enough to resolve them before the cleaner leaves.

You might notice, for example, that the iron is missing from its place next to the ironing board. But if you only had time to review the photos after your cleaner left, you’ll still wind up sending someone out to find or replace the missing iron.

This is why we offer Remote Inspection as a service. Our team double-checks your photos in real time so that you don’t have to.

If you have a lot of rentals that are turned over in the same time period, or if you simply don’t have the bandwidth to monitor inspection yourself, outsourcing the job can eliminate this downside.

Want to know more about what goes into a great inspection?

Download our free Inspection Guide here. It’s full of great tips for making sure your inspections catch every issue that might interfere with your guest’s stay.