Categories
Uncategorized

Go fast and break Sheeeeeet…

That is the kiwi translation that those of us who sometimes darken the door of geek and business events all know, albeit slightly sanitised, because no-one expects a builder to know swearing words of profanity, right? (or maybe we are supposed to know them, but not use them, I dunno)

Guts is, we have been working this product lineup for a while – I built a messy messy messy database, which helps us produce reports a fair bit faster than the old hunt and peck method ever could, but heck, this game is still time consuming.

For reference, our average time on site is now back up to just under 2 hours. Why? We started collecting plans. This lets us answer some very specific questions, mainly prompted by the residential tenancies act, and healthy homes guarantees act. But it also plays into our goal to know more about your house than anyone.The idea, is big data, applied to houses – How long does a roof last? When will my hot water cylinder fail? What cladding actually requires more maintenance? Which suburbs grow moss or lichen faster? What renos are objectively the best value for money? Etc etc.

Time offsite, well, 15 odd minutes to collate 2.7k head camera videos (Gopro hero 7 black, awesome stability, good microphone, terrible file naming convention!!) another 10 minutes to set and forget processing for our 5.7k 360 degree videos, which typically take an hour or two to process per house. The basic file structure setup, so that when you click buy, you get the correct and complete report, well, that is in theory easy to automate. In practice, its easier to break! Then comes the writeup. My world record time is 27 minutes. Normally however, it is more like 2 or so hours per inspection.

  • 15 mins – Drive the cool little prosperbuild BMW i3 to the house.
  • 120 mins – Inspect
  • 10 mins – collate data sources onsite
  • 15 Mins – Drive return
  • 15 mins – Gopro vids
  • 10 mins – Insta 360 oneX vids (plus 2 hrs processing)
  • 120 mins – Produce your report
  • 20 Mins – Collate data sources to cloud and stick em on the webshop.

That’s 5 hours and 25 minutes, not allowing for CPD, research, admin, overhead etc that is necessary for both our software, and technical inspecting. The new system aims to about half that!

This is kind of a round about way of saying, man, we are pretty good at collecting whack data, and doing awesome stuff with it (You want to know REDACTED about REDACTED? We already collect and compare that!) But sometimes we suck a bit at getting the material out the door where it matters to you, as fast as we would like… And if we don’t immediately jump on text messages etc, it is probably because distraction is far too easy a road to meander down, which only delays things more! (but hey, if you have ever rung me, you will know I do love a good yarn with good people!)

To that end, very shortly, our reports appearance will change – a new, more fully featured system is just around the corner, one that uses a LOT of logic, JSON, and some pretty gnarly back end gymnastics to try and punch our written report out by the time our video has finished processing, (or even before!) – its a frikken nightmare to make that look as pretty pretty as the offerings of our last few years, but we will. I have broken the system more times than I care to count, but you guys made it pretty clear – a day timeframe, in this day and age, its too long, now is far gooderer. I have worked a bunch of 14 hour days this year, with one end goal in mind – I have done enough breaking sheet, now its time to go fast (and learn everything about your property, so we can tell it to you in a way which doesn’t sound like we are speaking in martian)

Thanks for the love, and continuing support as we learn to grow better!

Jonno

Hey, one of the next steps is an easy to use CRM, that is basically JonnoProof - It has to chase me, because I am a bit rubbish at chasing it. It needs to poll me after my phone rings - was that work? What did they want? Who was it? I'll save the number and categorise it for you, without leaving it to the vagiaries of your memory! Heck, even attaching recordings might be good (forgettery, nothing to do with paranoia!) Any suggestions for an on phone app which could do that, would be well received - this one would be a pain if it has to hit the cloud!
Categories
Disconnected Uncategorized

Verbosity

Those of you who have talked to me on the phone will quickly realise – I make the lie of the old trope of a man needing to speak half the words in a day of a woman. My wife will gladly attest. Talking, I can do. Verbosity, I got that on lock!

That said, reports written with verbosity as the means of delivery, that gets old pretty quick.

A client said to me during the week – self examination is a sign you are on the right track. I am trying to work on this – to be a more efficient speaker and writer.

I’ll try and test that theory on you.

Categories
Uncategorized

Relaunch – new model!

Hope st happened. A house I completed an inspection on. Its old, so a lot of people were scared.

My first customer purchased another house. I had discharged my responsiblity to her on the second house, so was free to provide information to 5 further people at grossly discounted rates.

Why not give everybody a discounted rate, and let the market decide what a house is worth, as long as everyone is informed?

For you?

Discount!

For me?

The chance to change the way we do things – hopefully for the better.

Price quality illusion bothers me a bit – What I am doing is less than half the market rate. Does it still stack up?

Yes. In fact, nothing at all changes about the way I write my reports.  Just the price, and the fact that technicality ltd owns the report, and any and all comers can buy a license (non exclusive) to use that report.

If you aren’t convinced, give me a call. I am still a real human, with a world of construction experience I am generally all too happy to share.

I hope to be able to help you, for less than half the price you would expect to pay the old way.

Jonno

Categories
Uncategorized

Historic posts

My First official Building Inspection

You might well have heard the trope “Them that can’t do, teach”.

There is certainly some truth to that in my industry.

Here is my story.

I had a building business in the Waikato, we were actually doing fairly well all in all. Then I got a phone call from my brother. “Hey Bro, looking at buying a house, using the Homestart programme.  Can you come and have a look at them with me?” Yeah, ok bro, only problem, I live in the Waikato, and you are in Wellington! So we bundle the kids into the trusty ol Nissan terrano, and start heading down the island. All is well until suddenly the truck doesn’t want to change gear any more in the middle of the night, halfway through the desert road. Found forth, and kept it there, thank goodness for diesel torque and a clutch to ride.

Next morning, rented a car from Palmerston North (XR6, woot) and headed on to welly.

First house of the day. A Keith Haye style hardiplank home. Fireplace install has leaked a bit.

 

Hearth is stuffed. But then you get to the laundry. Common evidencing spot. for low cost housing, these old boxes were pretty good really, modular, easy to work on.

But they build a subfloor, and covered it entirely with particle board. No problem typically. Except for in the bathroom, laundry, and sometimes kitchen.

That pink stuff is builders bog. Because the homes were so low cost, the laundry tub had no plumb in facility for a washing machine drain. So it drains into the sink… But then lint, cloths, nappies and plugs will almost always block the sink at some stage. Then it will fill up, with no overflow, then the particle board laundry tub starts letting water slide down its sides… then the floor gets wet. The floor typically has some covering, so you mop up as best you can, mumble about leaving stuff in the sink, and carry on with life.

First time that happens, meh, no big deal. Second time, clean it up fast, and you’ll be OK. Particle board has a wax coating. But it doesn’t last forever. Eventually it lets some water in, at least, only the stuff which doesn’t soak up the walls. The only real solution once the particle board has started to swell, is to cut it out and replace it – but walls on top of flooring make that not the easiest thing in the world to do – so in this case, they just chucked some bog over the cracked bit, threw a bit of vinyl down over top and carried on as if nothing had happened.

 

So for a first inspection, we could see some issues before we even got outside and under the house – like all good first home buyers, my brother wanted to spend bottom dollar, and buy a perfect home.

We looked at about 4 other properties, and then he purchased a completely different one in Wainuiomata anyway.

 

It was when I got home, and went through what I had that I realised not so much what I had found, as what I had potentially missed. Why? Well, I didn’t really have a system. Sure, I was a builder, I knew what went into these things, but building a house over many months, versus intimately examining a house in an hour or two – well, there is a lot that can be missed!

I went home, dug the gorse out of my pockets – popped out my credit card and brought my own copy of NZS 4306:2005

Poor old Terrano died that weekend at 435,000km, but I was so busy running through my house, trying to come up with a better, foolproof inspection methodology, that I didn’t really care.

What goes into a prosperbuild report?

We have to start with a huge helping of Love… Sigh, sounds lame, but actually, the reason I do this, I love people, and I am pretty darn keen on houses as well. But I confess, to a torrid love affair with data. I didn’t start life as a builder or quantity surveyor, I started as a computer nerd. An HTML jockey. Not a great one, but good enough to see some things computers are better at doing than humans.

Repetitive processes? Choose the computer.

Natural language? making a point, and getting it to stick, making yourself understood: Choose the Human! (yes, I know, natural language algorithms are a thing, but as of my last test, not quite there yet!)

So there are a few easy approaches to building inspections.

  1. You can build yourself a nice modified locked spreadsheet, and fill out autotext fields until the cows come home. If you do it right, you can theoretically inspect a house, sit in the car for half an hour, and press send. Job done. Easy money. Right? That would be a brilliant approach – if it only allowed for variation in fit and purpose. Believe me, the requirements for you, are unique. Glorified checksheets can’t yet do that justice.
  2. Another option is “Exception reporting”. You could conceivably pay an awful lot of money for a report which says “The house is fine”. That isn’t very helpful though.
  3. Long form! Yay, 250 photographs, with excruciating comment on each point. This is the way most building inspectors go, heck, when I started, that its what I did… but Technology? Design? User Experience (UX)?

I believe in customer lead methodology.

A professional couple came to me when I was still running a building company. They purchased a lovely house, and wanted to modify it to better suit their lifestyle. They gave me the building inspection they had relied on when buying. It was very expensive, and by crikey was it thorough, but… it was 98 flipping pages long!!

 

Mark Twain famously penned this line “I’d have written a shorter letter, if only I had more time”.

 

I asked the obvious question. “Have you guys read this?”

Crickets…. Chirrup chirrup. The answer came, slowly, quietly and reluctantly. “No”.

Now in theory, their lawyer was obligated to read it.  On a whim while writing this article, I just completed an online reading test. When I am reading a lot, I have tested north of 900 words per minute with 90+ percent retention, but ad hoc, reading at a computer screen in my chilly office, here is my result. 639 Words per minute with 75% comprehension. The average typist can bust 120 to 150 words per minute (excluding formulation time). The average reading speed is about 200 words per minute.

Now, 20 odd pages of the report were just forms. But that leaves 78 pages, probably 200 words per page on average. In theory, it would have taken 2 hours and 10 minutes to read that. What does a lawyer charge as an hourly rate? How valuable is your time when you are under stress, negotiating a purchase, planning how to move everyone and everything, while still working and trying to get a million things under control? Can you really drop 2 hours on reading a report, and risk missing the critical 25%?… Oh boy. I don’t see that as valuable.

So what to do about it?

I put myself in my customers shoes. I asked myself “Why do people get building inspections? Who has to see the building inspection? I asked my clients questions. What are you hoping to learn? Do you want excruciating detail, or just an overview? Are you one of these people that will give DIY a shot, or do you call in tradies?

I got my hands on every single insurance on-boarding document I could. (Medical Assurance Society, I am impressed. You guys really want to know what you are going to insure!)

I talked to lawyers – “What do you need to see? How can I make the process easier for you?”

And then I started modifying my report outline.

I realised a critical fact. A matrix is a very good way of conveying a LOT of data, while taking up next to no space.

Front pages are where you expect to find a synopsis, an overview, a one glance tell tale sign – what is this property all about!

 

So I did something inconceivable within the stubbornly backwards building industry. I changed my method. You see, in the last 200 building inspection I have done, I have only had 1 person ask me for a printed copy. So, like the above text, I can use hyperlinks to give deeper understanding, if it is desired. I wear a video camera, and, with 2 exceptions in the last hundred inspections (dang hardware fault on my camera!), I video the whole inspection, so you can be right there with me, seeing what I see. You can hear how I would go about rectifying problems. Because I have asked you a good few questions, and gotten to know you on the phone, I can then tailor the potential solutions to fit your circumstances.

So typically, when I finish up at a house, I put my kit in the car, then give you a call. I talk through the salient points. When I get back to my home office. First thing to do, upload the video to youtube. It is typically an unlisted video – if you have the link you can see it. It needs to be partially accessible, not just for you, but your lawyer, finance person and insurance agent, because the video is symbiotic with the written report. (Pro tip here, you can speed up youtubes playback speed by clicking on the gear icon!). Sadly, we miss out on fibre broadband termination by 87 metres, so it does take a little while to get onto the internet. Then I start writing the report. Each one is bespoke, but sits on top of a database of critical facts about the house. This gives over 8000 datapoints available, from which to draw an objective score.  Which is printed directly in the middle of the front page of every report.

The database part is pretty quick, I have some pretty cool algorithms of my own – but the bulk of the report is plain english, written from scratch, by me, to fit your circumstance.

To keep my accountant happy, I check the bank balance. If your payment is received, as soon as I have finished writing (and spell checking) your report, I hit the magical send button.

Then, I make sure I am available to answer any lingering questions you have – why? Because as I said, I love people. I enjoy seeing people see a problem, and coming to a solution. I love watching uncertainty dissolve into certainty.

I love making sure that you get exactly what you need. So the promise is simple.

No Bum covering. No problem without a solution. And a helping hand, ready to talk you through any building related problem you may come across with your house.

 

My first house!

I was lucky, my wife owned a house when I met her. The cool thing about that, we didn’t have to do all the looking and figuring and finding, we just had to work with what she already had.

So we modified the kitchen, removed some storage space, but opened up the living area.

We painted all of the bedrooms – several times. My wife had a thing for pinks and purples, so all of the rooms were delicious shades of colour. Guess what, painting out a bright colour can be quite intimidating!

We put new carpets in, but heck, we were newly married, we had no spare money, so we were more than happy to go for a drive, and pick up a houseload of carpet from a leaky building in Auckland. Sure, had to cut some rough bits off, but we had new carpet for a whole house for under a grand.

The bathroom had a shub. Weird things those. No good for actually bathing, unless you have kids. I got a second hand shower tray, whipped out the shub, and modernised the bathroom. For less than 200 bucks.

Curtains were home made.

We had a gravel parking area, dug that up, moved the gravel closer to the house, and replaced the turf where the old one was with a vege garden. We put in driftwood garden edging, planted about $50 bucks worth of plants.

 

Having made the house as nice as we could, we had to move to Hamilton. The house was rented out.

When the renters changed the locks, and replaced the curtains, we should have been really concerned. When the rent stopped being paid, we did get concerned.

 

The house still has corrugated asbestos roofing, probably still has TRS (thermo rubber sheath, the dodgy stuff) as wiring. Plumbing was all copper, so pretty good. But were the tenants being dodgy because they were using or making meth? We didn’t know then, and still don’t know now.

What we do know now is how to make a plan to deal with these issues so that we don’t get any nasty surprises, so that our work ends up paying us, not costing us. Building condition is only a part of the equation, but it is a pretty big part. Give me a call to get started on the right foot, and cut off problems at the pass before they bite you.