Freddie Mac has rolled out new guidance regarding Property Inspections for Third Party Reports in an effort to ensure the safety of inspectors, property owners, and tenants during COVID-19. While third party consultants are still expected to meet the requirements of the Freddie Mac Multifamily Seller/Servicer Guide, Freddie Mac has provided alternatives to conventional property inspections. One unique approach to meeting the requirements of the Freddie Mac inspection guidelines is performing Virtual Property Inspections. In jurisdictions with a shelter-in-place order or other similar government mandates that may restrict travel and access to the property, Freddie Mac will allow the site visit to be conducted on behalf of the consultant by on-site property representatives using approved remote viewing technology.
AEI has performed virtual inspections during the past few weeks with much success, thanks to the flexibility of our clients and field assessors. AEI can help you comply with your Freddie Mac assessment needs while still meeting the Guideline requirements during these challenging times.
Best Practices for Conducting Live Virtual Property Inspections
Virtual meeting technology (Zoom, Teams, Skype, etc.) provides an option for conducting live virtual site inspections. Through a combination of voice and video, Optigo lenders, Freddie Mac and third parties (engineers and appraisers) can participate in a site walkthrough and conduct a diligent inspection from any remote viewing location.
Before the Live Inspection
Freddie Mac recommends that the Optigo lender act as the live virtual inspection host, meaning the Optigo lender should determine the meeting technology they will use to conduct the live virtual inspection.
- Once the Optigo lender has selected a virtual meeting technology, it is recommended that they double check that their account level allows for meetings to last for at least 120 minutes. If not, it may be necessary to upgrade the license.
- Per current inspection scheduling process, the Optigo lender should coordinate with Freddie Mac and applicable parties (appraiser, engineer, property manager, etc.) to schedule the inspection date and time.
- If one or all required parties is unable to physically attend the inspection due to COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandates, the Optigo lender can elect to schedule and facilitate a live virtual inspection for non-attending parties.
- If the Optigo lender and all required third parties are unable to physically attend the inspection, the on-site property representative should operate the video during a physical walkthrough, during which the lender and all required third parties can attend virtually.
Please note: Due to specific inspection needs of engineers, property maintenance staff is generally the best on-site option due to their technical knowledge of the property
- If any of the Optigo lender, appraiser, or engineer can physically attend the inspection, then they should operate the video on-site for non-physically present parties.
- When it is decided who will be physically on-site to operate the live video inspection, that individual should download the technology application. It is recommended that virtual inspection participants view the live inspection from a desktop or laptop.
- Headphones (wire or Bluetooth®) are suggested but not required for the on-site video operator for better communication ability with virtual participants.
- The Optigo lender and third parties may choose to conduct pre-inspection phone calls, surveys, and/or questionnaires to obtain the information that they need from the property manager.
Please note: The live virtual inspection is most efficient as a site walkthrough with property maintenance, not an interview with the property manager. It is recommended that the Optigo lender and third parties coordinate to gather required information from the property manager prior to inspection to minimize back and forth conversation during the live virtual inspection.
Conducting the Live Virtual Inspection
Live Virtual Inspection Host:
- Open the virtual meeting early to allow everyone time to get settled and prepare for an on-time start.
- Virtual meeting technologies often allow the host to “pin” one participant’s video for all to view – do this if possible.
- Often it is only the host that can record. If you elect to record the video walkthrough, do this prior to the start of the meeting, let everyone know that the meeting will be recorded and give participants the option to disconnect if they do not want to be recorded.
Physical On-site Video Operator:
- Make sure your device is fully charged prior to the inspection (a portable charger is nice to have just in case).
- Carry a flashlight for illuminating dark spaces under sinks, hard to read tags, or to counter sun glare.
- Test your connection/cellular signal – if possible, connect to the building’s WiFi.
- Dial into the meeting early to make sure you are prepared to begin on time.
- If you lose connection during the inspection, simply re-join the meeting and continue onward.
- Film in straight lines as much as possible (avoid twists and turns). Pivoting the camera right and left will cause blurriness on the video. Staying still and moving in straight lines will reduce this effect.
- Virtual inspectors should guide you through the inspection and request to see specific objects/areas.
- When you first enter a room, pause for virtual inspectors to capture a screenshot of the entire space.
- We recognize that access to occupied units may be limited or unavailable. If you do enter an occupied unit, respect and protect the tenants’ right to privacy by refraining from filming photos, documents, or individuals, and mute your audio input to avoid inadvertently capturing audio in the unit.
- When a virtual inspector requests to see a specific item, pause on that item to allow for the camera to adjust and auto focus. This is especially important when a participant requests that you zoom in on a tag or something that has small writing. It may take a few seconds for the camera to focus; do your best to remain still for a few seconds to allow participants to read print and take any required screenshots.
- Make sure you have collected the information you need prior to the walkthrough. When possible, conduct interviews prior to the walkthrough.
- Be prepared to fill in any inspection template you normally would during a physical on-site inspection.
- Understand your computer’s capabilities when it comes to capturing screenshots and be prepared prior to the inspection to capture and save screenshots into a pre-determined folder.
- Dial into the meeting early to make sure you are prepared to begin on time.
- Due to their more in-depth needs, if the engineer is participating in the live virtual inspection, then they should be prepared to be the primary guide for the video operator through the inspection.
- The Optigo lender and other third parties should contribute guidance to the video operator as necessary to complete their documentation.
- However, you should stay on mute when you are not actively directing or asking a question.
- Take screenshots of the required objects.
- If you miss something required for your report, ask the video operator to go back and allow you to capture a screenshot.
- After the inspection, complete all required standard reports and templates and follow the standard submission path to Freddie Mac.
Before submitting their reports, each virtually inspecting party must independently confirm that the inspection, together with any supplemental electronic information reviewed, provided sufficient information to meet the Freddie Mac Multifamily Seller/Servicer Guide and industry requirements for their specific needs. Any assumptions or exceptions made by a virtually inspecting party must be clearly called out in their report. Additionally, a follow-up, on-site property inspection and supplemental reports may still be required once COVID-19 emergency restrictions are lifted, and if applicable, will be specified in the loan commitment.
Click here to view Freddie Mac’s Live Virtual Inspection Guidance PDF.