Virtual Inspections 101: How Digital Twins Improve Property Evaluations

Virtual Inspections: How Digital Twins Boosts Efficiency

Technology advancements have enabled innovations in the realm of real estate, especially on-site inspections. One such technology is digital twins, photorealistic 3D representations of a physical space. This article will explain how digital twins are helping to improve property inspections, as well as highlight the many benefits of adopting and implementing digital twin technology which ranges from reducing costs, to de-risking potentially dangerous traditional inspection processes, to improving documentation for compliance. 

First, we will have to explore the trend in recent years, where virtual inspections have been gaining popularity over traditional on-site inspections. Since the surveyor does not need to be on-site for a walkthrough of the property, virtual inspections meant that surveyors could remain safe, and owners/managers stay compliant with updated documentation. One market research report showed the growth in virtual inspections won’t slow down anytime soon and will actually continue to gain traction through 2030.

So, how can more building owners, facility managers, and engineers take advantage of this type of off-site inspection process? Below, you’ll find details on what constitutes a virtual inspection, the most common types, and how to implement them.

What is a virtual inspection?

A virtual inspection is a modern spin on in-person assessments for residential or commercial properties. Using remote technology, an inspector can virtually assess a space via property videos, virtual tours, or a walkthrough using a video conferencing tool like Zoom. The key distinction is that the assessor is remote and not on-site.

Why are virtual inspections better than the on-site ones?

While on-site inspections allow surveyors to thoroughly assess a property with their own eyes, this process takes a significant amount of “windshield time.” Between surveyors commuting to jobsites, wrangling scheduling conflicts, and writing up reports, on-site inspections are often time-consuming and costly.

Tools and technology have improved significantly in the last decade, which has facilitated the growing popularity of virtual inspections. Now, building owners and managers can slash the time and costs to have a property inspected with a virtual walkthrough — and those are just two of the advantages of this digitized version of the process.

Faster processing and increased productivity

Facility managers and building owners often need to juggle multiple schedules to set up an on-site inspection. And then there’s plenty of waiting around for inspectors to arrive the day of the assessment. These kinds of conflicts and inconveniences can add up to big delays in projects, building permit approvals, or getting your property assessed.  However, virtual inspections take less time and there are far fewer scheduling conflicts — especially since surveyors don’t need to travel to the site. Inspectors can promptly conduct their assessments and submit their findings faster for processing.

Faster processing and prompt inspections mean owners and managers can focus their time on other essential tasks.

Lower inspection costs

In the case of virtual inspections, cost-savings and time-savings go hand in hand. Because virtual inspections help both inspectors and building owners and managers reclaim precious work hours, that means they can also save on costs.

Clawing back windshield time manifests in multiple forms. One survey reported that virtual inspections take less time overall compared to on-site inspections. That means surveyors can take on more inspections during their work week. 

Eliminating a portion of commutes and travel translates to less costs for accommodations. That, plus shorter inspection times, means building owners and managers only pay for the cost of the assessment itself.

Accessible (and safer) document storage

On-site inspections often come with a mound of paperwork. Between regular inspection reports and follow-ups to record related repairs, your filing cabinet can quickly start to overflow. 

However, with virtual inspections, much (if not all) of this crucial documentation can live in the cloud. That means you can keep all your reports, receipts, and documents relevant to complete inspections are securely saved. Digitized versions of these records make it easier to find what you need when you need it.

Easier collaboration

Because your important virtual inspection paperwork is stored securely in the cloud, collaboration is simpler than ever.

With digitized documentation, you can keep everything neatly organized with just a few clicks. And many cloud storage systems make it simple to share docs — or even entire folders — with the tap of a “share” button. That way, different departments, inspectors, residents, and city staff (for permit applications) can collaborate on docs and access them from anywhere with an internet connection.

3 types of virtual inspections

While the method of virtual inspections has many potential applications, there are three primary areas where virtual inspections have become a viable alternative for the industry.

1. Virtual commercial site inspection

When you think about a building inspection, site inspections may be the first type that comes to mind. Virtual site inspections remotely assess a property or physical asset to ensure everything is up to standards. 

For example, UK AirComms, originally a drone photography business for cell phone towers in the United Kingdom, has been improving the cost and process efficiency for its telecom clients by offering online, remote, multi-skilled visits (MSV) by using digital twin technology. By using Matterport’s Pro 2 cameras and the Matterport mobile app, UK AirComms managed to pivot from a labor and equipment-intensive process to a portable, economical, and scalable solution that has grown their tower inspection business by ten-fold. Read more about UK AirComms’ use of digital twins here

Some commercial buildings also regularly conduct their own virtual site inspections for internal stakeholders (versus ensuring compliance with mandated standards). For example, a facility manager who needs to keep an eye on the progress of a construction project. Digital twins offer a 3D environment where the property can be documented and findings can be communicated across different teams and geographies.

2. Virtual residential property inspection

With virtual property inspections, assessors will remotely review residences, like apartments and single-family homes, to check for major issues and ensure that everything is up to code. Property inspections are common during the home-buying process — potential buyers will commission an inspection to assess any critical structural issues or major repairs that need to take place.

As with the on-site version of this process, virtual property inspections focus on a few key items on a checklist, including:

  • Systems. An inspector will examine the property’s HVAC, plumbing, and electrical.

  • Structures. Inspectors will also assess important structures for a building, like walls, the roof, floors, and the foundation.

  • Fixtures. While this point on our list may seem a little less essential, surveyors will take a close look at smoke alarms, outlets, and light fixtures to ensure they meet safety standards.

Similar to a virtual site inspection, a virtual property inspection allows a surveyor to assess property remotely. Instead of having to coordinate live video walkthroughs, Matterport digital twins offer a fully accessible experience for anyone, at any time, and from anywhere.

For example, Point3D Commercial Imaging shows homes as different stages of their development as a means of documenting the building process. This offers all parties involved clear visual documentation of construction work completed at a given time.

Using digital twins is helpful since it provides context that surpasses traditional methods of on-site inspections and video virtual inspections, which can lack the level of detail required. 

3. Virtual insurance inspections

When shopping for insurance, some property owners may have to submit to an insurance inspection. During a virtual insurance inspection, a surveyor working on behalf of the insurance company will remotely assess a property for major issues that could result in a claim down the line.  As with an on-site insurance inspection, the virtual version focuses on crucial structural issues as well as potential safety concerns. The inspector’s checklist will include:

  • Property damage. Surveyors will look for major risks for the residence or commercial building, like a roof that needs repairs, cracks in the foundation, the presence of mold, and damage from termites.

  • Potential hazards. Safety concerns are a top priority for insurance inspectors, so they’ll hone in on whether a property has smoke detectors, working water heaters, stairs without banisters, and other issues that could lead to accidents.

  • Miscellaneous concerns. Other issues an inspector may note on a report may not be structurally focused. For example, a surveyor will check to see if a property with a pool has a fence to prevent public access and a child-proof cover to curb accidents.

For example, Eberl Claims Services, a company specializing in insurance claim assistance, uses Matterport digital twins to enhance its services.

Initially using Polaroid photos and paper reports, Eberl now employs digital twins to document property losses more efficiently with dimensionally accurate 3D digital replicas of spaces. 

Matterport’s digital twins allow Eberl adjusters to drastically shorten cycle time and improve the efficiency of the verification process, which requires collaboration between processors and carriers who need to align on on-site conditions before approving claims. Read the full Erbel Claims Services case study here

The accessibility of using the Matterport Capture app from a smartphone or mobile device also enables adjusters, property managers, and homeowners to document property conditions and report on it in half the scheduled time it normally takes when using manual photography

The challenges of getting started with virtual inspections

Although virtual inspections boast a variety of benefits, this process also comes with its fair share of challenges. Building owners and managers will need to be aware of the potential obstacles when considering whether to implement remote virtual inspections for their own properties.

According to one survey of the west and northwest regions of the U.S., some of the top barriers that made respondents hesitant to adopt virtual inspections were:

  • Virtual inspection inaccuracy (59%)

  • Lack of communication between contractors, builders, and building code officials (39%)

  • Lack of consistent universal standards (35%)

Survey of jurisdictional responses to remote virtual inspections barriers


Fortunately, the right tools and technology can help owners and managers overcome many of these barriers.

How digital twins support better virtual inspections

When adopting virtual inspections, facility managers and building owners will need to maintain up-to-date plans of their work areas or equipment. These updated plans are crucial in order to stay compliant with regulations (particularly in industrial and healthcare sectors) and ensure virtual inspections go smoothly. And that’s where digital twins can be a game changer, when compared to the manual process of photo documentation. 

Learn more

Still have some lingering questions about virtual inspections? Here are some of the most common questions about virtual inspections and their answers.


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