With nearly 30 employees working in the rapidly growing building inspection industry, Michael Lackey is always seeking more inspections, more banks to partner with, and new systems to try. One tool helping this busy inspector reach his goals is the construction loan automation that he and his banking partners use.
How construction loan automation helps inspectors and banks
The advantages of construction loan automation from an inspector's perspective
automate the loan track, I’d be thrilled. It’s superior in so many ways to upload your inspection from the job site without having to go back to the office. It’s where the future of my profession is headed.
Michael Lackey’s growing inspection company, Construction Lending Services LLC, covers most of the Carolinas and two metropolitan areas in Georgia, and he plans to expand to Virginia next year. When Lackey first bought his company, nearly every bank he worked with used a PDF system to fill out inspection paperwork. He would print out a document from the bank to take to the job site, gather information to fill it out, and take it back to his office to scan and send via email. At the time, this was as high-tech as the construction loan process got for a small business. When his largest banking partner introduced a new system that would rely on Lackey using his smartphone to process inspections, his first reaction was resistance.
“I wanted to say, ‘What you have works great—don’t fix what isn’t broken!’” Lackey said. “But it took me about fifteen minutes to realize that the new system was lightyears better.”
The new system was a construction loan automation platform, and more and more banks in Lackey’s area began to use it. Today, only two banks that he works with still use PDFs or spreadsheets.
“If I could get all my other banks to automate the loan track, I’d be thrilled," Lackey said. "It’s superior in so many ways to upload your inspection from the job site without having to go back to the office. It’s where the future of my profession is headed.”
Changing the game
Lackey attributes his company’s rapid growth to the speed at which he can work, thanks to construction loan automation. He completes 120 to 150 inspections per month with Abrigo Construct, an end-to-end construction origination, management, and administration platform that allows him and more than 700 other inspectors to bypass spreadsheets, PDFs, and scanning by uploading everything from the job site. Uploading photos and documents from the job site makes it easier for his inspectors to complete inspections within two business days of receiving a request—a quick turnaround Lackey requires.
Lackey’s business also has been successful because the automation allows him to schedule staff more efficiently. For example, his inspectors might be assigned an inspection that is over an hour away, but they may have no other work in that direction. With Construct, inspectors can afford to wait a day in case more work comes up in that area to make the drive worthwhile. As long as inspectors have good cell phone service, they can upload everything the bank needs on-site without compromising their two-day timeline.
The future of construction lending
The faster system makes for better relations between Lackey and banks. They receive his work faster, see everything they need within one system, and don’t have to tab through emails to view and save each photo that a thorough inspection requires. That means faster draws and more profit for banks.
“I try to talk to banks that say it’s too expensive to switch to an automated system and let them know just how much it can improve this process,” Lackey said. He understands some institutions worry about costs, but the improved efficiency means lenders could do the same amount of work with fewer employees—or grow without adding employees. “And if you’re not paying another salary plus benefits and processing more loans, it is a great investment.”
Lackey’s company reports saving multiple hours per day with automation. An eight-hour day of inspections that ends at dusk could have turned into at least four more hours of work at the office in the past. With Construct, there is no need to return to an office, let alone locate a spreadsheet to fill, match data with your notes from the day, attach photos, and figure out who needs to receive what data—and then do it all again for the next inspection.
Uploading data and photos with Construct takes Lackey’s inspectors an average of 8 minutes on site. Construct even streamlines the process after the inspection is complete. There is no typing invoices from accounting software printouts. Lackey can pull up a list of all the inspections for a particular bank and create an invoice in no time using Construct. He can invoice their work for loan automated banks—which make up more than half of his business—in 30 minutes. The other 30% takes Lackey another six or eight hours per week to invoice.
Construct also emails him whenever an inspection is ordered and lets him know in advance if there is a gate or lock box code. He can quickly forward to his employees, eliminating calls to contractors all day.
Lackey knows many banking professionals with years of experience using traditional spreadsheet systems might not consider construction loan automation a priority. “It can be difficult to see how much more efficient automation is without experiencing it,” he said. But Lackey prefers to use an automated process. “At the end of the day, it makes an enormous difference to inspectors like me.”