Case Study: Cortland

SightPlan Inspect Powers Property Acquisition Process for Cortland

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Efficient Inspections Platform Needed for Aggressive Value-Add Strategy

The due diligence side of property acquisitions has always been a delicate balancing act for Cortland. The company is committed to walking each and every unit prior to purchase, so it requires a process that is comprehensive, while still efficient and cost-effective.

Historically, paper inspection forms had been the bane of the process. Hand-written reports were time-consuming, data entry on the back end was labor-intensive and inefficient, and the entire process carried the potential for human error.

“When we first started implementing our due diligence process in 2012, most other companies were only walking about 10% of the apartment homes in order to get a general assessment of the asset,” said Cortland Director of Pursuit and Transitions Carlos Smith. “We weren’t comfortable with that. When you’re investing millions of dollars into a community, you want to know what you’re buying.”
Carlos Smith, Cortland Director of Pursuit and Transitions

As Cortland transitioned from a development-focused firm and became more aggressive with its value-add strategy, due diligence became a major priority.  

“We realized that we needed to introduce tools to make us more efficient,” Smith said.

A mobile-first platform to streamline and automate aspects of inspection procedures is now a necessity, Smith said, and it has to be able to scale alongside the company’s growth, which in the past few years has averaged nearly 30 acquisitions annually.


SightPlan Inspect Deployed to Streamline and Customize Inspections

“It really changed the way we were doing our inspections,” Smith said. “We have the flexibility to either build out our own inspection templates or tap into the SightPlan team when we find ourselves needing a bit more customization and support. Whenever I reach out for guidance, the inspection templates are turned around in no time. The service we receive from SightPlan is awesome.”

Smith said that throughout the partnership, SightPlan has been there to help guide Cortland and tailor the inspection process to best fit its needs.

“The biggest pain point we had was figuring out what we wanted to look for and what options we wanted to include,” Smith said. “I’m still honing that criteria to this day, and SightPlan Inspect has really enabled our inspection process to evolve. We’ve been in there together, setting up templates and establishing those inspection items. It has been a great partnership.”


SightPlan Enhances Accuracy and Reporting, Enables Electronic Lease File Audits

That relationship has helped put Cortland — a growing NMHC Top 50 owner — ahead of the game in terms of inspections.

“With SightPlan Inspect, we have a clearer value-add vision formed before we own the asset,” Smith said. “Because of the level of due diligence we’re able to do, we can start implementing our strategy and brand experience on Day One.”

Smith said SightPlan Inspect provides a more detailed view of the community, which enables Cortland to plan accordingly.

“It used to be dizzying trying to figure out everything we needed to capture when conducting unit walks,” Smith said. “SightPlan Inspect allows us to quantify the condition of every item in the unit, quickly and seamlessly. We now have created inspection items for everything from the floor to the ceiling, so we know how much replacement material we need to keep in stock.”

Cortland inspection teams value the mobile-first inspections platform because it eliminates much of the potential for human error.

“My team relies on this aspect of the platform,” Smith said. “With a simple tap, they’re confident that the information is being documented accurately. My team members also don’t have to remember to email me picture documentation as they go. By using the app, they can make a comment or take a picture, and I can pull the report to get a summary of the items of concern and images of things that we need to address. It has proven to be a really great tool for us, and I don’t know how we would conduct our process without it.”
“With the solution, you’re capturing the information in real time. I can go in mid-inspection and if I have concerns that need to be addressed with the seller, I can do that right then and there,” Smith said. “The real-time data gives us the insight we need to confidently close a deal – or walk away if needed.”

Since deploying SightPlan Inspect, Cortland continues to work with the SightPlan team to customize its reporting format and employ additional capabilities, like lease file audits. Once Cortland cross-references selected data points and creates the final data file, SightPlan will be able to come in and conduct further analysis.

“Through our integrations, SightPlan will be able to access and then analyze the data just like it does the physical due diligence inspection data points. Now, I will be able to get a summary report almost instantaneously, which will save a tremendous amount of time,” Smith said.

Those efficiencies will help enable Cortland to ramp up its growth trajectory, especially with a small due diligence team.

Scale Inspections Efficiently

Cortland attributes their success in accomplishing their growth goals efficiently and cost-effectively to the implementation and continued use of SightPlan Inspect.


Since using SightPlan Inspect, Cortland has grown its
portfolio by 145.4%.

“Having a tool to quantify the data and turn out the results quickly is allowing us to not only continue, but also increase, our growth pace,” Smith said. “Our team wouldn’t be able to support Cortland’s growth goals as efficiently or cost-effectively without SightPlan Inspect, or our partnership with the SightPlan team.”

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