Improving home inspection reports

Improving home inspection reports

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By Barry Stone
Q. I am currently doing research on the home inspection industry to find ways that could make business more efficient and profitable.
Right now my focus is on the methods inspectors use to write their reports.
What are your thoughts on the ways reports are formatted and on the types of report-writing software that are available?
I would like to learn about the pain points you and other inspectors experience in your day-to-day. Even a few sentences would be appreciated.
When it comes to writing home inspection reports, there is no answer to which all home inspectors are likely to agree.
So here is one inspector’s point of view.

Various software companies are currently marketing home inspection report systems.
These products are typically written for ease of use by home inspectors. Ironically, these report systems only become easy to use after several months of initial struggle.
The point on which most inspectors agree is that these report systems are good enough, but they are not what home inspectors would prefer.
The main problem, in this inspector’s opinion, is that most report writing systems are formatted in ways that are not user friendly for the average homebuyer.
What buyers want to know is “what is wrong with the house,” and they don’t want to wade through pages of other information to obtain the bottom line.
What most designers of inspection report systems fail to recognize is that there are three distinct categories of information in an inspection report. Only one of these is of particular concern to homebuyers.
Therefore, each category of info should be clearly separated from the others to avoid confusing the customer, and the information of greatest concern to buyers should stand out clearly.
The three types of information in a home inspection report are as follows:
• Descriptive Details such as types of wall coverings, types of water piping, locations of fixtures, etc.
This kind of information is necessary to the completeness of an inspection report, but it is usually not of particular concern to homebuyers. There are, of course, some exceptions, such as acoustic ceiling texture that might contain asbestos.
• Legal Disclaimers are vital to the financial survival of home inspectors and, therefore, must be included in every report.
Examples include pointing out that portions of the building are concealed by personal property; that the inspector cannot inspect conditions that are contained inside of walls or buried in the ground; or that structural and geotechnical engineering evaluations are not within the scope of a home inspection.
An inspection report is not complete without this liability-oriented information, but this is not what homebuyers are looking for in the report.
• Property Defects (the actual things needing repair or upgrade) are what matter to homebuyers. A good report makes these disclosures stand out plainly and distinctly so that the person reading the report does not have to sift through boilerplate descriptions and disclaimers to learn about the faulty conditions on the property.
Home inspection reports that perform well in this regard are very rare.
The people who write home inspection software should seek to satisfy not just the home inspectors who buy their programs, but the buyers, sellers and real estate agents who have to read and understand the reports.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301

Exactly what I would have said and have said in the past.

And exactly why I designed my own…since day one.

What are you guys talking about ??? Almost every home inspection reporting system out there actually does what he is talking about. Every system out there has a Summary report separate from the main report AND has a way of distinguishing the defects from the info and legal fluff. 3D for example has it in their name even… This guy needs to do more investigating of the software out there because he sure doesn’t know what is available. Just my 2 cents.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Dale you have one of the better photo reports I have seen that is not HIP.
Putting in the photo bubbles is a nice touch the way you utilize them.

I agree also…and have ALWAYS done my part to tell inspectors when they come up to us with their 15 page carbon copy forms they have created themselves and have used for 10 years and ask me if we can replicate their form verbatim in our software…and I say…“Why would you want to do that ? This form is not easy to read, is confusing and does not help the buyer or realtor understand the main issues. Now…if you want us to replicate the DATA … that we can do.” :cool:

That is an interesting perspective. I agree with him that reports should be written with the reader in mind. He apparently hasn’t looked at much software if he believes that such software is rare. To the contrary, I’d say it is rare to find software that isn’t capable of producing reports that contain the elements he mentions while being easy to read at the same time.

Inspection software should flexible and customizable so that an inspector can tailor it to his specific needs and inspection style. It is ultimately the inspector who decides what to put into the report or not to put into the report.

I get that all the time. It is usually a new inspector who knows one or two part-time real estate agents who have said that that is the style report they are familiar with. My software is flexible enough that you are limited only by your imagination but I advise against most of the antiquated formats that they bring to me.

I haven’t received any direction on claiming my Capstone Software…Email me

I disagree to a point. My report is not to tell the client what is “WRONG”, my report is to educate the client on the home they are purchasing.

The things that matter to homebuyers are what is wrong? Has he ever inspected a home or is he just a TV personality? To me he is DEAD wrong. To me my profession is to provide as much information about the house to the client as possible. Sure I point out what is wrong I also point out what is present.

So in his mind (according to him) my report should read like this

Wood rot at the left fascia
Doorbell Inoperable
Double tap at main panel.

Thanks for the money see you later! How crazy and absurd is that? My buyers what to KNOW the the house they are purchasing not JUST what is wrong with it.

That whole last statement is plain wrong in my eyes…

What else needs to be said? Alarmist!! :smiley:

BTW, I’m kidding. I may use a short statement like that about a minute problem… but people deserve and are paying for more than that.

Most of that mentality in home inspectors comes from the old paper reports where less was more…you didn’t want to write a bunch of information on the checksheet forms as to describing a bunch of stuff in the house…that was a lot of work…just check the problems and that is it…2 hrs at the house…give the client their 5 page paper form…collect $300…and go to the next inspection…was much easier in those days. :stuck_out_tongue:

Jeff re-read your last statement and you will find my entire feelings of our profession…

Read this…again…

collect $300…and go to the next inspection…was much easier in those days.

So after 25 years guys are still seeing the same price for an inspection! Our profession has evolved into nothing, sadly and this “public face” of the profession proves that!

We do more, liable for more, tools are a ton more…for the same fee as 25 years ago, how sad is that?

To me this guy is an idiot!

I agree completely…much more liable…many more specialty tools used…reports that are over 100 pages (sorry Bob)…hundreds of photos (sorry Bob again ;-))…but unfortunately …you can’t stop progress…now inspectors are trying to include video clips…creating interactive reports that have hot links in their report that navigate you to areas of the internet…etc…etc…etc…all for the same $300.

Not sure what you are sorry for unless you feel Inspectors should conform to a software guys idea of how to do reports.
That would make me feel sorry for any software guy who does not get it.

Create a better mousetrap and they will find you.

Right now that is HG and HIP.

But more is missing.

Most of my inspections are more that $300 though :wink: advancing the detail of the report has become easier with technology, the tech. costs us more and the product is worth more, why can’t we charge more? The answer is, we can.

Bravo Bob. Technology is a great narrative and facilitates and timely inspection.
I have cut my time in half.
I was way to long in the tooth.
I charge 500 plus.
I guess where you live makes a difference in pricing.

I have never been a fan of summary pages, but would love to have a digital report that has dynamic filtering capabilities that the user can control realtime: I want it all; just the facts; show me just the big stuff, etc. Throw in the ability to filter on other dimensions like: electrical only; roof related only, etc. and you have a product that the user can use for the decision process, negotiations and contractor communications…

The report would always travel intact (i.e., the summary does not grow legs while everything else languishes in the bin. The consumer can focus just on the big stuff when it’s important to the or broader subsets up to the whole text. Now if they could assign their own priorities within the report, make annotations and use that as the vehicle to communicate with their agent, we would really have something.

Now if somebody would please build a fully customizable, data based reporting tool (XML?) that the inspector, agent and client can assign attributes and annotations to the individual line items and dynamically filter for relevance, I’ll gladly retire my system and adopt yours.

Interesting point of view George.
Seeing there are many astute IR thermographers here a collaborative among members to create preamble for the client & real estate agent may indeed be a great project.

Maybe a recommendation to Nick to create a page just for the client and agents.

I know John Mckenna runs a successful interpretation on education.
Whom better to educate through media and text. He has reams of information.

Anyone have anything to contribute to this idea?
Remember, it is the very basics. The client and agent only have to understand what they are viewing and grasp the basic concept of the image pattern.