This is well put. I was just curious. I thought more about it the other day and there is just no way. I currently use HG services and there is just no going back. Just from the integration side of things. Populating information from your schedule into the report, agreement, ancillary reports, etc. It would be a huge step backward.
Interesting, it takes me one minute to do all of the above. It is all in how you set up the report.
You can integrate ISN, RecallChek, HON and other programs into your publisher file?
I don’t use those services, so I don’t have to. I am sure it would be easy enough to add them either pre or post printing to a pdf.
For the appliances I could just add the model number and a recall yes/no box to my existing form.
I am sure it would take me all of 15 minutes to design any page or add to what I already have.
I suppose word and excel do have the capabilities. Damn it Eric:p
Software is software.
Using background sections, headers and footers, excel tables inside of Word or Publisher, you can accomplish quite a bit.
If I really wanted to, I could probably do an inspection report, besides the wind mit forms, 4-point forms, and roof cert forms I already have, in Adobe Professional and make it an executable PDF.
Here is a version of the Citizens roof form which I redesigned, because the original form was unusable. Citizens Roof cert
Here is the original: Citizens
I tried making my own template but turned into too much time spent on a inspection. All the inspection programs have positive and negative but the time you save is valuable.
My average inspection is 3 hours at the home and about 45 minutes organizing the report and sending it off. I promote same day delivery of the report (emailed), around here other inspectors take 2-3 days that is crazy, time is of essence for any real estate transaction.
So when I am doing 10-15 inspections in a week I do not have time to fool around with the template I use.
If anyone is wondering I use 3D but there are other programs that are just as good and maybe cheaper
If the template is designed properly, you shouldn’t have to “fool” with it. And that is my point.
My templates start with the single family dwelling inspection. Since most town homes/villas do not have sprinkler systems or pools as part of the structure, those sections are eliminated for that report. Since the roof is covered by the association that is eliminated for the condo template.
Because pages are static in Publisher, if I had a condo that needed a roof inspection, all I would have to do is go to either the town house or single family template, copy the roof and roof picture pages and add them to the original condo report.
If I ever have to “fool” with a template, it takes very little time to do so.
I have four templates I use.
For all of my insurance inspections, everything is done using executable pdf files.
An advantage to any application built on the Office platform is that the user can use any standard Office app as the presentation layer (Word, Excel, AutoCad, Publisher, Project, Outlook, etc). The inspector can have the best of two Worlds, the presentation and the app. In the case of inspection software, the inspection report program and the presentation layer coexist. In other words, an inspection report that uses Word, Publisher or Excel can continue to look like those apps and can retain as many of their features as the developer chooses. The result can be what looks like a version of Word, etc that looks like it was tailored to a specific purpose from the start.
As you said, drop-downs can be a pain to use, especially when the list gets long. We still have them because inspectors ask for them. I like to do live demonstrations of my software because after I tell an inspector that, yes we have drop-downs, I show them two much more efficient ways to use their library of narratives. Lets’ say the user has a narrative such as the one you used as an exammple, “front window in living room had a broken lock and damaged spring assembly”. With our software, the comment can reside anywhere in any of the 428 Library Categories (Vanguard, HomeTrex and Hertiage reports). To retrieve the narrative, all the inspector has to do is search on a key word or phrase. All occurances of that key word or phrase will be presented in a window. The inspector double-clicks on the narrative and it is placed in the report at the cursor.
Key words can also be color coded to any of three preset colors or additional colors can be added. You could, for example, have the comment “Danger, do not operate until the unit has been repaired”. Wherever you put that comment in the report, it will automatically appear in Red (or what ever color you choose).
We also have an alternative to the drop-down list that presents the drop-down comments in a dialog box that is larger and easier to use than a traditional drop-down box. It also allows the user to select multiple comments at one time. The comments can be presented in the report individually, individually with bullet-points, or formatted into a paragraph.
Each Office app has its own strengths and weaknesses as a presentation layer. The underlying XML, VBA, ActiveX, C#, VSTO and so on are nearly identical regardless of which you choose for your presentation layer so what ever you can do with one, with few exceptions, you can do with another.
I don’t know why it is taking you so long to write reports but if I were consitently taking that long to do a report, I’d be looking for a better way too. Our software is designed for efficiency so it is realtively easy to get an inspector to a point where it takes an hour or less to write a report with our software. However, I have also coached hundreds of inspectors who do not use my software. My approach is to attack the problem from finished report and work back from there. Regardless of which software you use, you should be able to produce good reports in significantly less time than it is taking you now.
On the software side, it is essential that you have software that you are comfortable with. It doesn’t matter who says what about whatever software. All that really matters is whether you are comfortable with it and can make it do what you want it to do. Software is a tool. It should work for you. You shouldn’t be working for it.
Guys, I am from the old school, been inspecting houses for 27 years and although I have a number of software packages including HomeGuage, HomInspect, etc and have looked at most of the others I have yet to find any that does not add 2-3 hours onto the inspection.
We give every client the choice to purchase either our NCR Express paper home inspection report delivered immediately onsite or upgrade to our Premium report package that includes photos and electronic delivery for an additional $100. You know 99% of our clients choose the Express Home Inspection Report Form. Now I designed our Express form which allows me to perform the inspection and report the results with very little writting using checkboxes and a defined rating system so I am somewhat partial to it but I would love to find a software package that did not triple my time and provide a visually pleasing final product but as of yet I have not found one… Right now I am playing with HomInspect and really like the look of the final report. It is a MS Excel based report and it allows you to place page breaks where you need them and uses a multiple colors to make the report visually appealing. Inserting photos is fairly easy as well. The only problem with it is that it does not follow my inspection routine so I have to perform my inspection on my forms and come back and move the information over by hand. Honestly it is much different than what I have had to do with HomeGuage though. What will be interesting is that I just signed up with ISN and I am not sure how I am going to integrate my paper reports into that system…I guess we will see.
By the way guys, this is my first post on the message Board in years…so be nice.
All of my reporting is done on MS Word using customized templates, styles, macros, etc. that I developed. My reports are entirely table based. I’ve been doing it that way since 2004. I had a great deal of experience with document automation before I started this business. Unfortunately each new release of MS Word is more cumbersome and less adept at servicing the needs of advanced users than the one before.
This is a model that I am looking to move away from and not one that I would not suggest anyone pursue unless there are no suitable alternatives.
I’m just waiting for word from Dominic on a few HIP enhancements and I will undertake conversion. I already have the license.
Yeah ,you are defiantly old school…
I know quite a few inspectors who use “Word”; their reports are better than any software made, the trick is learning the capabilities of the the program, that may take a pretty long learning curve if you’ve never actually wrote a report with it, added photo’s etc.
But its a damn good idea.
Have you taken a look at our software before ? It has been in the market for over 15 years and was the first software that was designed to be used in the field. We have had the biggest franchise comapny and the biggest home inspection school use our software over the years. There is a reason for that. We do not add time in the field and eliminate any reentering of data later. You customize the data the way you do inspections…not the other way around. It is worth 5 minutes of your time to give us a call.
I will take a look at it…Thanks!
Paul, I use MS word to create all my reports. I created a template with the NACHI requirements for the structure. I like the ability to create Indexes, book marks, a Table of Contents, and the other advanced features of MS word. I recommend going to the “FILE & OPTIONS” and customize your settings. Sometimes I use the table function to create a photo layout, usually 2x3 for a total of 6/page, or custom fit a picture with words down the side. I enjoy the flexibility MS word provides. I also build up a bunch of technical reference files that I can insert when needed. If you want “simple” then I wouldn’t recommend MS-word. Yes, I’ve seen people curse it trying to learn it or do something simple. Taking a training course on the product is advisable. Good luck…
We agree. Check out ReportHost for tablets. We’re geared to the high density collection/minimum navigation that you want.
Try out the data gathering interface here: http://www.reporthost.com/guestTry.asp
If you don’t want a device, or you want a backup, you can also print out “field notes” in the same format as the electronic interface, so finding items is easy.
Depending on the section…this would mean more scrolling…you can’t have it both ways…1 page with all your category information available on one screen (for example Grounds) without the need to use any menus or popups would make it very limited as to what would be available on that screen also…in essence you are repeated the same problem that the old check sheet forms had…trying to put too much information on one page. Just my 2 cents.
Plus you are limiting yourself as to what type of device you can use to do the actual inspection…a smaller handheld would never be very practical then.