Report Writing?

Hi all, quick question to see how different inspectors handle writing report comments. In general, for every single comment on our reports, we (“we” being me and my team) state the defect, how or why it’s a problem, and a recommended remedy. That’s true for even the most minor deficiency.

Needless to say, that takes up a LOT of additional time, and I’d love to shave quite a bit of time off our average. Currently it takes us, on average, about 3 hours to write a report. Likewise, our reports average between about 55-100 pages, depending on the size of the home and number of defects, whereas our local competitors’ reports average only about 20-30 pages.

Our feedback from clients and realtors has consistently been stellar because of our level of thoroughness and detail (and much of our report is just consumed by pictures); but I’m trying to find a happy medium where we don’t sacrifice too much of our quality and detail while at the same time drastically reducing our average report writing time.

Honestly, the format I adhere to and expect of my workers is based on my initial training and I don’t even know what the EXACT report writing requirements are beyond stating defects. For example, is it necessary to include a full paragraph for a missing drain stopper or wood deck posts in contact with soil, or could a simple one-sentence statement be used? Does a small hole in vinyl siding need an explanation or does a simple phrase like “A small hole was located in a piece of vinyl siding” suffice?

I’m very eager to find out how other inspectors handle this. We use plenty of template comments (all of which I’ve personally written), but it still takes a long time and the template comments often have to be edited somewhat for the particular property. We also spend about a half hour, on average, simply editing our photos (cropping, straightening, brightening) to make them crystal clear. Again, it’s something that really sets us apart, but I’m not sure it’s absolutely necessary.

Any feedback is much appreciated, and thanks in advance!

I would not state a remedy but simple refer it out for correction to a qualified professional.

If you include the location, that would suffice with a referral to a qualified professional for correction.

The qualified professional can be a blanket statement at the beginning of your report, also.

1 Like

Thanks, Larry. The recommended remedy is nearly always repair (or in some cases further evaluation) by a qualified contractor. What are your thoughts on the other issues, like editing images?

That is only needed to point something, very specific, out…IMHO

Do you mean editing images is only important then, or including pictures in general?

I included pictures for the client to locate the issue and annotated them as needed.

For the InterNACHI Narrative Library, for deficient conditions, the formula is:

  1. Identify the problem (but not necessarily the cause, unless you’re positive);
  2. Tell how serious it is (or might become);
  3. Make a recommendation. This is typically for correction, repair, replacement, or evaluation by a specialist of some type, but not the method of correction or repair.

If it’s a terrible house, with too many defects in say, the electrical system, recommend a qualified electrical contractor do a full evaluation because of numerous defects, and move on.

Using a good device with proper lighting or flash should allow you to cut your time editing photos. Only use photos where they are necessary to support the narrative, but they are especially helpful if the subject is in a place like the roof or crawlspace where the client is unlikely to ever see it personally.
It also helps to use software that will automatically place the photo next to the narrative it supports. If it’s next to the narrative, it shouldn’t need a caption.

Early on I did an 85-page report and now when I look at it I cringe. For the most part, past 50 pages makes it unlikely they will read it all and increases the chance that they will miss something as a result.

Missing drain stopper- one sentence.
Deck post contact with soil- “[[Contact with soil]]Deck framing was in contact with soil. This condition will result in damage from wood decay. The inspector recommends correction to extend the service life of this deck.”

or slightly longer:

“[[Post contact with soil- QC]]One or more posts supporting the deck had contact with soil. Wood in contact with soil will eventually decay, the decayed areas will crush under the weight of the load they support and the affected area of the deck will lose support. This condition may eventually result in damage to the deck or the development of unsafe structural conditions.
The Inspector recommends that all posts supporting the deck be protected from contact with soil. All work should be performed by a qualified contractor.”

It’s faster and easier to delete a sentence than to write one.

Some inspectors don’t like “…the Inspector recommends…” instead of “…we recommend…”, but I use it because it tells the reader exactly who is making the recommendation, since recommendations aren’t made by committee. I write (somewhat) as if the reader is an attorney, a judge, or an arbitrator.


Based on my experience PRIOR (LU# 65, United Brotherhood of Carpenters) to getting into Home Inspection, as well as a stint as a both a licensed RE Salesperson and a Broker, I realized that a Home Inspection is 50% education of the Client. So - I do take the time to go beyond the too often used “SIDING” checkmark - “TYPE - Vinyl” - “CONDITION”- two holes observed" - “COMMENT” - engage the services of a professional vinyl siding installer. I note that the home has vinyl siding, state the overall condition and quality of install workmanship and explain to the Client “Two holes were observed in the vinyl siding. This type of hole is often caused by impact damage from home maintenance equipment such as snow-blowers or lawn mowers. Be sure to direct the discharge of such equipment away from the structure for at least 6 passes around the home. Also be sure that no vehicles or other equipment is in line of the discharge. Holes like this are easily repairable by a qualified person.”

1 Like

You have two options:

a) provide better service, aka better report, charge more!!!
b) provide crappy service, do 4 houses a day instead of 1 or 2.

Pick one, one that works best for you & your location :smiley:

It’s not possible to offer a good service for the price of a cheap service unless you are volunteering your time. Great reports are time consuming, period. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or does not understand what a good report is. There are some, minor, things you can do to speed things up, some already mentioned above, but you are not doing 1 hour or onsite reports if you are doing custom/detailed reports. For example, many will omit serial numbers, won’t look at appliance because not required, will test 1 window instead of 2, because not required. Will not proof read and have many mistakes even other home inspectors could not understand. Miss things… slap few pics nobody can understand, not take pics or go up the roof, just check from ground with binoculars and claim that is all that’s required, etc… the list is huge of things you can omit. Like I said, you have to choose what you want and how, no magic involved.

About the only thing that can really speed things up is a very intuitive software and well written canned comments. The former I have yet to discover. Many will claim the one they use is godly :slight_smile: I disagree.

1 Like

55-100 pages is excessive, unless it’s a gigantic house with numerous defects.

How much detail are you going into with the recommended remedy?

I try to keep everything short and sweet, my wife says that I over explain things, so I try to not go into excessive detail or any opinion based explanation for why something in the home is the way that it is.

I completely agree. I can’t figure out a way to really shorten our time while still providing exceptional service. But I would love to save time in any reasonable way I could - especially for my workers.

Well the 100 page reports ARE typically for older, very large homes with many defects. And most of those pages are simply pictures and example illustrations. We could eliminate some general photos, but I like having them as a reference to look at in case any issues arise down the road.

The kitchen sink faucet leaks. Repair needed.

The hall bathroom 3-prong electrical outlet is wired wrong (ungrounded and a safety concern). Repair properly.

There are OFTEN 2-4 ways to fix something. As a past builder / contractor I feel the guy doing the repair will be the one that has to stand behind it … So I leave WHAT they do to what the buyer & seller decide

Thanks, Dan. When I look at our competitors’ sample reports I discover that they don’t often include explanations for most defects. They’ll just check condition ratings (poor, fair, satisfactory, etc) for many deficiencies and will write a code like “RR” for repair or replace, CM for continually monitor, and so on. Comments are also canned and will say “one or more…” which obviously isn’t specific at all and leaves the client and realtor wondering whether one item or ten were defective. Big difference!

That’s not how we do things… at all. Our reports are incredibly detailed and user-friendly, and it’s served us very well. But like I said, I very much want to simplify things as much as I reasonably can to shorten our average report writing time by a bit (I currently work on average from 8 am till after midnight every day, including weekends, despite having 4 inspectors working for me and often don’t even have time to eat). It’s really a major issue because I’m completely burnt out and finding a “work/family balance” is near impossible. Everyone tells me it’s a good problem to have. Well yes, financially, but not in terms of my family life I get one shot to be a dad and am a fully committed husband, so I need to find a happy medium to prevent complete burnout. That’s why I posted this topic. There has to be a way to lessen our overall workload and our time spent on the report-writing side. I’m not even sure EXACTLY what our report writing requirements are, but we’ve always gone well beyond the bare minimum - that much I know for sure.

Stephen … You may have seen some of my posts on various inspector web sites. I don’t believe in talking the buyer to death. I’ve done this over 35 yrs and what I do works for me and I don’t get complaints (other than things from a seller or listing agent like … the inspector that inspected this house 3 yrs ago did NOT say this or that was wrong, you’re being too picky). I work off the rule of 3 … Up to 3 similar defects AND we tell you exactly where they’re at / Like defective GFCI’s or ungrounded 3-prong outlets in a 28 yr old house - 1 is at the hall bath, 1 is at the patio and 1 is at the basement wet bar. *After 3 exact defects I move to something like “You have MULTIPLE defective GFCI’s throughout the home such as at the hall bath, the patio and at the basement wet bar. Have a competent electrician evaluate ALL of the GFCI’s present at the home and Repair or Replace as Needed”.

20 yrs ago I tried the Room-by-Room type of report. Boring and took too long in time and report pages AND most of our clients were NOT looking to read a “Gone With the Wind” type report. Since then we do a system-by-system type report. Over 58% of the homes I inspect are about 4,500sf up to 14,000sf. I have less than 5 REA’s that refer us on a steady basis. Most of my clients are referred by attorneys, lenders, past clients, code inspectors or insurance company’s. My past clientele include 3 governors of different states, 2 presidential candidates, a guy that used to own a beer company in St Louis with BIG horses in their ads, a couple of family members of a big box store based in Arkansas, sports stars AND a butt load of normal everyday people.

Our fees are in the upper 5% for my area. Don’t know about anybody else BUT it works well in KC


Hey Stephen,

My two cents for report writing time savers:

Software: Use a software that has “pickers” and build out the most common defects with a more robust pick-list so that the software is building your sentence or paragraph for you. The greatest time saver is clicking for a comment instead of typing.

Inspection: The process while you’re on-site should incorporate writing at least some of the report while you’re there, leaving less to do at home. I can very much relate to the late nights and lack of family time (that was until I sorted out the inspection process and more importantly my software). I personally prefer to do as much on-site as possible.

Photos: I personally take between 100-200 photos including infrared. Only attach a photo if it supports the narrative. For example I don’t typically attach an image of gutters needing to be cleaned or of moss on the roof. Also I point with my hand in the frame of the photo, it saves time both in photo editing but also report writing because in my narrative I can use a generic “left side” and then they can look at the photo to see exactly where I’m referring to. I think the camera you’re using should be doing most of the editing for you, IE: I use flash or have my flashlight illuminating the frame almost all of the time so I don’t need to adjust the brightness. The settings on most cameras have a center line and a grid so you don’t have to tilt or crop photos if you’re already taking the picture on a level plane (or whatever the terminology is)

Narratives: I don’t personally explain implications for things that I deem obvious. For example if I’ve said the siding or trim is damaged I don’t think it’s necessary to explain that moisture damage or further deterioration could occur, I’ve already said it’s damaged… As for making recommendations, I do not specify exactly WHO for the repair, I always state “Licensed/Qualified Professional” instead of saying licensed plumber, licensed electrician, etc etc As for HOW, I never specify either, “Repair/correct as needed” puts the onus on the ones doing the repair not on you.

If you want the most succinct way to do it, only two words are needed… “Recommend corrections” personally I think it’s too vague for most things but in your example of a tub stopper,

Instead of saying: “The upstairs third hallway jack and Jill bathroom had a tub stopper that was inoperable, this can allow for objects and debris to fall into the drain, possibly creating a blockage and potentially a full tub overflow, which could necessitate full remediation by a licensed fire and flood restoration crew, requiring removal of the floor tile, sub flooring material, insulation and downstairs ceiling drywall. We recommend a licensed plumbing contractor repair or replace as needed.“

I would rather say: “Tub stopper in upstairs hall bathroom was missing or inoperable. Recommend corrections.”

Also I like bundle comments which might have already been mentioned but in an electrical panel for example:

“The following issues were observed in the panel that should be reviewed by a licensed/qualified professional for safety: Double tapped breaker, scorched wiring, missing knock out plugs, and pointed metal screws. Recommend corrections as needed.”

May I ask you, what software and what cameras are you using?

I wish you the best of luck and I hope you can get out of the midnights report writing man. Try not to get burned out (and also your inspectors won’t last long if they’re burned out too).


1 Like

1: I do not report on why it is a problem.

2: Your reporting times are average. I can double and triple that depending upon the job.

3: Your feedback is typical of quality work.

4: None. As expressed in item 1. I do not report on why it is a problem.

I have been looking for inspectors like your team. I can not find them. I am willing to pay absolute top dollar. Why would you want to be like the competition?

I passed along a job to a student I mentored. I was too busy. $1,000.00 sixplex. I passed by during the inspection. I understand the condition. I was delivered a 55 page report. I was disappointed. Mine would have been 100 plus pages. Many images had no reference other than filler. To make the report look big.

You have a winning team. Seriously. Why change?

Patrick, I really appreciate your response. It’s very helpful. I currently use TapInspect, which isn’t very fancy, but it’s been hard to switch over to something else. I’ve tried Spectora but couldn’t find the time necessary to go through and customize everything on my own, let alone train my guys on using something totally different.

What software do you use? I’ve been thinking for quite some time that the software is probably the single biggest factor in helping save time and making the process more streamlined. I’ve tried some other popular programs but haven’t been too impressed, and I’ve also sent some sample reports from different software to realtors who have almost all expressed not wanting my reports to change. I know that’s just because they’re used to what we already use and most people are adverse to change, though. I’m sure if we did switch they’d get used to it quickly and be completely fine before long.

Thanks again!

The article The Three Functions of a Narrative talks about what your narrative writing needs to achieve, including the dangers of leaving things open to interpretation by those with different interests in the transaction.

The title “Report Compilation Time and Length” is pretty self explanatory, and so is the one on “Including Photos and Videos”.

Morning, Steven.
Hope this late return post finds you well.

Steven. I use Carson Dunlop Horizon.

The software has come a long way since I started using it >< 8 years ago. Features — What you get with Horizon Inspection Software

Classic Home Inspection report. Short Sample. It would take me 1.5 hours to produce a report like that. Now I spend 4 hours reporting. Typically/usually 3 times the pages.

CREATE REPORTS YOUR WAY - Customize spacing in your report.
Work online or offline — no internet needed.
Reporting Link to technical articles if you wish so clients can learn more. Over 400 pages at the back of every report if you so desire.

1: All your teams reports will be available for you to view/edit/amend, if when applicable.
2: All bookings viewed by each inspector.
3: As moderator, you can edit/amend what you want with each inspector that performed the inspection and omit anything from team view.

Call Carson Dunlop. I am sure John or Aaron will walk you through the process and have you up and running in no time. Essential building inspection software in my view. Tell them I referred you. Great people. Truly.

Best regards.
Robert Young

The main reason I chose CD Horizon. 1: No observation canned narratives. I write a short condition assessment.
2: Referral and Limitation narratives included in the software.
Like any software there are learning curves. Sence you have a team you can have group meeting to discuss all the features online.