Report Writing?

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.

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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

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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).

-Patrick

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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.

So I do the same thing as you do with our reports, and yes initially when observing a new defect it takes a bit of time to craft the response however, once done, all that is needed is maybe a sentence or two stating the location and if multiple a number. These comments are saved to my template and as I go my time gets shorter with the increased number of comments I have in my “Tool Bag”.

We (me plus 3 guys) use HomeGauge.
I like the look of Spectora, and if I were to start over tomorrow I would probably use Spectora, I think of HG as the OG Spectora.

Even though you didn’t ask, I’ll say, the best camera in my opinion is Fujifilm XP120-130 for high resolution and good flash which allows for very little editing needed. Also fujifilm has a great phone app, making the cameras good for extension pole setup.

To close out the point on software, they pretty much all have the same functions and features and can almost all put out a similar looking report, I think it’s just how much time you put in to the software template and narrative library to optimize report writing that counts.

If you have the time, I’d like to see one of your reports (I’ll show you mine if you show me yours LOL)

If you do here’s my email: orptolbert@gmail.com

Good luck man,

-P

Why does that take up extra time?

You simply save what you typed for next time. Then you don’t have to do it again.

I have to disagree with you on that point, Patrick. Putting time into learning your software and organizing your narratives is important, but I’ve created custom narrative libraries for 6 different Inspection software companies, and they’re all pretty different from each other in the way the software is set up, how they operate, and what they’ll do either easily or kicking and screaming. Examples are:

  • Which operating systems they use;
  • Whether they install photos next to the narratives they support automatically;
  • How they are organized to optimize finding narratives quickly
  • How easily they allow multiple inspectors to work on and complete same report;
  • How easily they lend themselves to on-site reporting;
  • How easily the report can be emailed;
  • I like the ability to include onboard reference including live links
  • How complicated they are to learn to use well;
  • How good their support is; and
  • Pricing models available.

I’m sure there are other things that can be added to this list.

I would have to agree with you as I know you’re experience is well beyond mine especially for reporting software. I changed software three times to end up on HG and as someone who grew up using Windows PCs found it to feel very native, I did a one day course with Russell, as well as countless hours on their YouTube videos to learn the ins and outs. I know you can’t pick one as it’s in your best interest to have your narrative libraries on all software platforms, which in your opinion is the most robust in your opinion, and/or I assume you are/were an inspector yourself, what software did/do you use?

I’m sure all of you will laugh when I tell you this, but it will explain a lot about why our reports are at least, in part, more time-consuming. I’m such a perfectionist about our pictures that if the image looks even two degrees off-center I’ll spend the extra 10 seconds adjusting it till it’s perfectly straight. I’ll spend even more time brightening, adjusting contrast, etc to ensure the image is as crystal clear as possible. It takes me, on average, about a half hour just to edit images, and I never use the app to take pictures directly because I want the ability to edit them.

As far as comments are concerned, I’m an absolute stickler when it comes to perfect grammar, punctuation, spelling and voicing. If one of my inspectors writes “your” instead of “you’re” to state “you are,” for example, I can’t stand it. I have to edit it so it’s correct. If there’s a run-on sentence, I take the time to add a comma or period. If a sentence sounds like it was written by an elementary or middle school student, I rewrite it entirely. Needless to say, all of that adds quite a bit to my time.

I’m fully aware that I need to lighten up, and I’m also aware that our clients and the realtors we deal with don’t care about these things. Yet at the same time I just can’t seem to bring myself to deliver a product that seems sub-par. I need a good kick in the ass from other reputable and successful inspectors to steer me in a less OCD direction. And I could definitely use more software recommendations, which several of you have already given. I use ISN, so I’m not so interested in programs that offer additional scheduling, invoicing and marketing features. I’m very satisfied with ISN and only need software for report writing. If a program comes with other features but they can simply not be used, that’s fine.

Does anyone else struggle with these issues? I’m guessing not nearly to the extent I do, but I’m still curious.

Yes, some of us, just like you, were raised to “aim” 100% However, as we mature, and with more life experience, we begin to learn how to balance things. This is where the 80/20 rule comes into play, life’s too short to be a perfectionist, I promise :slight_smile: In the end, very few, if any, appreciate or need your 100% Most, however, will respect your well completed 80% The extra last mile is good and helpful, to a point, but is rarely worth it. The main focus should be on the bigger picture. If you apply 80/20 rule to report writing, for example, it would take 2-3 hours to achieve 80% and 2 more to get to 100% Maybe it’s time to adjust :slight_smile:

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I totally agree. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are a critical component of a good report. It projects your credibility and professionalism. I’m a one man show and do no more than one inspection a day. I always hold my reports over night and do a final proof read the next morning, before I post it for the client.