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And don’t just use the basic comment library that comes with the reporting tool. Build or buy a professional, custom library and make it your own.
On this topic, I would really appreciate some feedback on the following:
For those of you who have tried a bunch of different softwares, which one allows the most number of comments in its template/comment library before the software begins to crash in the field on the app or at home on the PC/cloud?
What do you recommend as a healthy number of comments to have in your comment library for maximum in the field report writing efficiency…for someone who wants to keep their after-inspection writing to a minimum?
How has the Internachi Narrative Library for purchase performed in each of the major software programs for which it has templates for: HIP, HG, Spectacular, Spectora, Tap Inspect? Which software wins at handling all the data with least number of crashes?
These questions originated when I learned that the Internachi Narrative library template for Spectora will crash its system. The people at Spectora say that most inspectors with their software have about 2000 in their template when it’s generated for a specific report. (You can keep the Internachi Narrative library template in the Spectora’s cloud with all 7500 comments but if it was generated as a report for use on the app in the field it would crash. They recommend keeping the Internachi Narrative template in the cloud and borrowing from it when needed)
Alexandra, I’ve sold a lot of Spectora templates, and only one inspector has complained about crashes and that was an inspector in Texas who told me that Spectora told him that both his device and his internet connection were inadequate to run Spectora. I’ve never heard anything from anyone else, or from Spectora about my Library causing crashes.
Also, I’m not really clear on the problem. Are you saying that they told you that when an inspector separates Spectora from the cloud so that the entire library is on their computer (in order to perform an inspection where there is no online connection), that my Spectora template causes crashes? I’ll be talking with Spectora at the first opportunity. Can you tell me who at Spectora you spoke with?
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
1&2. Most inspectors don’t know how many narratives they have in their software because there’s no reason to count. Once you’ve been at it a while, you only know whether you have to stop and write narratives often, or not very often. The only reason I know is that I asked the software companies to count for me because they can count them quickly and easily. Totals for the library right now are actually a little under 7900.
#3, that’s kind of a difficult question for inspectors on this board to answer because most inspectors stick with the software they use and know well and wouldn’t have access to my Library in a variety of different software. You’ll probably get better answers if you talk with the software companies you’re interested in, although for Home Inspector Pro, HomeGauge, and Spectora, you can post in their forums on this board, or ask in their company message boards or facebook pages, and get responses from those using my Library.
DEVELOPING A CUSTOM TEMPLATE
When I decide to develop a custom template for a specific inspection software company, I’m working first with the owner, who then works with his developers to make whatever adjustments are necessary to ensure that the template will work well with their software. The people who handle support are not always real familiar with the library although I guess they know if they’ve had problems reported. Also, when it comes to inspectors, there’s a fair amount of operator error that gets blamed on the software.
USING A LARGE TEMPLATE
I recommend in my user tips that unless a program has a good search feature (and sometimes even then), that inspectors make a safety copy of my template and then use the extra to create a working template by deleting comments they’ll seldom or never use.
Thanks for the information Kenton and I’m really excited about buying your narratives.
So I spoke with Alexis Nicholls and this only pertains to the cloud and app. As far as I’m aware Spectora doesn’t do any PC work. I was asking whether importing your narratives would wipe out the existing questions (which it wouldn’t since they are different templates). That’s when she mentioned that I could keep your full template in its entirety within my account’s online template editor. When we use the templates in the field on the app, a copy of a template is made from the the online editor and downloaded to the app on the phone or tablet - she says that there it can crash if there is too many comments. She said its happened to people before. So I asked her how many comments would keep the app running smoothly and said she wouldn’t know but that each inspector probably has about canned 2000 comments in a working report a time on average. So I was thinking…okay…do I only get to select like 2000 of your most common comments for the template I will use when working? I was kind of bummed by this because I was hoping to have almost all your comments in a the report when working on the app. There is a search function within the app to find comments. So anyway, I don’t know if her information was correct but that’s what she told me. It worried me and started wondering if I should look at HG or HIP. Regardless, I want to buy your narratives and I’m doing the research on what software can take and handle them.
Also, to clarify, are you saying that your # of comments in your library resembles that of most seasoned inspectors? I am interested in knowing the approximate number of canned comments in a report’s template when someone is working on that report. How many comments does a seasoned inspector have at his fingertips to pull from?
I can only speak for myself, but I have far less than 8,000. There are probably a few hundred narratives that I have written within Home Inspector Pro that I transfer into reports, adding locations and notes when needed. And in my opinion, every house is going to have a handful of issues that simply won’t be explained by any prewritten narrative. You’ll see odd things all the time that you’ll have to write up. There’s no way around it. Having a narrative library is very helpful, but you can’t rely on it completely.
You ask good questions.
I think that once the InterNACHI Narrative Library (INL) Spectora template was transferred to a device in order to perform an inspection offline, the chances of crashing would be related to the capacity of the device being used to perform the inspection, and the capacity of the local internet provider. When Alexis said that she didn’t know how many comments it would take to crash the Spectora system, she was right. I don’t think Spectora has done any kind of testing to determine that.
Once you buy it, you can make a copy of my library and edit it down to any level that works for you.
Really, my recommendation is to not worry about what software can handle my library, but instead to choose the software that works best for how you think. I’m assuming from your posts that you have not chosen software yet. Here’s a good article on what to consider when you’re trying to choose inspection software.
I have no idea how many comments most inspectors have in their developed libraries. I’m sure they don’t either, since there’s no reason to count them. They concentrate on performing inspections and I concentrate on my Library (among other writing products).
Feel free to ask any more questions.
Thanks Kenton, you are a huge help. I skimmed through the article earlier but I’ll take another look. I think I’m settling on Spectora (can’t customize a whole lot but the reports offer the clarity and simplicity I am after - also their customer support is amazing!!!).
I ask a lot of questions - I’m kind of intense. Haha I used to be an engineer. Got sick of being in a cubicle.
Oh and btw, I’m just curious and I would not do this, but how do you stop people from sharing the purchased INL comments on Spectora? Anyone can share his/her template on the Spectora template center with all of their comments in it.
Meant to mention, mine is a separate, complete template, organized and ready-to-use. You don’t lose any narratives when you install it, it just becomes another template you can choose
After years and countless hours with different HI software platforms, I can tell your that they are all inherently different. For that and when selecting, take my advice and don’t be lazy, put them thru a work out and try, I mean really try them.
Some things to think about.
Will you deliver a report by PDF or HTML or ? My experience has been that folks having to log in has produced extra questions and emails looking for help to log in and view, because of this I keep it simple and deliver PDF for residential and for very large commercial reports, they are delivered HTML for the time being.
Are you going to collect data onsite or put together a report in the office. I’d say it depends on your style, some HI’s keep their attention on their device and collect on site, others (like me) tend to engage their customer and have a mix of collecting data onsite and finishing up back in office or home.
For me, as I do a bit of both… I collect data on my iPad and send to my Windows 10 PC and finish up from there. I’ve been using Spectular for residential for awhile now.
That’s another crux, don’t take another HI’s word for it, put anything you’re considering giving your hard earned for thru it’s paces. Did it crash? Did you have questions and if so, did you get a quick reply and help?
Ask family or friends for their honest advice about how your easy your report was to read or gather some information from. Clients appreciate pictures, were pictures easy to insert and annotate where needed?
I’m knee deep right now testing and exploring the free trial of Spectora. I have downloaded about 10 other apps on my phone and have tested them all and looked at all their sample reports. I bought InspectIT and regretted it so I’m not making the same mistake twice. The problem with InspectIT was that it looked all great and beautiful in the app but to see but to test the full functionality of it, I had to buy it to see what it’s cloud platform was all about and how it performed syncing with other devices. Good thing about Spectora is that the free trial truly is a FULL free trial! Lol
Thanks for your great advice and taking the time to share!
Home inspection software for me is most useful when it operates from a template. And when I say template, I mean you load a narrative and then the app lets you edit/add context or detail to that narrative that you loaded, either while you’re walking the property, or sitting out in your truck. Having 8,000 narratives to choose from would drive me insane. Give me 6 to 10 narratives per component that I can juice from right there at the inspection, and I’m good. Also, standing there flipping through an app looking for something was never a “good look” from my point of view. The app is controlling your inspection at that point. I sometimes do walks on MF properties where there are 4 or 5 different firms, and you can tell who has the worst app after the second or third unit. And it’s honestly the guys that interact the least with their app and most with the client that end up looking the best. Nobody wants to be the guy with his face buried in his app. You should be focused on the property and the client, not wasting everyone’s time thumb-flipping through your app for the perfect-match narrative.
I have high hopes for Inspector Nexus in this regard. I can take a photo of an issue, pull in a narrative, jot notes free hand real quick, or circle something in the photo, and then quickly move on or discuss it further with the client. Then afterwards, I’ll clean it up in the truck before I leave.
“…8,000 narratives to choose from…” LOL! No software that I know of has a list of 8,000 (or even 1,000) narratives through which you have to search for the one you want, and although you didn’t say that, it would be easy for a new inspector to infer that from what you said.
Let’s say you find a crack in a concrete foundation wall. If you were using my template for Home Inspector Pro (HIP), you would chose Structure, Foundation, Concrete Foundation walls, and Cracks, and then you’d choose one of 10 narratives. Takes less than about 10 seconds. A lot less time than it takes to write a narrative.
But you wouldn’t be looking at a group of 10. I divide my narratives into groups of 4 or 5 so it’s easier for your eye to pick out what you’re looking for.
The other software templates are similar in that you open a heading, and then choose sub-headings until you find what you’re looking for… concrete foundation wall cracks. HomeGauge HIP, and some of the others have search features that help get you there quickly.
It’s fast and easy. The inspectors with their heads buried in their apps are the ones who have to spend time writing a lot of narratives that describe relatively common conditions because the templates that came with their software were limited.
I agree that successful inspectors are good at connecting/communicating with their clients, but compiling reports is where a large, well-organized library of narratives can save an inspector a lot of time, ane serve as an educational tool for newer inspectors.
In evaluating built-up roofs, the number of plies it contains can tell an inspector something about the quality of the roof. Not always… but I think most inspectors would agree that it’s useful information. Most inspectors cannot look at a roof and make a good estimate of the number of plies. Using my template, an inspector can tell from the overlap the number of plies it is likely to contain.
Obviously, you can’t “pull in” a narrative you don’t have, in which case “clean up” means writing whatever narratives you don’t already have. For residential home inspectors, compiling the report isn’t a matter of “wasting everyone’s time”, but is part of what’s required of a home inspection. If an inspector is wasting anyone’s time because he insists upon completing the report onsite, it’s much more likely that he’s having to write narratives than that he’s looking for them in his library of narratives.
With Inspector Nexus, the app is route based, so for foundations my “component tree” is Structure / Foundation / Assembly. (I also have Structure / Foundation / Moisture, etc, etc.) I loaded my 8 standard foundation assembly narratives at that point of the tree. I pick one of the 8, each of which needs at least some editing (for crack width, MOC, tweak the repair strategy, etc.). The process is: take a photo of the deficiency, pull in a narrative (so far only using my thumb), then after I shake hands goodbye, I go to my truck and do any edits, add context, draw an arrow, etc. I strive to be present when the client is next to me. I do nothing other than take the photo and pull in a narrative when I am in front of them. If I’m using anything more than my thumb on the app, I’m guilty of doing too much report writing while in front of the client.
Side note, one of things I saw in the Inspector Nexus InterNachi template was a narrative that pretty much said there was no standard way of assessing severity of cracks in masonry, or something along those lines. That’s patently untrue, for anyone that finds themselves reading this thread.
I agree, this is how it should go. And crack diagnostic methods are pretty well established.
At end of the day… the software is a tool. Your routine, how you interact and how much you are focused on the client OR typing away on your device are the basis of how much work you do for what you are paid. Inspectors (including me) seem to think that HI software is a magic bullet and it’s not. If your software works and is reliable, and there’s a problem… usually WE are the problem. Your level of service at the inspection and how easy your report is to follow and the quality of it reflects on your service. I’ve seen a bunch of on-site written reports and they’ve seen pretty basic to me, whatever works though.
I am currently exploring Inspector Nexus, HIP, and Spectora as I need a software where I can create multiple templates for different types of inspections such as Existing Homes, Pre-Drywall/Phase and New Construction (I’m more code attentive with these)
This way I can have only narratives that apply. (“Damaged window flanges” doesn’t really apply in existing home inspections but is all too common in pre-drywall inspections)
This is something I am trying to accomplish because scrolling through too many narratives is taking more time than just writing the damn narrative on the spot. The problem I am encountering is creating subheadings in my “component tree” as I have to use a TREC template.
For example, I have about 10 narratives each for:
- Masonry Siding
- Fiber Cement Siding
- Wood Siding
- Interior Drywall
- Metal & Vinyl (a few each)
All of these have to map back to the “E. Walls (Interior & Exterior)” section in the TREC report. As you can imagine, it is a beating when I encounter a Hardie plank siding issues & have to scroll through the narratives about drywall, stucco, brick, etc. just to find the right one. To quote Darren
I can’t add a subcategory for “Fiber Cement” to the “Walls” section in Spectora.
I can in Nexus, but then instead of just displaying a narrative title with hidden text attached, it displays the entire 3-4 sentences of the entire narrative. (Not good for scrolling)
I have just started with HIP but can’t figure out how to sub categorize the TREC template yet.
Maybe someone can help me figure out with one of the 3 softwares, how to do the above in Kenton’s quote? That is truly what I am after…have been trying for about a month actually. Hahaha
With InspectorNexus, there’s no need to scroll. Just type in a word or two from the narrative you’re looking for and it automatically filters your narratives, showing only those that have the particular words you have typed. The more words you type, the more narrow the search becomes.
I have items with dozens of narratives (100+ in some cases). I cant imagine having to “scroll” through them looking for the one that fits. This auto-filter feature works great.
As a bonus, the narratives chosen most often will eventually be on top as part of the auto-filter that is built into IN.
Yep, that’s what I have going on. Nexus is the only one (so far) that I can do this next step of breakdown.
Is there a way to bold the “Title” of the narrative? Such as bolding “Joints not staggered” & “Damaged”.
The software I am accustomed to is totally different than template based & I may be complicating things while trying to simplify.
On a side note, I am getting much better at completing most the report while still on site. It’s just a matter of staying focused. Change is hard but not impossible.