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  1. 6 points
  2. 5 points
    Taking photos is like choosing words. Adding many more doesn't fix the few well chosen ones that you missed. You may have much experience in claims but you're at the tail end trying to fix something. We're at the beginning trying to create that something.
  3. 4 points
    a pleasant reminder of my good sense in divorcing my first wife.
  4. 4 points
  5. 4 points
    When Someone Asks What Time It Is, Don’t Tell Them How to Build a Watch Even useful information gets lost in a sea of words. Your task is to tell the reader everything they need to know -and no more- clearly and concisely. If you want to include your personal treatise on how to maintain perfectly even heat in a Queen Anne Victorian with no storm windows using an oil-fired steam boiler, then include that as a separate handout; people who are interested can read it. Don’t make the other 99 percent of your clients suffer through it unnecessarily. It makes sense to think of a home inspection as the rough equivalent of a prospective homebuyer asking you the questions, “What do I need to know about this house before I buy it? And, “What significant risks should I anticipate?” New to a rural community, I was talking to a great old neighbor and a WWII vet. I asked him what the best route to the interstate was. He told me, “Go down to the main road and turn left, when you get to the end of the stone wall there’s a road on your left that’ll take you past Wilson’s farm, there’ll be a Gulf (used to be a Shell) gas station on the right, then some condos and in 2 miles you’ll see the general store. Don’t take that left. Instead, keep going down the main road and you’ll see another left just before the drug store. That’ll bring you past the library, the middle school and after you pass South Meadow Pond you can take the right that’ll bring you to Town Hall. You don’t want that left either. “ He went on this way for a while like so many HI reports do, too. If your report isn’t straightforward and easy to understand, there’s a good chance people won’t read it and miss something important. Let’s remember the goal: Your goal isn’t to win lawsuits, that’s what attorneys do. You’re in business to help clients and avoid lawsuits. Do yourself a favor and make it easy for your clients to recognize and retain the important information in your report. Learn To Recognize Inspector-Speak. Resolve to stop using It. Marc Cramer used to teach a report writing class. If he still does, I recommend you take it. He wrote the best example of truly heinous HI report-writing I’ve seen to date. He asked attendees what an inspector should report, if anything, if they encountered a tiger in the master bedroom. The multiple choices included something along the lines of (I’m sure I’m not doing it justice): “A large, carnivorous feline -possibly resembling Panthera tigris- in the southwest corner of the master bedroom. Adult tigers lead largely solitary lives. They establish and maintain territories but have much wider home ranges within which they roam. Resident adults of either sex generally confine their movements to their home ranges, within which they satisfy their needs and those of their growing cubs. Individuals sharing the same area are aware of each other's movements and activities. The size of the home range mainly depends on prey abundance, and, in the case of males, on access to females. It was not determined how the animal entered the bedroom, but it poses a likely hazard for persons wishing to enter. For this reason, the master bedroom was excluded from the scope of the inspection. Further investigation by a licensed professional is suggested.” (The italicized sentences above were excerpted from Wikipedia.) Using the fewest and best possible words, you need to put the relevant information neatly and gently in your client’s hands in a way that is impossible for them to misunderstand. Don’t try to sound smart. It inevitably has the opposite effect. Clear, concise writing makes the writer sound smart. If you inspect a home with a worn-out asphalt roof, write: The asphalt shingle roof on this house is worn past the standard for replacement. It should be stripped and replaced now by a qualified professional. The process will be expensive. You can quibble about a particular word or phrase, but that pretty much nails it. You don’t have to explain how important a roof is, how shingles are made, what the cost range could be, or anything else. Somewhere on this site or one of its predecessors, Jim Katen (the best HI report writer I know of) recommended people buy and read Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Most HI’s probably won’t, but I guarantee if you do, it’ll point out at least one bad habit you can correct. Probably more than one. Observation, Analysis, Recommendation Every comment in your report should include your observation (what you found), your analysis (what it means) and your recommendation (what your client should do about it). I learned this from recently-retired Mass. home inspector Bob Mulloy and it stands the test of time. I am a slow typist. After organizing my thoughts and writing around this principal, I only rarely spent more than 45 minutes writing a report. Example: At least 12' of the structural sill along the east wall has been damaged by termites. This significant structural damage must be replaced by a licensed builder now which will be expensive. A few of you have sent me sample reports, but unfortunately for me, there was no truly cringe-worthy writing in any of them. My next installment in this series will address some specifics.
  6. 4 points
    TIJ is very pleased to announce the first in a series of articles by our own Jim Morrison. He's a reporter for the Banker and Tradesman in Boston and a former home inspector. Buckle up, put your ego in check and learn from the very best. On Improving Your Reports Consider this advice from a close friend, though we've likely never met. For about 25 years, I was a home inspector. Five years or so ago, I left the field to write for newspapers and magazines in a time when most outlets are laying people off. I know a bit about both inspecting and about writing. Most of what follows are my own thoughts, but some of it I've learned from others. Where memory serves, I've attributed those thoughts that aren't mine. I've known hundreds of home inspectors and -like many of you- have read HI reports numbering in the hundreds. There are no more than two inspectors I'm aware of that the following does not apply to (and one of them is dead): Your report is much, much worse than you think and it may be your biggest liability. Your report isn't worth much if your client doesn't read and understand it. Newspaper writers are arguably under more pressure than anyone to attract, inform and keep readers' eyes on the page/screen until the very last word (and that's what you ought to be doing, too). Writing Reports Is The Single Most Important Part of Your Job If the greatest inspector ever born finds a serious defect in a property and explains it eloquently on-site, but fails to get her message across in writing, she has failed her duty and put herself at great risk. If something goes wrong and she gets a call from her client's attorney, the report will be the bulk of her defense. It had better be good. A clear, complete, concise report is the best product you can offer. It's also your best defense in a lawsuit. Best of all, it might even discourage lawyers from filing suit against you in the same way that bad reports encourage them. It's not what you meant, but what you wrote that will protect (or sink) you. Words have meanings and those meanings matter. Hell, even commas have meaning, but don't take my word for it. Read this. It's far from the only case of its kind. Look, you want your report to be an easy, informative read and as they say: easy reading is damned hard writing. You don't have to be a gifted novelist to write a decent HI report; it's a skill that can be taught and honed. Your Report Is Awful I wasn't a very good report writer. To get good, you need practice (which most of you have) and good coaching (which most of you don't). A good editor/coach will bring anyone's game up. Way up. Now that I've had a lot of brutal, ego-smashing coaching, I can see just how bad some of my work was. Luckily, I've forgiven myself and managed to avoid the inside of a courtroom. You may not be as lucky, but there's still time to save yourself. It's really important for HIs to understand that -like it or not- you are professional writers. You may be a brilliant inspector who has never missed a defect. You may even charm the socks off every client you've ever had. But if you aren't writing reports that clearly and concisely put what you saw on-site into your clients' heads through your reports, then you are a liability to your firm. Writing Is Like Playing Catch One of the reasons my reports weren't that good is because I thought like a home inspector and not like a professional writer. The first big concept you have to accept is that writing is like playing catch. It's not enough to be a good thrower (writer). For a game of catch to be successful, you need a decent catcher (reader) as well. But you don't control who's catching (reading). You'll have different readers every day, so home inspectors need to be the best writers they can possibly be. The information you're trying to get across has to land gently and squarely in the reader's heads, in a way that is impossible to misunderstand. If you make a reader work for it, many of them won't get your meaning and you will have failed at your job and put yourself at risk. Some Good Role Models Ernest Hemingway is widely considered one of the greatest American writers. He got his training as a journalist. He avoided big words and always used the right words. His prose was stark, short, punchy, easy to understand and packed with meaning. He didn't dumb his writing down; he made it crystal clear. He's a great example to follow. Mark Twain, too. Closer to home, search the TIJ forum for reports that Jim Katen has posted. He is the best report writer in the business. His reports are remarkably clear and free of major flaws. If you find yourself thinking, this is very different from most of the HI reports I've read; Good! Don't write like most home inspectors. Want to dramatically improve your writing and reduce your liability in 15 minutes? Google up Orwell's six rules for writing, print them out and tape them to your computer monitor. Read them often and follow them always. That'll do for now. More later. Email Jimmy questions, comments or send him some of the worst HI writing you've seen at: JamesAndrewMorrison@gmail.com
  7. 3 points
    My 4 1/2 minutes of fame.
  8. 3 points
  9. 3 points
    A 32' commercial grade extension ladder will probably get you to the roof of more than 90% of American homes. It is also considerably more durable and cheaper than a drone. They weigh about 65 pounds, making them about as heavy as a fourth-grader and much easier to handle. Also, on a residential home inspection, the use of ladders is not subject to federal oversight, another attribute weighing in their favor. So why mess around with drones?
  10. 3 points
    I've always found it odd that we dig a round hole in the ground, call it a well, and expect it to produce water. Then we dig a square hole in the ground, call it a basement, and expect it to stay dry.
  11. 3 points
    In California, toothpaste causes cancer. So does the box that it comes in. This concludes my rant.
  12. 3 points
    I spend a lot of time in the Southeast, so I can translate. At an inspection last week, Jim discovered an outpouring of many problems, right from the start. Jim advised his client that he could abort the inspection and would only have to pay for Jim's time to that point. 10 minutes later, the client asked Jim to discontinue, payed a reduced fee and Jim later issued a letter the client could use to terminate the purchase agreement.
  13. 3 points
    Hope y'all adjust to the time loss, and have a great Spring!
  14. 3 points
    Actually Phrases From Actual Reports The following bolded comments were taken from reports submitted to me by intrepid TIJ inspectors. I was disappointed because overall, the reports were pretty good. I was really hoping to complete this series with some outstanding examples of horrific writing, but I suppose I should have known better. There were sharp handrail ends at the stairways, which should be serviced to help prevent injury. We know what the writer intended, but a buyer or a contractor might not. How, exactly, does one ‘service’ a sharp railing end? I think this is better, more clearly stated thusly: The end of the handrails on the stairs are sharp, which is a hazard. They should be rounded (or ‘returns should be installed’ or whatever the situation calls for) for safety. An extension cord was being used to power the condensate pump, but it should be plugged directly into its own outlet for safety. Have an outlet installed. The condensate pump is powered by an extension cord, which is hazardous. An electrician should be hired to hard-wire an electrical receptacle next to the sump pump so it can be safely plugged in directly. The stairs leading to the apartment are not level. They drop from east to west at a rate that well exceeds the allowed ratio of 1:48. The condition can be construed as a trip hazard. OK, we’ve all seen something like this hundreds of times. This was in an apartment attached to a 137-year-old commercial bakery. These places often have dozens of non-compliant features, some meaningful, some not. If it is important enough to put in the report, I think you owe it to your readers to use complete sentences and follow the OAR rule. This inspector nailed the observation, but the final sentence (analysis) is squishy and there is no recommendation. The phrase ‘can be construed as a trip hazard’ forces the reader to interpret it. I presume what the inspector was thinking was something along the lines of ‘I need to tell my client about this potential risk, but the only way to fix it is to rip the stairs out and rebuild them and I know he’s not going to do that and I don’t blame him. I have to write something, so I’ll just throw the criticism out there with a light warning.” I think replacing the final sentence with something like the following would be much better. “This is a tripping hazard. The stairs should be properly rebuilt for safety, which will be expensive.” That communicates the risk to the buyer, lets them know fixing it is a big deal, and that they should fix it. This is a very nicely built example of 1960’s construction. The floor joists and roof sheathing are slight by today’s standards but very typical for the era. This strikes me as unnecessarily confusing. It’s nicely built, but slight? Personally, I would ditch the first sentence altogether. If there was ever a major problem in this house, I can imagine the plaintiff’s attorney’s pupils turning into little dollar signs after reading that sentence. I almost never wrote anything complimentary in a report. Your client knows the house is nice; that’s why they’re buying it. I recommend restraining your focus on what you’re required to report and what’s wrong with the house. The toilet in the main bath is loose. It moves a lot. Repair will require removing the toilet and replacing the wax ring. This is a $6-8 project that should take about 20 minutes, maybe an hour if you have never done it before. Do not put it off. The wax ring could leak destroying the flooring and damaging the structure, the toilet could break, or both – costing hundreds or even thousands to repair. Can we save the author a bit of time and trouble? The toilet in the main bathroom is loose and moves when sat upon. Loose toilets leak, which will cause damage. This toilet should be properly reinstalled now. (This next line is optional:) It’s a fairly simple project that some handy people can take on themselves or you can have a plumber do it. That's it, friends. Thanks for reading. I hope some of it was helpful. Jim Morrison used to inspect homes in Greater Boston. Today he covers residential real estate for a trade publication in Boston. You can reach him at JamesAndrewMorrison@gmail.com
  15. 3 points
    Years ago, Helped Mike and Rose improve their report format. Then took one of my reports, where I liked the format, and I just saved it in MS Word. Then I overwrote it again, and again, and again, changing the descriptions where necessary, names and dates and places, and word-searching and then grabbing an old comment about whatever issue from an old report and editing it as needed to make it fit the current report. I guess I've been doing that for the past 12 or 13 years. I write all full narrative. Some of you will note that I've never posted reports here. Reason is simple, I know they'll generate a lot of blather that I just don't care to hear, cuz they are long and boring; and, someone above was right - it is a 144 character world now, 'cuz most Americans - particularly millennials - tell me they want me to boil it down to a couple of sentences per issue. I tell them if they want to boil it down to a couple of sentences, wait until they get the report and then have at it, 'cuz I write the way I write and I don't see a need to apologize for it. I hear what everyone is saying about the 144 characters, etc., but most of my clients are Chinese, Indian or Russian university graduates; who've got more initials after their names than it takes to spell my name. I must be doing something right, 'cuz, oddly enough, they seem to love my reports just the way they are. Lately, I've been seeing a lot of customers from years ago. They are buying again and moving into more expensive neighborhoods. Lots of them tell me they still use the old report(s) all the time as guidance for how to care for their homes and the detail in the report was why they came back. A couple told me that in intervening years they'd tried a different inspector on their next house, had not liked the inspection or the reports, and when they'd got around to buying again had called me because they wanted to get that same kind of report again. I'm not averse to trying something new, I just say that if it ain't broke I'm not going to try and fix it. From '96 to '01 I used a different format. Some liked it, some didn't but I eventually achieved a following and things got solid. Then I sold my franchise, dumped the franchise's report format and went to a full-narrative format like I'd used when I'd written investigative reports in the military. Business died off for quite a while until my new way of writing reports caught on with certain demographics. After that, Native American clients went from being the majority of my clients to the minority; and the number of Chinese, Indian and Russian clients, who incidentally in this area tend to buy bigger and more expensive homes (= higher fees), went through the roof. A couple of weeks ago, one of them needed the report done within hours. Told him, "You know me. I've got two speeds - slow and careful - ain't no way I can get it to you by then. I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll throw together something super brief with the issues as simple bullets along with the photos, and email it to you in a couple of hours. You know what the issues are, so you'll understand what the comments are about. You and your agent can use that to respond to the seller. Meanwhile, the report will be in the queue and I'll get to it when it's turn comes up and you'll get it in a couple of days. OK?" I got him the bulleted version with the photos. It was easy to throw together; but sending that over felt like I was somehow shortchanging the client. The bulleted version worked and he was able to negotiate what he wanted to negotiate, but he wasn't really happy with it. He still ended up pestering me for the full monte before it was completed, explaining to me that my report was the icing on the inspection cake as far as he was concerned. I guess, to him, in his native country, that's the kind of report he expects and appreciates. I think what this proves is that, though most new customers come to us without the faintest idea of what kind of an inspection or report they're going to get, or what they should get, they all have their own ideas of what they want in terms of an inspection and the resulting report. There are lots of different types of clients. Some want short and simple, some want check boxes and icons, some want big photos with captions, some want anal retentive and long. There is no one-size-fits all answer for the entire profession across this continent. Play to your own strengths and you'll eventually find your niche - then just keep on repeating what works for you. In other words, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!! Mike
  16. 3 points
    The siding radiates only the heat that has already escaped the conditioned space of the structure.
  17. 2 points
    We have the dates set- March 21-23 at Hotel Henry. Les, this going to be 24 hours of real education- zero fluff. Proving the commitment to quality, Bill Kibbel is on board. Speakers to be announced as they confirm.
  18. 2 points
    "If it leaks slower than it evaporates from the rag, then it's an evaporative cooler." From the book, "Things Realtors Say".
  19. 2 points
    I think we can make the numbers work. Bill has contributed tons of ideas. Between us we contacted: Kenny Hart, Glen Mathewson, John Bouldin, Frank Woeste, Don Norman, Lstiburek and Joe Tedesco, I'd love to have Douglas Hansen if I can convince him to come. If you guys have any suggestions for presenters, please post them here and we'll consider them. The venue will provide 24 hours of ASHI, NY, MA, and by default, PA CEU's. Working on CT, NJ and OH. If there are vendors you'd like to come, share those thoughts. This is a chance to build the conference you want to attend. Room rates at the Henry are reduced to $130 with free parking. If we pull it off, the conference will provide breakfast, beverage service for the day(s), and a nice lunch. Tentatively planned for late February, early March 2020
  20. 2 points
    Horrible state to live in, but Chicago is wonderful. . .
  21. 2 points
    Damn. Now I have to review my company's safety protocols for romaine lettuce.
  22. 2 points
    Well stated, Jim. You also need access to maintain stone foundation walls. http://historicbldgs.com/stonefoundations.htm
  23. 2 points
  24. 2 points
    I also give general ranges. I really do try to get it "right", but sometimes miss the total by hundreds or thousands of dollars. For example - the house has a negative grade. I report it. I tell them it can be a week end project for you or it could be 8-900 dollars. they get a landscape artist and it costs 4,000 dollars. But, they had more done than my minimalist estimate. I and other inspectors in my company have never had serious blowback from giving estimates. My least favorite is water heaters. Around here they can be from 800 to 4000 on any given day. If I really don't know the price range of a furnace, I should brush up on my inspector skill set.
  25. 2 points
    I guess after the first few misses it didn't really matter.
  26. 2 points
  27. 2 points
  28. 2 points
  29. 2 points
    Yes, good article and good responses. When I was actively inspecting, I took 80 to 180 pics per house. They are filed by date, simple. A few times, I had to pull up pics to back up my report. Replaying the shots in sequence is like reliving the inspection, and it refreshes the memory. I had a guy try, and fail, to lay a claim 2 full years after the inspection. He saw 50 pics in the report, but I had saved 160, showing walls and ceilings in all the rooms, water flowing out of faucets, etc. One thing I recommend is a notepad or just a scrap of paper and a short pencil stub in a pocket. Write down the significant deficiencies as you find them. Sometimes when writing the report, the picture you took earlier can get lost in the shuffle. A glance at the note while writing takes a couple of seconds, a quick check of the report before sending.
  30. 2 points
    I didn't know that McDonald was still manufacturing cats.
  31. 2 points
    I found this in the basement of a home built in 1880. It was not live, but I had to check to be sure. Perhaps some see this all the time, but it was new to me. I guess the meter-person had to knock on the door and come in to get the reading.
  32. 2 points
    I've been on a mission and I think I have found the manufacture source of the "binding post". Link will take you to the website for the catalog from Bunnell Telegraphic and Electrical catalog with a suggested published date of 1901. Image is from the page relating to the "binding posts" the seem to be quite similar to Katen's image. http://www.telegraph-history.org/bunnell-tel-elec-catalog/index.html
  33. 2 points
    I hope you charged an extra $20 for that. Are all the panels 3phase?
  34. 2 points
    These are Elm tree stumps and parts that the builder buried on my property in 1960 when the house was built. The cross street is named "Old Elm". They were discovered when I was having a curtain drain installed in 2011.
  35. 2 points
    As much as I'd like to participate in some Facebook groups, I find that Facebook just rubs my fur the wrong way. After more than a few minutes, I've got to close it and go breathe some fresh air. I'd love to hear more from John & Michael, but it's not going to happen on Facebook. . .
  36. 2 points
    I too, John, am very guilty of getting entirely too busy to return to TIJ as much as I'd like to . I hope to return here more myself. So, you're not alone at all. Best wishes for a safe, productive and profitable 2018.
  37. 2 points
    TIJ has lost lots of expertise this past year and I've joined the Inspector Brotherhood, found some other TIJ members there too, but TIJ will forever be my favorite. It still has more expertise, has more answers, than any other site I've ever been to. When the questions get tough, head for TIJ.
  38. 2 points
    I still use a candle and a bit of tin foil.
  39. 2 points
    The installer wears Crocs. The holes let all dignity drain out.
  40. 2 points
  41. 2 points
    "Functioning as ANYthing (intended, designed, advertised)" is nothing more than just "functioning". I suppose a furnace could be installed improperly, yet still warm the building without CO sharing airspace with the residents. It's "functioning", doing its bit as a furnace, but that can have little or nothing to do with a proper installation. I'm new to this, but that strikes me as a BS phrase designed to make someone sound high brow. And, apparently, in some places it is functioned and intended..
  42. 2 points
    it's a good thing when the Heads are aligned proper water table trim when produced from wood requires the bottom kerf or expect premature failure
  43. 2 points
    Hmm. Someone is trying to send a message.
  44. 2 points
    It's low impact. I'm sure you can find some yoga classes around you somewhere. Or just get a yoga vide or Wii Fit console with the yoga program on it and do it yourself (less embarrassing and can be done when you want to without a bunch of others watching you struggle).
  45. 2 points
    Ahem, waiting for someone to proofread the heading of this latest installment . . .
  46. 2 points
    Better than "Lead Testing not Necessary"
  47. 2 points
    Did you turn him on during the inspection?
  48. 2 points
    I see that with one coat stucco all the time. There's a reason why traditional stucco was applied in three coats. . .
  49. 2 points
    Chad, Probably should stick with the standard abbreviation D.F.U., well, cuz FU.
  50. 2 points
    The ladder in the link is different than the ladder that was in the link 3 years ago when I reviewed it. They used to be almost identical to LGs. That said, does anyone have a grandmother who lives near Jerry who may be able to help carry his ladders?
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