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  1. The body of my report I consider my working notes. It is there that I fulfill the requirements the State (and ASHI) have imposed: items to be observed, described and qualified. From this I create a "summary" which specifies clearly and concisely those circumstances and conditions, I believe, the client is really looking for from me. This section is numbered to make the communication between my client and the attorney workable. I break this page into two parts: the first are those deficiencies that deal with the major systems as a whole; those that will make habitability difficult; and those that are safety concerns. The second part is the listing of minor items which I have discovered that, in the normal course of living, would typically be repaired or replaced. I try to keep this entire "summary" clear and concise so my client will fully understand the conditions of this home and allow him to proceed (or not) having the best information at his disposal. Years ago, as my reporting techniques were evolving, I surveyed a number of my clients as to what they wanted from me at their inspection, how my report reflected their wants and how I could give them what they were seeking. The above model was the final result. I made sure that my pre-inspection agreement also reflects not only what I am going to do in terms of my inspection but also how I will report on my findings. Every client I work for has the right, prior to the inspection, to reject what I have laid out. No one ever has. (In all honesty most never bother to read the pre-inspection; but that also is their choice).
  2. Absolutely, Brian. I appreciate your posting and let's leave it at that. I get the feeling from your postings that the bottom line for you, as it is for me, is the welfare of our clients and that should be the ultimate test as to an inspector's motivation. Without that and the results that attitude presents I know I would soon be out of business. I think I originally was taken back by the questioning of my integrity that appeared to be occurring due to a disagreement with my methodolgy, since no one on here had ever seen me perform an inspection. I hope that was not the case. When I was first learning this business I made a lot of mistakes that cost my clients and which I stood up and paid for. I lost a lot of sleep questioning why I was in this business. But I realized, over time and through experience, that I am good at this because I care and that it would have been a mistake to quit, both for my clients and for myself. When I started to get overwhelmed with work, I bit the bullet, took on a partner and then 2. I lost money initially in order to better serve my clients, but turned that into a marketing feature. When I realized a realtor was cooking the translations to my Spanish clients, I made sure we all learned Spanish. That too became a marketing positive. Changes I made to better serve my clients and which initially cost me, have all turned into positives. (My marketing is divided into 5 parts and every day I market in some way. When I first started, I spent hours staring at the phone, praying for it to ring. It cost me $87,000 to get this business going and I refuse to go through that again. So every day I market, market and market). Every time I finish an inspection I ask myself if I have done all that I can to protect my client's interest and I don't leave until I can answer, "Yes" to that question. I would be delighted to keep communicating with you, hoping to learn something at every turn of a phrase.
  3. Randy, I am not sure what you mean by a better report. A report that describes the home, specifies its condition, lists its deficiencies and gives solid fact-based recommendations is a good report. If it does that whether its long or short, filled with pictures, or narrative or checklist then it is a good report. We are paid to inspect the home. The report is simply the way to communicate our findings. I have investors who hire me and they don't want a report. They want only verbal communication. Does that mean I did a bad inspection? The inspection was the same. Only the method of delivering the results was different. Can a technically weak inspector produce a good solid report? I would doubt that. It may look nice, be fully filled out but will his technical weakness be betrayed by the items his has missed or the invalid determinations he has made? This would seem to hold true as to the number of inspections a person performs in a day. A new inspector is going to take longer to do an inspection. Also by the very nature of growing a business one may be all he will be commissioned to perform. Does the fact that he did only the one make it a better inspection than the two, or three, or four an experienced inspector can perform. I believe that experience is the greatest factor in doing a good inspection. But isn't that also true of hitting a baseball or writing a novel or installing a boiler. The more we practice our craft the better we can do it. Does experience guarantee a good inspection? That too is no certainty.
  4. Brian, your thoughts are appreciated. If I gave the impression that my thinking is inflexible, then that was poor communication on my part. If ideas are out there that will make me a better inspector or make me more money then, as I believe my career has shown, I would be happy to embrace them and change. You mentioned an inspector in your area who you are highly critical of, yet your disregard seems to be centered on the fact that he does a great number of inspections. What is the quality of his work? I would like to know what is it specifically about how he inspects that makes him a bad inspector. Time, reports, onsite, offsite are part of the completion of the process and the delivery of our results. How is he as an inspector? Have you seen him work? ( I don't associate being sued necessarily with bad work. The longer we are in this the more likely that is to occur. I had a case 5 years ago dealing with an inspection of a home that at the time had a foot of water in the basement. I noted the fact, discovered the source and recommended the proper person to remedy it. The essence of the suit was that I didn't tell the clients not to buy the home {In Illinois, doing so would have cost me my license}) The best inspector I ever met was horrible at report writing and clumsy with his clients, but he was amazing at inspecting. He had almost an intuitive sense about a house and what defects were there to be found while not being readily seen. His client base, while being miniscule, was extremely faithful and trusting of him. He could walk through a house and in no time at all pinpoint both the good and the bad. I think, in the few postings I have presented over the past few days, I have tried to present a bit of insight into how I view this business, rightly or wrongly so. In order to offer a certain perspective to young inspectors, I have tried to convey the evolution that has taken place over the past 13 years and attempted to give a sense of my experience and development. And contrary to the impression I may give, I hope I am open to more change. However, Brian, everything I know about you comes from the negatives you present. I would like to know some of the positives. What is "professionalism" to you? How do you present your reports? What is your background and experience? When you leave an inspection what makes you feel that you have accomplished what you have been paid to do? I think we can learn so much more from the positives than the negatives. I know I have come late to this post, so if these are items you have already presented then I can understand your reluctance to rehash what you have already done. Since you seem to have focused on my postings, I thought it might be helpful to know a little about your inspecting skills and techniques in deciding if your your comments are borne of experience or theory. We are in the midst of a massive storm here today so I have to try to shovel out. Best of luck and, on a day like today, I envy our Southern brothers.
  5. Gary, I grew up in Niagara Falls. My mother and all my cousins still live there. I usually visit once a year. Small world. Sal
  6. I appreciate your many kind comments. Gary asked some questions about the inspection business and the training and about the reports. When I began 13 years ago I simply wanted to work at a job that allowed me to support my family, rely on my skills and provide for money into the future. (I had no pension) I came upon this by accident, went to Wisconsin for training and started this business. It has grown by leaps and bounds, and I have had a blast along the way. It took two years to get started with a lot of trial and error marketing. As it grew I kept seeing a vision as to where this could take me and made sure my report and its delivery kept pace. When business exploded, and it did unreasonably so for a lot of us, I too was doing 6 per day, 8Am to 8PM in the summer. At that point my older son joined me; two years later when we both were doing 6 per day in the summer my younger son came on board. With every change and expansion we could see the growth in the future, so we tailored our reporting and delivery to make sure we could accomodate the business. (The 8 page report is no longer in use except for our students as practice. We have developed our own reporting software that is, I think, the best for us because of its flexibility to meet our needs. We always had a problem when we arrived at an inspection and found out it was a 4 flat and not a single family home. We also once did a 60 unit apartment building; our report now allows us to expand and contract ad infinitum. We had our school reunion Sunday and introduced it for the first time.) When Illinois mandated licensing in 2003 we added the school to our endeavors, and with its Continuing Ed requirements we also travel throughout the State offering classes. The school however is like the Home Inspection business: it flows with the real estate market. In 04 & 05 we had 40 students per class; now 10 is a good number. When we saw the decline in the market on the horizon, we decided to grow by money per service rather than number of inspections. So we added radon and mold to our services and that increased our overall revenue by $80 per inspection. Our marketing docs now list our services as home inspections, new construction monitoring, warranty inspections, safety inspections, radon testing, mold testing, commercial inspecting, inspection training, continuing ed training and software development. (I guess out of all of these somewhere we should make a buck.) You asked which is more profitable. That is hard to say because they all flow off of each other. We get students because they saw us at an inspection. We get inspections on the recommendation of our students. Our graduates will hire us to do their radon and mold testing while they get started. There is a synergy here that makes each part as valuable as the next. In the Chicago area we have a great many Spanish families and in 03 we all learned Spanish. We can conduct an the inspection in that language. We hired someone to also translate our contract into Spanish. Speaking of contracts, when they quadrupled the E & O insurance after 9/11, we hired an attorney to write our pre-inspection agreement to so tightly protect us that the one time fee to him made up for the years of E & O we no longer carry. No one, however, has ever refused to sign it. Bottom line for me is that every part of this: the inspections, the school, the testing, the marketing have been a lot of fun. We have had many failures along the way but also a lot of success. That's why I bristle at some of the attitudes I encounter on this and on the ASHI site. I paid my dues. Now my sons do most of the inspecting. I predominantly market, develop the software and run the school. I still inspect every Saturday, though, because it has never ceased to be fun for me. One of my proudest accomplishments is a computer reporting system I developed that we use with our students. The report is designed as if there were an experienced inspector looking over their shoulder. Every time they describe an item a prompt occurs telling them what this would mean to a "Pro". It really helps them to understand the implications of what they are seeing. I don't write all this stuff to impress anyone; I am too old for that. But as with my students I want all the young inspectors to see the unlimited vistas that can be had with a lot of imagination and a little flexibility. I apologize for being so long winded. I just love this whole business, every aspect. It has made my life so challenging and rewarding. It provided a lot of opportunities for myself and my sons.
  7. I may have given the wrong impression. I said if I were structuring the business today I would have as my goal the ability, method and reporting system that would allow me to do 4 per day. That I would see as ideal. Physically four is too exhausting to do. I have done it when my back was to the wall. That is why I added a partner. When I teach my classes I always want my students to set their sights on the ideal rather than the base. Then when the goal may not be reached success would still be at hand.
  8. When I saw the original posting on this topic I read of an inspector who had used one method of reporting at great expense and was switching to another, I am sure also at great expense. I simply wanted to share some ideas that I have developed and present maybe a different vision of what this business can be. My caution to the original author was simply to understand how he wanted his business to function in the future and that here were some ideas, humbly offered, to be considered. I wasn't expecting to have each paragraph dissected and each sentence parsed, and I am not going to get into a specific point by point debate that seems so typical at these sites. There seems to be rampant intolerance for people who don't conduct their business as some inspectors believe they should. Rather than demonstrate their own business plan or recount their successful methodology they revert to insults ("toadie;" "rationalization"). I know I could gain a lot from Brian G if would tell us what he does to enhance his professionalism, how he markets his business, what successes and failures he has had, what kind of reporting and delivery system he uses. I am sure his system is right for him as mine is for me. The one disturbing insight Brian presented was his belief that a law was needed to restrict the amount of daily business an inspector can do. Restrictions of trade, as such a law would be, are often the refuge of those who don't have the heart or the ability to compete. If we who perform a lot of inspections do such a bad job, why not let time and the marketplace weed us out, as it surely would. Could it be that after so many years and so many inspections, we are really good and efficient at what we do? The one aspect I didn't take as an insult was the fact that today I put money first (I still instruct my students that their first goals should be the gaining of experience). This is my business and my livelihood and making money is my priority. If that is being un professional, then so be it I am unprofessional. (I thought the definition of a professional was one who worked for money) I have attended enough meetings, seminars, conferences and dinners with home inspectors and been forced to listen to how bad the market was or how they are too tough to get recommended or how the realtors hate them. These are often excuses for why they haven't the ability to get their businesses going. Often they are terrific technically, but don't understand the nature of this business and rather than expose themselves to the marketplace and develop business strategies that let people ( Not just realtors but investors, mortgage brokers, attorneys, home buyers, home sellers, community groups, people concerned about how safe their home is, what levels of mold and radon are present) view how good they are, they find it easier to complain and do nothing. I spent too many years honing my inspecting skills and developing my business strategies to apologize for the fact that I am good at many aspects of this business and making money is my reward for this. One final note on this subject: we seem to be one of the few professions that believes the more experienced we become and the more technically proficient we are, the longer our job should take. There seems such a great emphasis on time rather than the delivery of a good product: a sound analysis of the homes our clients are buying. ( An inspector near us brings snacks and treats to his inspections for himself and his clients. At the two hour mark he stops and dines before moving into the second half of his inspection). If we state that we are doing a better job by looking at a roof for twenty minutes rather than ten then it stands to reason that looking at it for forty would be even better, or how about sixty or eighty. To equate time with quality negates experience and proficiency. This thinking does a disservice to young inspectors. Of course they should take a greater amount of time than an experienced inspector would. But their hope should be that with their own experience they will be also become more efficient. I apologize to Brian G if I made this sound, at times, personal. It is not and I don't want it to be. I am sure he is or is going to be a terrific inspector. These forums are great tools for growth if used in a respectful manner. I thank Brian in a way for making me look at this a bit differently. In digesting his comments and reading many of the other forum posts, I think I am more of a home observer than a home inspector: I view how the home was constructed; I observe how the home operates; I look at the changes that have been made; and I visualize how the home will function when and if my buyers move in. Then I crystallize my findings, put them in a report, verbalize them to my client and collect my fee - all onsite. Maybe I will start a forum called TOJ and I will personally invite Brian G to be the first to join me at least as an honorary member. I hope everyone has a safe and successful day. And please vote.
  9. When I train inspectors (I have a home inspection school in Illinois along with my HI business), I give them 5 goals to pursue when they are starting out, the 5th being make money. Without the skills and artistry based on quality work, that goal will never be reached. However, it is a business and business by its nature should have profitability as its goal. Why else do it? I am sure every inspector would admit that making money is a prime reason for being in this business. With that in mind I encourage young inspectors to look to the future in the design and development of their business vision. Do you want to be using a reporting system that necessitates working at home at the end of the day? You can find those but also good, thorough reports that are onsite friendly. Do you want one that by its nature and method of delivery will not allow you to do 4 inspections a day? (Set high goals. There seems to be a belief in this profession that volume and quality are mutually exclusive. Great inspectors are in demand and will be asked to perform in great number. Let the option to do as many as you choose be dictated by your energy and desire rather than methodology). Do you want a report filled with in-depth amounts of prose that no one will ever read or fancy, or costly binders that will be stuffed back in a cabinet at day's end ( my experience is that most people never read the full report but rely strictly on a final summary. Most attorneys will tell you that all they want is the summary and that it should clear, brief and specific). Ultimately this is about being a business and the better you are at all aspects of the business, from inspecting to reporting to marketing, the more profitable you will ultimately be. Finally, the bottom line of this note is to look to the future. Build toward what you would like it to be rather than what it is today. Do this by defining your style of inspecting, choosing or creating a report that meets your goals, and be willing to change and evolve as your goals change and evolve. There is no one right way in this business, and that is the beauty of this profession.
  10. Brian, I agree with you completely. In order to perform the inspection and deliver the report onsite I needed experience and a partner. The experience I had and 7 years ago I added a partner. I have done only a handful by myself in the last 7 years and it is not something I like doing and I can't imagine how I did them alone for so long. Now there are three of us and we mostly work in teams.
  11. I agree with Randy on this one. After so many years and so many homes I can often predict what I will find (and have to be careful of this ) When I started this business I came in as "a home inspector". What is that? Over the years I have developed my business the way I want it. Randy mentioned justifying charging the same amount for less time. I see my business objective as protecting my clients interests on the major systems of the home, regardless of time. I am not paid by the hour. I explain this exactly to my client when we begin. If it takes 10 minutes or 4 hours to protect their interests, then that is the time I take and I have earned my fee and delivered what I have promised. ( I have personally done over 6000 inspections and have been sued twice and won both. I believe I was sued once because of my E & O insurance,. thus as meets my business model to be profitable I no longer carry it and haven't since 02 without any problems. Is this for everyone? Certainly not, but it works for me.) My business model , began evolving when I first started and has continued changing over the past 12 years. I created a vision of what I wanted this to be and then adapted to make this happen. That vision continually changes.One top priority was not working at home and this is why the onsite report delivery is absolutely imperative to my model. Again, I said "my" as this certainly does not appear to be appropriate to what most inspectors envision theirs to be today.
  12. P.S. It would be interesting to know why most inspectors are moving away from delivery at the end of the inspection. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.
  13. I get the impression that many inspectors are moving away from onsite reports. It would not work in my situation. I find that with the numbers we do ("did" prior to the chaos of this market)) (I have 2 partners) and the time constraints of the contract , we would be overwhelmed in the evening with reports to put together and deliver in a timely fashion. I have always been comfortable with creating, editing and printing onsite. Our HP 460 will print 2 full copies of the report in less than 2 minutes. I reiterate, my business model isn't for everyone but it has worked effectively and competetively for me for the past 12 years.
  14. I have moved in the opposite direction from where the majority of the inspectors appear to be heading. I use a tablet on site, fill out my report onsite and deliver it onsite at the conclusion. I have set up my business model as one in which I do the inspection, complete the report, immediately deliver it and receive payment. I choose not to add extra time or work at home. I entered this profession 12 years ago to do quality work and have a quality life. Working at home at night after a day of inspecting is not how I choose to run my business or conduct my life. I use a Toshiba tablet, a HP wireless 460. That's it. This works for me. Hope this may be of some help.
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