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Report for Critique - Jim Katen


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I've been meaning to post a report for critique for some time. Since I just sanitized one for another thread, I figured I'd post it here as well.

By sanitized, I mean that I've removed all reference to the customers and to the address. The report is a bit more compressed than what I usually send out, but otherwise it's exactly what I sent out to Monday's customers.

I'm looking for feedback about what's good & what's bad, what you all would do differently, & why.

Please don't be polite or delicate in your responses. I have tough skin & I'm asking for criticism.

FYI, the report was created with my customized version of Mark Cramer's Intelligent Reporter combined with Devwave's Photo Drop.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif KatenSample.pdf

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Jim, with your permission, I'm going to glean your report for great words for the list in the other thread, such as "hire" and "Clear". Headed out to a re-inspection, but I'm looking forward to learning from your report upon my return.

FWIW, I use and prefer a basic check-box style report, in which I integrate all the language discussed in the other thread. It's merely a personal preference. So, mine is not purely narrative, but a mix of both.

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Jim,

This one had me cracking up. "Some of the poorly installed piers look like Jenga towers placed on anthills".

I actually stole that from someone here at TIJ. Sorry, I don't remember who.

I like how your report style/wording, leaves no doubt as to what you are trying to convey to your client.

Part of that is because I don't use a lot of boilerplate. I doubt that I have more than 1,000 boilerplate comments and I rarely insert more than a dozen in a report.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Jim, with your permission, I'm going to glean your report for great words for the list in the other thread, such as "hire" and "Clear". Headed out to a re-inspection, but I'm looking forward to learning from your report upon my return.

FWIW, I use and prefer a basic check-box style report, in which I integrate all the language discussed in the other thread. It's merely a personal preference. So, mine is not purely narrative, but a mix of both.

Well, mine isn't purely narrative either, the upper portion of each section is a checkbox. I just prefer to use checkboxes for inventory and not for defects.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Jim,

This one had me cracking up. "Some of the poorly installed piers look like Jenga towers placed on anthills".

I actually stole that from someone here at TIJ. Sorry, I don't remember who.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Sounds like something Kurt would say.

I'm also a bit surprised that you would ask for a critique. You could/should be teaching correct report writing.

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In the Introduction section, there's this disclaimer comment which seems to make its way into a lot inspector's reports. Maybe insurance companies require it; I don't know.

I assume no liability... for unreported defects.

I can't imagine that any judge would enforce this statement that if you missed something, as long as it's unreported, you're not liable. At least that's the way I read it. It's like stating that your limit of liablity is the cost of the inspection, even it it's not enforceable in your state.

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1) Is there a non-Physical Inspection available?

2) It's one of the least boring reports I've read in a long time. Still boring, but minimally boring. (they're all boring, this is not an insult, it's a compliment.)

3) Why is it necessary to write so much about simple things? I'd rather see something with a tenth as many words. It's entirely clear you understand exactly what you're seeing, but can the customer skim the report and understand?

Reason I ask, does anyone do more than skim a report nowadays?

4) How much does the report software define the style and length of the report? From my view, it's "too much software"; the software is defining what you're doing. I have the feeling that if there was different software, you'd create a much leaner and more concise report.

5) There's two reports. There's the report, then there's the summary report, and you have to read the main report so you can understand the summary, and I found myself going back and forth between the two to understand it.

Single comments, combining all elements of what you're trying to say, made as simple as possible, is better.

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I believe that you go into too much detail in areas.

One example is this:

Improper Drain Fittings

In the crawlspace under the kitchen & bathroom, the

shower drainpipe joins the main drainpipe via a sanitary tee

that’s placed on its back. This is a classic amateur plumbing

error. Sanitary tees are vent fittings; they don’t have

enough of a sweep to direct the wastewater in the proper

path without slowing its velocity. The installer should have

used a wye or a combo fitting in this location.3 The use of a

sanitary tee might cause the waste pipe to drain poorly.

34. Have your plumber review the waste plumbing

under the kitchen & bathroom and install

proper fittings where necessary. In particular, remove the sanitary tee that’s on its

back and replace it with a proper wye or combo fitting.

Would it be better to shorten it to say something along the lines of:

A vent pipe fitting was used in lieu of a drain pipe fitting in this area, which may lead to drainage issues yada yada yada. Hire a plumber to xxxxxx........

PS: I stole borrowed some of your wording for my own reports-- thanks.

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The report is very well written and the technical information is excellent. It has an incredible amount of detail - to much detail, in my opinion. I'm pretty sure most of your clients are only skimming through the body of the report, just like I did after a while.

I just have a few questions for you to consider:

1. What's the purpose of the "glamor shot" of the house? I think it's unnecessary since this ain't a sales brochure.

2. Is the lengthy disclaimer needed because you don't have this stuff in the pre-inspection agreement?

3. Do you think it would be easier to read without wrapping text around pictures. I would prefer a larger image below the text describing the issue.

4. Can something be missing if it never existed?

5. Wouldn't it be easier to comprehend if multiple defects (electrical) were in a simple numbered list? I can't imagine a buyer following or understanding the very specific details described in the report.

6. No advice about electric baseboards?

7. Does insulating pipes really prevent them from freezing?

8. Almost every farmhouse built here before 1860 has 2-3 of those "dangerous" winders for the entire flight of each stairway. They fit nicely at the end of the home between the fireplaces and exterior wall. Would you always recommend rebuilding all stairways "to a safe, modern standard", considering it would require relocating the stairwell, altering the structure and original historic character?

PS. I've significantly improved my report writing since participating here at TIJ. Many of the changes I've made are directly from Jim K.

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I liked it.

Probably because I use a similar format modeled after Jim K's and Walt Jowers' sample reports that I'd studied about a decade ago. I saw some improvements that Jim has made over the past decade and I'm probably going to emulate those.

Jim uses a lot of photos; something I'm still not comfortable with. I use very detailed narratives to convey what I'm seeing and thinking without the use of photos. If I purchase that new digital camera that I'm thinking about, I'm probably going to disappear for a week somewhere and take a kajillion photos and then practice editing them and putting them into a word document until I get very proficient at it before I'll incorporate it into my reporting process.

As far as customers skimming versus reading reports - I can tell you from experience that my customers at least do read those technical descriptions; and, if I've done a good job explaining the issues to them in simple-to-understand concepts, they get a very good grasp of the issues. For me, it's important to explain things simply and thoroughly because about 95% of my clients were born outside of the U.S. and English is not their primary language.

Nope, won't be posting one here for critique. I don't have a single masochistic bone in my my body.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Jim,

I like it and will be using some of the comments from it since you write better than I.

I haven't read it completely yet but I would like to know is who software you are using or is this something you came up with.

If it is someones software how easy is it to change around and install canned comments. I am weak on my writing on the go so I use can comments and may a few changes as needed.

I am a dumba** when it come to make changes in a software program.

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I believe that you go into too much detail in areas.

One example is this:

Improper Drain Fittings

In the crawlspace under the kitchen & bathroom, the

shower drainpipe joins the main drainpipe via a sanitary tee

that’s placed on its back. This is a classic amateur plumbing

error. Sanitary tees are vent fittings; they don’t have

enough of a sweep to direct the wastewater in the proper

path without slowing its velocity. The installer should have

used a wye or a combo fitting in this location.3 The use of a

sanitary tee might cause the waste pipe to drain poorly.

34. Have your plumber review the waste plumbing

under the kitchen & bathroom and install

proper fittings where necessary. In particular, remove the sanitary tee that’s on its

back and replace it with a proper wye or combo fitting.

That's a perfect example of what I was trying to say about "too many words".

No one cares because they don't understand, and they don't understand because they don't care. Maybe one person a year will care enough to question why a vent tee shouldn't be used for a sanitary line.

"The drain pipe under the kitchen has an incorrect fitting that could cause the drain to malfunction. Have a plumber fix it and any other mistakes he finds."

Include a picture with an arrow pointing at the vent tee. If someone's curious what's wrong, tell them.

What more is there?

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If I purchase that new digital camera that I'm thinking about, I'm probably going to disappear for a week somewhere and take a kajillion photos and then practice editing them and putting them into a word document until I get very proficient at it before I'll incorporate it into my reporting process.

Mike

Going at it that way will make you stop using photos.

Learn how to take 2 photos; the establishing shot, and the detail shot. No more, no less.

Learn how to get a nice clear shot the first time; there's simply no time for sitting around editing, putting in bubbles, and all that stuff. Yes, I know there's lots and lots of folks that fiddle with photos endlessly, but it's the amateur mistake. Mark it up in Acrobat; there's circle and arrow tools; you mark it up when you proof it.

If you want to very substantially reduce your hourly income, play around with editing photos and putting all sorts of words, bubbles, and customized arrows in the picture. Yes, I know lots of folks do it that way, and if they like working for free, that's their business. If you do it that way, the Korean Konnection is going to look @ you like you're nuts, because you will be.

Learn to think like a photo journalist. Incorporate that learned process into your inspection procedure. No photojournalist dinks around like a home inspector. They know how to take the shot, and move on to the next one.

For photos to not become a major pain in the ass, you have to reorient how you approach the task.

Yep, old dog new trick time.........

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Its about time one of the HI Gurus posted a sample.

I like the report.

After reading it I decided a way to modify my template. I'll write some standard paragraphs that describe how I inspected systems. I'll make the paragraphs mimic the SOP requirements. For the most part, the paragraphs will remain the same. They might need tweaking for special circumstances. Anyway, thanks to your report, I gave me the idea to improve mine.

I like the foot notes referencing your opinion sources.

Lots of detailed information and I agree with the other that it's probably more info than most clients need. However, the level of info is a great study piece for any up-and-coming HI like myself. I havn't absorbed every word of this report but I plan too. I do run on with extend info on site while talking to the clients. When it comes to the report I try to keep it shorter. It's that document that delivers the message to the other side: "fix this stuff" so short and direct is better.

I swiped the oven anti tip graphic.

Is that the best photo resolution you can get out of that software? If so, I dont like that part.

When you recommend upgrading smoke alarms, why not recommend hardwired, battery backed and interconnected?

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Hi Kurt,

Thanks for the advice re. the camera, but the issue with me isn't how to go about documenting what I see with pictures, it's all about my weakness with technology.

I've actually taught crime scene photography and I used to develop my own filf. If I had a darkroom, I could probably turn out as good a report with 35mm photos as some of the stuff you guys post. However, you are right, the amount of time involved would be a lot.

You guys don't see it but it's hugely difficult for me to do even the simplest technological thing. I don't know why; but I've concluded that whatever it is that has kept me from grasping math my entire life is probably what is jamming me up with the technology.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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