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Jim Katen

Request for Critique

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An inspector who wishes to remain anonymous asked me to post this report here for critique. He thanks you all in advance for your helpful, constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement.

Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif Report.pdf

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I find the checklist format of that report confusing. I read it through once and skimmed through two times after that, but didn't come up with a real feel for the house - what the issues are and what to do about them. The unchecked and unnecessary items add to the jumble. My advice is to scrap that format and go to a narrative or semi narrative format.

The agreement states "PAYMENT OF THE INSPECTION FEE IS DUE UPON COMPLETION OF THE INSPECTION." Then it goes on to spell out the terms if the fee isn't paid within 10 days. That''s kind of giving permission to pay later. I'd just state that the report won't be released until full payment is received.

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Far too many graphics in the report. Rectangles, lines and check boxes are remnants of the paper report form that was common back in the dark ages. They were for the inspector's ease, never the reader's. I've heard that check boxes are still required in Texas.

Put the Agreement in the appendix so the report can begin after the cover. An Introduction page after the cover is ok but keep it on a separate page, like the cover itself.

Drop the 'definitions' section. Define terms as you write them in the report.

Basically I'm suggesting that you drop the 'click click click' approach and begin actually writing it yourself like this 1889 report writer did:

Download Attachment: icon_photo.gif 1889_Report.jpg

625.52?KB

Notice how the writer used this form to report: What is it, what does it mean, what to do about it. He probably learned that from Kurt. [;)]

Marc

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God Bless the individual for having the fortitude to open his stuff up to disparagement. That said.......

The disclaimers and directions take up more space than the useful information. Write some sentences describing what they see; include some pictures that correspond to the sentences. Forget all the circles, diamonds, checks, columns, etc., etc.

The only constructive criticism I can provide is to toss the whole mess and start over. Avoid influence by inspection report software vendors and think of what you'd like to see in a report, without all the graphics that confuse.

I actually suspect the guy is a decent inspector, overly influenced by the avalanche of inspection report systems available to us.

Forget that stuff. Just write a few simple sentences.

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Mr. Anonymous,

Ask Mr. Katen if you could review maybe a dozen of his narrative reports. If he agrees, study them and try to do something similar. https://www.inspectorsjournal.com/forum ... Sample.pdf

I wish it was a requirement for every inspector prior to practicing. I learned very bad habits at the beginning. 25 years later and I'm still improving.

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Something specific; when you show pictures of actual problems, don't call them examples. It's the problem, not an example of it.

Just say, "The plumbing vent does not extend far enough above the roof line" and have the arrow point to it.

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I think WJ once described these sorts of documents as a puzzle rather than a report. I find that attempting to sort it out is painful. The information is consistently cloaked behind the attempt to first characterize its significance, or lack of same. I would not be pleased if I were a client and got this in return for my money. If the unique definition of a GFCI didn't disappoint me sufficiently, the advice to "Buy an old crescent wrench at a garage sale" certainly did the trick.

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Something specific; when you show pictures of actual problems, don't call them examples. It's the problem, not an example of it.

John, I do that frequently. If there's more than one of the same defect, I wont put every photograph of every defect in the report. The photo caption would read "An example of rotted wood trim"

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I don't usually participate because I won't submit one of my own, but this business about buying cheap wrenches to hang next to the gas shut off in case of an emergency, is bad advice.

Call 911 and get the hell away from the house.

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I don't usually participate because I won't submit one of my own, but this business about buying cheap wrenches to hang next to the gas shut off in case of an emergency, is bad advice.

Call 911 and get the hell away from the house.

No, it's not bad advice. You don't live in earthquake country, we do. Which makes more sense in a quake, to waste time running around looking for a wrench to shut off the gas or have one hanging next to the meter where you know exactly where to find it? Hanging a wrench next to the meter here is not commonly done; but most folks here know that in a quake they should shut off the gas immediately. Some prepare for it by putting a wrench at the meter and other folks have special valves installed on their houses that will automatically do it for them so they won't have to.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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While I really do not care for the format or look of the report, the written comments are not all that bad.

After reading several comments I would say that this person has some experience or has been under the tutelage of an experianced inspector.

Combo checklist/narrative type reports are just difficult to read. IMVHO, it is one or the other and not a hybrid of the two.

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I don't usually participate because I won't submit one of my own, but this business about buying cheap wrenches to hang next to the gas shut off in case of an emergency, is bad advice.

Call 911 and get the hell away from the house.

No, it's not bad advice. You don't live in earthquake country, we do. Which makes more sense in a quake, to waste time running around looking for a wrench to shut off the gas or have one hanging next to the meter where you know exactly where to find it? Hanging a wrench next to the meter here is not commonly done; but most folks here know that in a quake they should shut off the gas immediately. Some prepare for it by putting a wrench at the meter and other folks have special valves installed on their houses that will automatically do it for them so they won't have to.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Understood. That's way different than why someone would suggest that around here.

Hope this isn't a dumb question. Since you don't get much of a warning ahead of time, isn't it a little late in the game once one hits?

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... I've heard that check boxes are still required in Texas.

Marc

FWIW attached is the base template for the Texas TREC 7-2 report format. Currently the only required check boxes are for I, NI, NP & D (Inspected, Not Inspected, Not Present & Deficient).

Inspectors can do "pretty much" (within TREC limitations/rules) anything they want under each topic. From check box style to narrative or any combination.

Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif REI-7-2-PropertyInspectonReport.pdf

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What bothers me is having to first sift through the checklist and then refer to the comments after the checklist. Gong back and forth back and forth. The list of stuff that's not wrong but could be wrong is woefully too short in some cases and why have it there anyway? If something isn't wrong why leave the unchecked comment there to busy up the report? Why not remove the unneeded boxes and headers and move the explanation from the end of the section to the box where these square boxes are so that folks don't have to go in search of every comment and then double back to find their place again?

I saw where there were three issues noted in a section where it said see comments below and then there were like ten comments below because he/she had lumped all of the issues together with some helpful advice/tips and disclaimers. Put the disclaimers on one page at the front of the report and put the table of contents on another and move that contract to the back - once they've read and signed it you don't need the contract cluttering up the body of the report.

Take all of the helpful hints and advice and move them to their own section at the back of the report so they aren't cluttering up the report.

Get rid of the blue ink. It hurts the eyes. Have you ever seen anything except advertising copy and safety warning use colored ink? Stick with black and increase the amount of white space so the report is easier to read.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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The limitation of liability left out successors, heirs, and assigns. I am sure that Homer doesn't want his wife, kids, and mistress liable for his inspections.

Dump the late payment stuff, except for the bad check fees.

The 'agreement' and 'report' should be dependent upon each other, but they should be separate documents.

If you're heavily invested in the software, find a way to make it 'hide' all the blank crap in the checklist. Ask the vendor for help if you can't figure it out. If they can't help then it's time for new software.

Follow Kibble's advice. Jim's report is the best looking HI document out there.

Scott's right about Homer's writing, he doesn't need the crutch that ugly checklist gives him. He does need to better organize the commentary though. Some items don't seem to fit the sections they are in, especially when I skipped the checklist and went right for the meat of the report.

Pictures are good, but make them bigger and clean up the markings so they can be seen. You're not John Madden.

Super Duper Inspections, I wish I had thought of that.

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I don't usually participate because I won't submit one of my own, but this business about buying cheap wrenches to hang next to the gas shut off in case of an emergency, is bad advice.

Call 911 and get the hell away from the house.

No, it's not bad advice. You don't live in earthquake country, we do. Which makes more sense in a quake, to waste time running around looking for a wrench to shut off the gas or have one hanging next to the meter where you know exactly where to find it? Hanging a wrench next to the meter here is not commonly done; but most folks here know that in a quake they should shut off the gas immediately. Some prepare for it by putting a wrench at the meter and other folks have special valves installed on their houses that will automatically do it for them so they won't have to.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Understood. That's way different than why someone would suggest that around here.

Hope this isn't a dumb question. Since you don't get much of a warning ahead of time, isn't it a little late in the game once one hits?

I always point out the main gas shut off valve, and my client always yawns.

Then one time a client asked very early in the inspection where the main gas shut off valve was. Being surprised, I asked why they were so interested. They were moving from California, where the first thing you do if an earthquake hits is to turn off the gas. Another interesting geographic difference.

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Like Kurt, I applaud anyone willing to be subject to intense review. It shows a willingness to improve which is sorely lacking in this profession. Kudos! With that being said, here are my thoughts.

Check-boxes are a holdover from a bygone era of handwritten forms. Using a computer to generate a check-box report is like using a smartphone to send Morse Code. Sure you can do it, but why? Is it to prove that the inspector looked for things that are not checked (hint: it doesn't). All that extra, unused information certainly doesn't enhance the reader's experience. I suspect that this is simply antiquated software that hasn't been updated in well over a decade. Ditch it.

Like others, I find the check-box style very difficult to read. In fact, I could only force myself to read one section. I chose Electrical. Here are the details from that section.

Service Drop - If vegetation is touching the wires, shouldn't the vegetation be trimmed?

Service Ground - Do you commonly see gas pipes used as a grounding electrode? See NEC 250.52(8)(B)

Panels - I assume you mean "Two of the cabinet fasteners are pointed". Most people wouldn't have a clue why this is important. Just a small issue, but I'd say "screws" not "fasteners". It's more precise and fewer characters makes it more readable.

Minor electrical label #S 83418 for "New install" - I have no earthly idea what this means or why it's important.

See Comments Below - Is there supposed to be a correlation between the blue dots in each section and the actual comments? If so I didn't find it. It's very confusing. If you need a comment in a particular section, say outlets or panels, then put the comment in that section.

In some ways I like the arrows on the photos. It gives a personal feel that's lacking in the rest of the report. Glancing at Roofing the arrows seem to be over-used.

Ditch the blue text and yellow highlighting. Especially ditch the blue text on yellow highlighting. Lots of people still print B/W in which case this emphasis will be lost. If you need to draw extra attention to some piece of information then use some other formatting (bold, italic, white space, a text box, etc). The highlighting would not be needed if you refrained from using bold, italic and text boxes were they're not needed.

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I will echo some of Mike's and others' comments as follow:

The blue text is not easy on the eyes, and too many big blues arrows.

The check marks sometimes indicate a problem, sometimes indicate something was inspected or not inspected.

The additional comments are down below, go search for them.

Sometimes the comment section starts with a disclaimer that we have to read, then the defect is down the page somewhere.

The disclaimer section that starts the report says the report is not to be copied or other, then another sentence saying the report is only for the Client is a bit redundant. Then the bottom provides a spot for additional copies to be sent. I know why, but it could all be confusing to the uninitiated.

I personally don't mind the checkbox format, but comments, as Mike said, should be directly below or to the side of the check for clarity.

Somehow, the defects should to be easier to pick out from the general info.

Some people don't like a summary page, but this report I think would benefit from one.

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Something specific; when you show pictures of actual problems, don't call them examples. It's the problem, not an example of it.

John, I do that frequently. If there's more than one of the same defect, I wont put every photograph of every defect in the report. The photo caption would read "An example of rotted wood trim"

I agree with your description of using "example" when you're depicting multiple like problems with one picture. However, If it's a single issue being explained, my preference would be to not call it an example.

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I'd ditch the check box format.

Get a software system that allows you to save comments easily and build your template daily or add/change it when it needs. Save alot of the things you see regularly so you don't have to type the same thing daily.

Bigger pictures. I don't always use the arrows or circles but I do on some photos.

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I read this last night and am glad to see that many of my thoughts were echoed above. I am still very new to this profession and would be uncomfortable offering criticism while not offering up my own report.

SDI, I applaud you for putting it out there.

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I found this report hard to read and follow. I needed a page of instructions on how to decipher and interpret this report. The charts at the top only got more confusing as the report went on.

There is no legend for the symbols. What do the green triangles mean? Some appeared to be more filled in than others. Does this mean something, or is it just a software glitch or my display settings?

The 1st page of the actual condition report covers most of what's wrong with this format and report.

Siding Material- There is a green triangle under "serviceable". There is a blue circle under "comments see below". There is a blue square next to Cracked/split siding, trim(normal for age). I think this means the house has some cracked/split siding or trim(which is it, siding or trim or both?)but it's Ok, because its normal for its age, right? What does it say under comments? It's only showing a pic of loose siding, no mention of cracked or split siding. These are 2 different issues, with loose siding being a one time fix and cracks/splits becoming a yearly maintenance issue.

Comments section criticisms:

Oh, the blue square means "See Rot/Insect Report at the end of this report". Even when there is not a comment about this item on the Rot/Insect Report?

The comments are lettered, but the letters aren't keyed to the inspection item or even in the same order as the inspection items.

Comment B- "The south side yard does not feel like it is draining very well." Oh, did it tell you that? :) This is a good observation but too much inspectorspeak follows. How about something like: "The south side yard felt wet, soft and squishy when I walked on it. The last significant rainfall was X days ago. The drainage slope of the neighbor's yard directs moisture to this area. This area of the yard may always be wet, which can limit its use. A landscaping contractor can improve the drainage to allow regular use of this area."

Comment C & D- It's not clear if I have these items or if you just don't inspect them if they are there. These should be combined into 1 comment.

Comment E- According to the chart above, my caulking is fine. The comment says I don't have any and the manufacturer says I should, and it's a moisture issue. Shouldn't it be noted as an issue in the chart portion? This seems like it could be a big deal.?

Comment F-Mixing terminology(I admit, I'm being nitpicky). You call it head flashing above, Z flashing in the comment. That can confuse a client.

Comment G- I can't tell if this is just boilerplate general info or if its specific to the house and related to the issues in the Drainage and grading section of the chart above.

Comment H- I like the addition of the localized helpful information, even though it is outside the standards of practice after all.[:-tong2]

There are some good comments and observations in the report, you just need new software and format, and to clean up the disclaimers and inspectorspeak . Keep it simple and to the point. Where and what is the issue, why is it an issue, and what you should do about it. A photo (with arrows or circles as needed for clarity)next to the comment helps with quicker/easier comprehension.

Read through the Report Writing forum archives here. Improved report writing has been my number #1 benefit of reading TIJ.

Jim

edited for formatting issues

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Check list style has a place, but it's not in communicating findings to someone uneducated in housey stuff.

It can be very hard to cut loose this framework, and there's no way to significantly improve the readability of this report.

Checklist frameworks force good inspectors to pigeon hole defects and risks muddled thinking and reporting on them. Narrative unencumbers a good inspector to translate their opinion into their own words that are most beneficial for that particular client.

My advice, dump this entire report format and start over. Use Jim Katens format as a starting point. There are many very well thought out elements to Jims report and it's the best one out there in my opinion.

Chris, Oregon

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Check out Inspect Express. You can use it in either semi-narrative and narrative format and can customize it and the boilerplate any way you want. The full narrative version is somewhat similar to jim's report format but the boilerplate style isn't anything like his. If you dn't like the boilerplate you can always create your own very easily and edit it as you see fit.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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