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Report Critique number 2. OK, let me have it!!!


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A couple of things. I wouldn't include the price of the inspection in the report if you're sending it to attorneys and realtors. You'll get feedback like: wow, you charge a lot compared to the other guys...

What do you mean by recommending obtaining a termite certificate. Do you mean a WDI Report? NPMA33?

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A couple of things. I wouldn't include the price of the inspection in the report if you're sending it to attorneys and realtors. You'll get feedback like: wow, you charge a lot compared to the other guys...

What do you mean by recommending obtaining a termite certificate. Do you mean a WDI Report? NPMA33?

Yes WDI would be better, I include that in all reports since I don't offer WDI's, haven't read it in detail in a while.

How do you (and other), supply your customers with invoices? I can't send it prior to inspection?

BTW, I'm sure the realtor and attorney are charging more than me!

Thanks for your reply!

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Wouldn't let me copy and paste but read the first sentence under Insulation and Ventilation.

Out to think about getting a system that lets you put the photo right next to the comment.

I secure every report in Adobe Acrobat for that reason. No copy, no paste or changes (a past attorney/client recommendation).

Full size photos are included at the left "Paperclip" icon (800x600px)

Marc, right-click and "Save-as""...

..yes Erby, typo (I'm famous for them).

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You sound knowledgeable and competent, but the report format obfuscates information transmission. I'm with Erby; formats where primary comments are separate from photos is inherently confusing.

There are established and understood communication techniques utilized by nearly all major corporations. They're used primarily when corporate is trying to disseminate new concepts and direction to employees, but the underlying principles equate to similar situations we face as HI's talking to our clients.

If you're trying to transfer as much understanding as possible in tight time constraints with folks that don't have previous understandings of the context & technicalities, short bursts of info with visual reinforcement are where you want to be.

Think Code Check; it's the single example of how it's supposed to be done that I'm aware of in this biz. They take a mountain of technicalities, and hammer them down into assimilable components.

Unfortunately, all current HI report systems ignore or are unaware of communication paradigms. I was made aware of them by Jeff Berkson out of Chicago; he's a friend. He's runs the McDonalds corporate operations and presentations when they're braying to their owners and employees; he produces shows for (approximately) 16,000 people several times a year in Vegas and similar convention venues. It goes much deeper than I can illustrate here, but the concepts are profound.

So, my critique is, you understand what you're trying to say to your customers, I understand it because I'm in the biz, but the format has inherent problems with transmitting the information in concise and understandable chunks to civilians.

It's best to work within what communications (as a science) understands about comprehension, not with a report formatting technique that, imho, is wildly outdated.

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...Unfortunately, all current HI report systems ignore or are unaware of communication paradigms....

It's best to work within what communications (as a science) understands about comprehension, not with a report formatting technique that, imho, is wildly outdated...

Precisely. Just today I was reading up on Adobe Indesign CS 6 at a local bookstore. I've been looking at it for a few weeks. It's the kind of software that an HI report writing software designer could use to come up with the format that they want to mimic. A model to begin writing code.

Sometimes you gotta do it yourself.

Marc

PS: still can't open that OP report

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Kurt, NASA & I are reviewing your comments. Expect to hear back on Tuesday...by 4pm...

I know your not a fan of excessive photos from reading your past post (as a science, I stop by almost everyday but don't often respond), but we, you an I know that the Multi-Media generation, that was once an anomaly, has arrived.

...recite code..to lay people, who know nothing more about a house than living in one?

...know your audience...

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If you're trying to transfer as much understanding as possible in tight time constraints with folks that don't have previous understandings of the context & technicalities, short bursts of info with visual reinforcement are where you want to be.

Everyone please read the bold text several times.
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This is just my general observation without regard to being specific about any individual items.

I think you have stuff in the report that does not need to be there. I suggest you look at the SOP which you follow. Include what they require and beyond that, include the specific items that you think need to be fixed. Leave the rest out.

I bet you could shrink that report by 10 pages and still deliver the information needed in context of what people are looking for in a home inspection.

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Thanks Bill & Kurt, I love the criticism. Isn't our job to explain to homebuyers what there're getting into? Without inspector talk...

Yes I John, I could not mention Model/Serial numbers but I have a good reason for the details.

I've learned the hard way that I'm a great guy during a home inspection and often recommended by word of mouth, but when someones dishwasher fails two weeks later, who do they call...better have a photo of it working.

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I see two issues with photo 24. 1. It doesn't show the complete box so I can't review it accurately. 2. The white wire on the top left breaker isn't marked properly.

It'd be easier for us to provide meaningful feedback if you unsecured this particular report so we could copy and paste the section we were referring to with our commentary.

By the way, Adobe isn't all that hard to crack to make changes to the original.

I guess I just prefer the (as Kurt so aptly put it) "short bursts of info with visual reinforcement." See photo below.

Click to Enlarge
tn_20129270392_Capture.jpg

18.06?KB

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I secure every report in Adobe Acrobat for that reason. No copy, no paste or changes (a past attorney/client recommendation).

Hey Roy, I'm sure you know, but you any doc that can be locked, can be unlocked. I was going to upload a changed version of your report, but decided that would be rude to do without your permission.

I'm sure it would keep out most, but don't rely on it 100%.

Cheers.

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What Kurt said. House has a boiler, but the flue is shared by the water heater and the furnace. I could not find a furnace in the report. 10 pages before we get to the good information and then the info is not really clear. You could have some of your material (NJ Standards) printed in a separate format and hand it out at the inspection. That takes 6 pages out of the report. I never did a summary page in my reports but shouldn't it be at the end instead of the beginning? They read the summary and ignore the rest. Tedious. Should the Table of contents be before the pages it describes? Do people really need to know "how to read the report?". I am a mac guy and all those right click instructions are confusing. Will I be able to read your report? I would skip the photos showing your instrument readings because they do not mean anything to the client.

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Roy,

1) There's lots of passive voice in your writing, long and boring statements.

A lot has already been said in this forum on the use of the passive voice.

Passive voice will have you thinking in terms of the defects, not what they mean. The client doesn't care what the defects are, they care about what they mean.

Transform your writing and your thinking from the passive voice to the active voice.

2) Don't describe your SOP's required descriptions in full sentences. Organize them in a table. Save the full sentences for your narrative and recommendations.

3) More clearly demarcate between your observations and your recommendations by using form not words. Don't run your observations and recommendations in the same paragraph. Run them in separate paragraphs and format recommendations different than observations, i.e. in bold. Doing so, you won't have say things like "I recommend ..." or start your paragraph with "Recommendation: ...".

4) Use the imperative when writing your recommendations.

5) Understand that you don't always have to have a separate narrative paragraph. You can many times phrase the problem in terms of the recommendation for simple defects. In those cases, I have a subheading, my narrative paragraph is simply "See photo", and the recommendation terms the problem.

6) Start your narrative with the location of the problem or issue i.e. "In/on/at/where the ..."

7) As Les said to me along time ago, don't use "we" unless there's more than two of you.

8) Follow the Kurt's rule: limit your paragraphs to two sentences or less. If you need another sentence, then you probably need to break things out in terms of a separate observation or recommendation.

9) You flag your individual observations/recommendations by recommendation type. Group them instead.

10) Consider starting your observations with a brief summary. See one of Hausdok or Jim Katen reports.

Chris, Oregon

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Page 11 "the attic is ventilated with fiberglass batts"

I haven't taken the time to read it all yet.

I would prefer pics with comments under them. Not all of them need a comment, but if you comment on what we see in some of the pics, it helps a lot.

I would skip over the text and just look at the pictures if you handed that report to me.

I have read the summary.

The talk about the GFCI's is confusing. It says "GFCI's are installed", I think you mean in general, then "GFCI's are not installed", I think you mean specifically here.

I suggest the general info dilutes the safety issue if there is one.

The part about the flue for the water heater is not clear. Is it plumbing or should it be in the HVAC section? Is it a hazard?

Is the stained plywood floor a problem? Will the plywood need to be replaced? If not, then it is just a stain from a past leak, no?

The TPRV discharge tube is wrong, so I would just say "Install a proper tube to within 6" of the floor".

The worm or beetle tracks on the rafter are not defects in my book. I might say that I saw them and they are not an issue, or I would not even mention them.

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This kind of layout drives me a little nuts, 'cuz there's too much stuff going on.

- Do you email the report to the client? If you do, scrub the cover letter from the report and make it your email that delivers the final product to the client and make the report an attachment to the email. One page eliminated from the report.

- If you feel that you must put tips on how to read the report in the report, put them in the back and reference them in a footnote someplace up front. Another page between the cover and the actual report eliminated.

- If you feel that you must include the invoice in the report than put it in the back. He/she already knows what was paid for the inspection anyway. If they paid by check the cancelled check is as good as an invoice. Another page between the cover and the actual report eliminated.

- You know what the problem is with conventions? You have to explain them. Why not lead with what needs to be done to fix a problem so that the reader can quickly find and zero in on those things that the reader feels are critical without wading through all of the conventions and text to figure out what it's about. Instead of saying:

Safety Issue: There are double-sided dead bolts and lock sets at the residence. This type of lock requires a key to unlock the door from the inside and can resent an obstacle to anyone trying to flee in the event of a fire. I strongly recommend replacing by a locksmith (noted at front and rear entryway doors) Photo 7.

Say

Replace the double-sided dead bolts and lock sets at the front and rear entries: Double sided bolts (see photo right) are a safety hazard because they'll slow down someone's escape if there is a fire. Have a locksmith replace them.

Remove your every-report recommendations from the observations and move it to somewhere else so it won't clutter up the list of issues. For instance, if as far as you can tell there aren't any pest issues but you want to recommend that they get a pest inspection just to cover your ass put that in the back someplace and don't mix it in with the stuff that you actually found wrong with the house. Item #23 about smoke alarms is another example. #28 - the location of the furnace filters is another one that shouldn't be mixed in with the deficient issues and should be somewhere in the descriptive narrative.

- I personally hate the idea of sticking the summary report up front. It means the client, who has never seen one of these reports before and has no idea how they are formatted, has to wade through the entire summary before actually getting to "the" report that he or she paid for. If you want to send a summary report, include it as a second attachment to the email wherein you've sent the report to the client and clearly deliniate it as such. Three more pages eliminated between the cover and the nitty gritty.

- Never "monitor" stuff that's wrong. For instance, a rotted subfloor over a crawlspace. If it's actually 'rotten'to the point where you can see deterioration it needs to be repaired, not looked at. Today it looks fine but it's out of sight and out of mind. If it's left there, how often do you think they'll climb down there to "monitor" it? Once a year? Rot gives off an odor that attracts wood destroying insects. If subterranean termites find that soft rotting subfloor and take up residence, they can make deep inroads into a structure in a year. By not telling them to remove a food source that attracts WDI, you are aiding and abetting the very insects you hope to keep out.

- Why "monitor" a chimney crown that's been caulked due to failing mortar? The caulk told you there is an issue with the stack. Recommmend they get it fixed.

Get the chimneystack worked on: The caulking that's applied to the chimney and chimney crown is a bandaid concealing crumbling mortar and a deteriorating crown. A deteriorating crown and crumbling mortar are only going to allow more water into the stack that will make that deterioration worse. Caulk can't fix that. Have a reputable brick mason touchup/repoint the mortared joints of the chimneystack and replace the crown as necessary.

- Why are you "verifying" damage you noted. You saw damage by wood-destroying insects that might have occurred prior to construction but now you are saying verify it? Isn't that what you just did and stated?

Bottom line; you and I are hired to make the tough calls. Make 'em!

Yes, pleeeeeeeease ditch the passive voice.

Repair/Replace: A previous or active leak (not noted at the time of the inspection) was observed at the temperature-pressure relief valve (TPR) extension paipe and may be the cause of the leak nonte inthe Structural Section of this report-Verify. (Also, the extension pipe does not extend to within 6: of the flor (may be impossible due to installed plumbing below the pipe) and the end of the pipe appears to be threaded (code/manufacturer violation). This also applied to the TPR valve serviceing the hot water boiler. Replacement is recommended Photos 18 & 19 of hot water boiler TPR extension).

Mama Mia! Signs of a previous leak and rotting wood that resulted from a previous leak are an entirely different issue from a screwed up TPR valve configuration which is the current issue. Leave the conjecture about the previous leak you suspect out of this particular observation and use it where it applies such as with the rotted wood issues.

Try this.

Correct some screwed up TPR discharge pipes: There are safety devices on the water heater and boiler known as TPR valves. The discharge pipes attached to these devices (see photos right) are required to extend to within six inches of the floor and the ends are not supposed to be threaded. Neither pipe extends to within six inches of the floor and both pipes have threaded ends. Have a licensed plumber correct both of these now.

Don't waste words on stuff that doesn't need it.

Improve/Upgrade: There are hazards presented by missing screws at the service entrance panel. Recommendation: Install proper screws as appropriate.

I'm picturing a power-point presentation about electrical hazards being given by a baton that's floating in the air because it's wielded by a "missing" screw. Why are we improving/upgrading this when it simply needs to be fixed?

I'd prefer this:

22. Replace the missing screws at the service entrance panel.

Your client will understand that; however, knowing that agents can't seem to understand what to do with a common sense statement and would wonder if there should be some additional commentary, you could write.

22. Replace the missing screws at the service entrance panel:Further comment isn't necessary.

That way the agents won't have an embolism wondering what to do.

- Unless the SOP is required as an enclosure in the report, I wouldn't provide them a copy. Put the URL to the SOP on the bottom of your contract and when you are briefing them prior to the inspection about what standard you'll be inspecting to, point at that URL and tell them to go there to see specifically what you are required to do and aren't required to do. Another six pages eliminated.

- The maintenance advice is nice to have but I'd send it as a separate attachment to the email.

I send the report as an attachment to an email that essentially is your cover letter. If they've paid cash or have requested an invoice, the invoice is a second attachment. I ask them to review the report and then to call me with any questions or concerns so that we can discuss them.

I tell them to let me know by return email or by phone if they'll want a summarized version of the report. I don't include the summary with the email because I want them to read the entire report first. If I send the summary report along with the full report, I know damned well from past experience that the agent and most clients won't bother to actually read the entire report. That can cause a client to get an incomplete picture of what I saw and what my take on it was. I prepare the summary when I finish the full report; and then, once they've had time to read the full report, I send a second email with the summary report attached.

If I were sending a full report with the stuff that you have, my first email would be the cover letter with the full report and invoice attached; the maintenance advice and the SOP would be sent as separate attachments to the follow-on email along with the summarized version.

Works for me.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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