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I use a two-dollar binder from Office Depot that has a clear plastic sleeve on the front and back. I print out a cover on-site with a tiny Canon that has my enlarged business card on top, buyer's name, street address of the house and date in the middle, and a large photo of the house on the bottom. Looks very professional.

Check it out. The name and address, of course, were changed to protect the innocent.

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My method for printed reports is almost identical to John's (Bain). Inexpensive Office Depot binder with a custom printed page in front (held at center by a small piece of double-sided tape on the top/back of the custom sheet). I'm emailing more and more, but frankly I still prefer the binder. It's easy to include extra inserts about report issues, etc., and it makes an impression. Email never makes an impression, and I'm still at the place where a strong impression has value.

Brian G.

Impress for Success [:-tophat]

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Originally posted by Brian G.

Email never makes an impression, and I'm still at the place where a strong impression has value.

Brian G.

Impress for Success [:-tophat]

Not true; depends on where one lives & their market. I pioneered the .pdf report delivery in this area, & it impresses the heck out of folks; no one knew it was possible, until I started doing it. When folks ask "how do I get the report?", and I respond, "it's in your email box right now; give me your attorney's email & they'll have it immediately", everyone says "COOL!".

Of course, if you work an area where folks don't have high speed internet as standard, or where the internet is still viewed as that thing they gotta get someday, forget it.

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Hi,

I went totally email about a year ago and I'm sure glad that I did. I'm saving about a grand a year on postage and another grand on wasted toner, paper and mailing supplies.

I rarely print them anymore. When I do, it's color printed on 24# ivory 25% cotton fiber stock. I use 120# stock linen-finish ivory covers, comb punch the whole thing and bind it with a maroon or black comb binder. Damn thing is pretty as hell and costs me a whopping $1.42 to $1.60 per report. It does get a big holy cow! from clients.

Be that as it may, holy cow doesn't pay the bills. The others still love the email reports and I tell them to print them out in color if they can.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I'm with Brian. If I'm charging someone five or six hundred dollars for checking out his or her house, they want and deserve a professionally prepared report. I print out a 34 page report on site and also include a 30 page glossary, along with information sheets about Fed. Pacific elec. panels, recalled Kenmore microwaves, etc. if necessary.

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Originally posted by Paul MacLean

A jumbo paper clip works for me...

That's why I like Paul. He understands the economics of the business, & provides real value; his experience.

Value isn't about the binder; it's about what's inside. Imagining that value is added by adding a bunch of stuff that doesn't pertain to a specific house, i.e., a folder on FPE panels, a pile of photos that describe things that could be described in 10 words or less, general recall notices, or providing the generic "home maintenance" brochure, is misunderstanding what "professionally prepared" means.

Excessively long reports might be necessary in very specific situations, but again, I think it's completely silly. I know that I look @ some of the most complicated properties in the country on a regular basis; few of my reports exceed 17 pages, two of those are the cover sheet & the little intro/instruction manual. Multiple heating systems & apt's. add pages, but that's about it.

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98% of my reports are emailed, my cost is minimal. I get 75% of my business from word of mouth referrals. I use to package my reports in a nice binder with a photo of the house and all of that cute marketing stuff. When I stopped doing my report in that manner it appeared that my clients liked the email report better. My clients have the report via email within a couple of hours after the inspection time, if needed they could have it at the inspection but I have have had anyone in such a rush that this has ever been an issue.

It all amounts to getting in a comfort zone. The advantages of emailing a report to me far exceeded of producing a paper report in a binder.

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I once did a two page report for GM; 1 page info, 1 page invoice. This was for two 300,000 sq ft buildings. That being said, I also did a 435pg report for GM on two other buildings. First one I printed on my printer and the second one I had the print shop publish twenty copies. Both were great reports and told my client what they needed to know.

Our normal report is abt 18pgs because it is seperated into sections. We seldom e/m anything, but would sure like to. Our market demands responses within 24hrs and we find only 10% of our clients would like the convience of e/m. We have no realtors that express any interest in electronic reports.

My point is to really know your market and adapt. There is no right or wrong way as far as I'm concerned. 'course I live in the woods and not Michigan Ave in Chicago.

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Originally posted by kurt

Value isn't about the binder; it's about what's inside.

At the risk of sounding like a marketing type, whatever the client believes to have value, *does*. Surely a great report in a nice binder is not of less value than the same report via email.

Imagining that value is added by adding a bunch of stuff that doesn't pertain to a specific house....

Objection your honor! This assumes facts not in evidence. No one has suggested adding any such that was not pertinent to whatever house was in question. I believe Mr. Bain said "if necessary". I don't add anything routinely except a copy of the SOP & COE we have adopted into law here.

...or providing the generic "home maintenance" brochure....

Personally I would agree about the maintenance manual, but I can allow for my colleagues who feel otherwise so long as they are producing solid reports.

I know that I look @ some of the most complicated properties in the country on a regular basis; few of my reports exceed 17 pages, two of those are the cover sheet & the little intro/instruction manual.

Some of this is a function of the various software systems many of us use. My software could only produce a report that short if I allowed it to print continuously rather than starting new catagories on a new sheet, which I feel is often confusing to clients (with my particular software). Besides, surely you wouldn't expect someone young in the field to be able to do exactly as you do?

I can't help thinking of a favorite saying;"Every job is a portrait of the person who did it." Being strictly email is definitely you (don't deny it, I can call witnesses). Being exact about the composition of the paper and color of the comb is totally Mike. So long as the inspector is doing his job well, these personal choices and expressions are not a legitimate subject for "right or wrong" debate (IMHO).

Everyone looks for what will work for them. When they find it, they use it. Tis' the way of the world.

Brian G.

Can't..Can't We All..Just Get Along [:-fight]

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I would rather email. But, if I print out a report, the software I use is Whisper, and it prints a black and white cover sheet, but it's not fancy. I was just thinking of putting these pages in a clear binder and thats it. The cover sheet has my name and company, and the clients name with other information.

I do feel I am delivering a report, not some fancy catchy looking thing. At the same time, I don't want people saying "man, this looks like crap"

I could always make a seperate cover sheet that looks pretty, print it out on real photo paper, but then it's more work, more ink, ect.

Just wondering how pretty a report needs to be. If I ever get a report on anything it never looks pretty, it's just a black and white report.

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Brian, you risked it, and it does sound like marketing hype. Whatever the client believes to have value, has value; pure marketing hype. I never said a binder is of less value; I think what Les said.

Understanding what it is your customer needs to know and giving it to them in precise & accurate descriptions is value; what my client thinks is important but only in the terms of my respecting them as my customer. In practical terms, what they think is of little consequence one way or the other. Usually, it's misinformed heresay or urban legends.

Darren; there is a cool little software utility availble from Afeina that combines a bunch of .pdf files into a single file. I'll look for it in my jungle of links.

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AND ANOTHER THING....... (oh, I love controversial topics)

Where does business play into this? I see extremely disturbing trends in this report preparation component of our businesses. Specifically, I've been calling it "remodelers disease".

Folks provide all manner of stuff, but don't calculate it into their operating costs. I don't care if the fee is $250 or $850, the product & time spent on site has to be caluculated into the precise little 60 second increments that define our lives.

The average remodeler lurches from year to year because they don't understand what profit means. The average home inspector is falling into the same trap, because very often, they are poor businessman remodelers/contractors who moved into home inspection and dragged along all the same (poor) business practices they used when remodeling. We structure our fee on what the other guy is charging, then come up w/all manner of creative reporting methods because we think they're cool, valuable, or whatever, and we don't really pay attention to what all this is costing us.

Printing a 34 page report on site? Multiple brochures/information handouts/color photos/encyclopedias of extranea cost money. Was there ever a calculation to determine what this costs? I doubt it. It's done because folks think it's cool, or imagine that the 15 minutes they take (plus ancillary paper, ink, binder costs) doesn't really factor into their cost basis. Wrong. I'm betting all those minutes & materials add up to more than a few thousand dollars each year, and the inspector doesn't even know it.

It's a continuation of the "being priced into the poorhouse by the least competent practitioners" storyline.

There's reasons I send .pdf files; they're the cheapest method I've found first, completely adequate second, and my clients really dig them third.

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Extranea - horrors of Ms. Donley's Latin Class in 1962! Where is Walter when I need him.

I have never done this, but I am sure there were many times the client could have written on a legal pad everything I told them and had the very best report possible. One they could read, understand and comprehend fully.

It appears the southern "gentlemen" offer up some real nice stuff, while the "rustbelt" guys go for the throat(and dollar).

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Not to beat a dead horse,

When I was with the franchise, we had to use their fancy binder with all its fluff documents. We printed and hand-delivered every report. It took literally days out of my life and one night resulted in my getting into a car accident and totalling my car while scurrying around Seattle in the dark looking for addresses I'd never been to before. I still carry a very nasty scar from the damned airbag on my arm.

It cost me literally thousands of dollars a year in binders, paper, printer toner - not to mention the gas cost and the time it took to deliver those reports. When I left that franchise, I immediately changed over to the hard copy format described above and began mailing them. The format It hasn't got the fluff in it and costs about 10% of what I used to pay the franchiser for one of their empty binders.

Get this, I actually get a better reaction to the report with the comb bound format without the fluff than I did to the one in the fancy schmancy binder!

I still print reports out when I'm asked for a printed report, but that is pretty rare now. Usually, the only people who want a hard copy are older folks who haven't got the time or patience to learn how to use a computer and email. For most of them, I email the report to their agent and ask them to pass an extra copy on to the client at the closing or when they next see them and I follow up by calling the client to ensure the client knows to get the report from the agent. I guess I've printed about half a dozen hard copies over the past year for folks who didn't want them emailed to their realtors and wanted their own hard copy.

As far as quality? Well, day before yesterday I'm doing a job and I hear my cell phone ringing up by my tool bag. My interior inspector (my spouse) answers it, talks for a couple of minutes, and then comes in beaming. It had been the fellow from the previous day's inspeciton. He'd called to tell us that he'd gotten our email and had just finished printing out the report in color. My wifes quote: "Mike he said to tell you that he loves the report and he's going to tell all his friends about us."

So, now I spend $0 a year on media advertising; don't have to turn over 10% of what I gross to a franchiser; don't have to spend another $2600 a year on a useless yellow page ad; don't have to spend thousands of dollars extra every year in postage, toner, paper, and gas costs and another $2500 to $3000 a year on ugly plastic binders; and I have my evenings back again.

All that and the business just keeps on getting better.

What counts is the job you do. Do that and give your client a good report that they can understand the first read, without the need to enterpret icons or abbreviations, and they'll be perfectly happy.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by Paul MacLean

My reports run 12 to 18 pages without photos, addendum's, summary page, etc. My clients say "WOW!" because I print them on site in black & white. I haven't found the trouble and expense of the glitz worth it. A jumbo paper clip works for me...

To add to my earlier comments, I ask for the clients email address when the inspection is scheduled and email my contract immediately, but I still like to print the report on site.

I always ask the buyer to be present at the inspection. So when I'm finishing up, I print her/him a copy of the report. I hand it to them ask'em to read it, mark any questions and typos and then I go off and finish up a WDI report or something.

When I'm ready I ask the client for the typos first and correct any. While corrections are printing, I answer their questions about the report.

So when everyone leaves the site, I know I produced a nearly error free report and that the buyer understands. I do email reports to out-of-towner's and when specifically asked, but my real goal is to get home with nothing to do but log the inspection and file the report.

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I didn't intend to sound contentious or initiate a debate. My 34-page report has nothing to do with marketing hype, but rather explains various conditions and deficiencies so that my client is better prepared to make decisions about the house he/she is buying. The Canon printer I use spits the entire report out in less than ten minutes, during which I prepare the summary and the cover page. As for the glossary I include, it explains items like condensate-overflow pans, GFCIs and reversed-polarity outlets so I--hopefully--don't have to explain those things to a client ad nauseum. The glossaries, along with other material, are printed in bulk at a Kinko's and cost less than two dollars a report.

Kurt, I have a business degree and, though I drank waaaay too much beer during college, can tell you exactly how much my method of preparing a report costs both in dollars and man hours. Yes, it requires slightly more time than zapping an e-mail, but I make certain I'm appropriately compensated when it's time for my invoice to be paid.

As for the extra informational sheets I include when appropriate, they describe Federal Pacific panels, Plex-vent flue pipes, etc. Again, rather than giving my client a five-minute explanation, I merely tell him to look over the information and give me a call with any questions.

Finally, OF COURSE, the presentation is infinitely less important than the information it contains, but I think appearance does matter.

Again, when I'm asking someone to exchange a five- or six-hundred dollar check for an inspection report, that someone appreciates a well-designed, professional package in return.

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Originally posted by kurt

Brian, you risked it, and it does sound like marketing hype. Whatever the client believes to have value, has value; pure marketing hype.

OH YEAH?....(You know I love these too)

Spoken like a man who already has a huge customer base built-up. Whether we would like to or not, guys like me must market, or die. We don't have the big customer bases yet, we have to build them client by client. If the clients in my market love the binder with the photo of their house on the front, I'd be a fool not to give it to them.

I never said a binder is of less value; I think what Les said.

Ah, but you implied so rather strongly (along with any extra info sheets).

Understanding what it is your customer needs to know and giving it to them in precise & accurate descriptions is value; what my client thinks is important but only in the terms of my respecting them as my customer.

No arguement on the philosophy, just the execution.

In practical terms, what they think is of little consequence one way or the other. Usually, it's misinformed heresay or urban legends.

Now you're talking about thier opinion of content. I was clearly speaking of thier opinions/tastes as customers, the marketing side of clients. Binders, remember?

I read, listen to, and follow a lot of the same great veterans as you. My style and philiosophies are still under development. But I will say that I think one can go too far with the minimalist approach to reporting. I could write the entire report in 10 words or less, but would that be best for my client?

"The house has some problems. Get them fixed."

There you go....nah, that's too..."curt". [:D]

Brian G.

I Gotta Be Meee! [:-headpho

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Originally posted by kurt

....then come up w/all manner of creative reporting methods because we think they're cool, valuable, or whatever, and we don't really pay attention to what all this is costing us.

Isn't it possible that a smart guy might know, not think, that a thing has value to his operation?

Was there ever a calculation to determine what this costs? I doubt it.

I'll freely admit, not by me.

I'm betting all those minutes & materials add up to more than a few thousand dollars each year, and the inspector doesn't even know it.

I can assure you it doesn't begin to approach that kind of money in my business. I can't speak for others who are turning more over.

There's reasons I send .pdf files; they're the cheapest method I've found first, completely adequate second, and my clients really dig them third.

Good reasons, all. That doesn't mean it's right for everyone, or that to do otherwise is wild folly.

Brian G.

Kurt's Favorite Foil [:-batman]

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