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Has inspection photography become a distraction


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Has photography changed the quality of what we do? When I was actively inspecting none of our company reports had photos. We used a good 12pt font and typed what the facts about the house were in clear concise language. We had some boilerplate for repetitive stuff. I'm talking about many thousands of inspections. We had a very low complaint ratio and did not need to spend a lot of time answering questions as the reports were pretty clear. We did very little in the way of telling our clients to "get further evaluation by an expert" because we trained our inspectors to be the expert. Yes, there were some cases we had to pass on a judgement but that was the exception, not the rule. And yes, we had occasional misses. But the profession seems to have (evolved) (devolved) (take your pick) much differently than would have been anticipated so many years ago that I thought this might lead to some meaningful conversation.

I just read a report done for a friend of mine on a ten year old house. It was 40 pages and included 80 photographs of stuff like the garage door, the bath tub, etc. The photos were not done to point out any deficiency as there was not one single problem found in the 40 pages of reporting. The descriptions were quite helpful in telling my friend that the tub and shower were in the bathroom and other such pearls of wisdom like the fact that the kitchen contained appliances. There were many problems in the house that were not discovered until after my friend moved in resulting in thousands of dollars in repair. He did receive good information about having to have his HVAC serviced regularly but alas, the inspector didn't tell him it was not working properly.

So my question: Have we lost the art of inspecting for problems? Have we become distracted by the need to take photos instead of crafting words to tell the story? Distracted by reporting systems? Distracted by electronics and tools? Distracted by Building Codes? I know the inspector who did the very poor inspection and I know that he is better than what he produced. Was he distracted by taking, organizing and cropping the 80 pictures? Using his thermal hoziwhatsis?

As an exercise, could you produce a document that describes an inspection and the problems you found without the need for pictures?

Just some food for thought on a cold and windy day.

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It's good food.

It's a different world. People don't read. You do. I do. My friends do. Most people don't and the fact is well supported by a mountain of social study. Linking isn't reading and Tweets aren't writing.

Modes of perception are entirely different. Pictures provide instant recognition of location and components. Describing the same things in a thoughtful and well constructed bit of narrative is not going to provide the same level of recognition. Old folks will argue "yes they do". Everyone outside our profession will argue "no it doesn't".

Photos can be the miracle, or a ridiculous contrivance. The "problem" is not photos.

It's report writing systems created and driven by vendors, supported by professional societies.

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I know many inspectors include photos of the interiors at the end/beginning of sections to give buyers an overview of the home they bought. Lots of statements that home is of "good quality" or other such nonsense.

I try to keep my report as short as possible and only list defects and the mandatory SOP stuff. I figure people bought the house because they like it. I dont think they ordered a home inspection for me to congratulate them and provide a photographic journey through wonderland. They ordered a home inspection to find any possible pitfalls.

Digital cameras make photos free and anything free gets abused. I say include photos of defects but leave the three photos of the kitchen from different angles out.

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My pictures are my notes for the most part. I still record model and serial numbers manually because on the few occassions I didn't my pics were illegible. I honestly don't think I take enough pics of the house, but only a tiny fraction of them make it to the report.

The only non-defect picture in my reports is the 'beauty shot' on the cover page. I could drop these, but I set my folders to thumbnails because I recognize the houses far more readily than client's names or addresses. I think it's the result of 20 years selling home improvement jobs, I associate the client with their project and not their name.

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I have a little different take on photos. The primary reason for the photos are for my use and notes. I may take 100 or I may take zero. They are not a required part of my inspection process. I use very few in the average inspection report or experience. I do not flatter myself by thinking I am a professional photographer.

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Kurt said:

The "problem" is not photos. It's report writing systems created and driven by vendors, supported by professional societies.

Bingo.

I ran across a report last year that was 140 pages long. The summary alone ran 30+ pages. I truly believe it was designed to intentionally confuse the reader.

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The camera records defects, and I use it for that. I check the pics on my laptop before I leave the premises. To me, the camera is my best tool for checking in dark and inaccessible corners.

My report is 20 -25 pages and contains glamor shots along with the deficiencies. It reads as a complete overview that way.

Pics show that I inspected those areas. Take a look at this sample and I'd appreciate some feedback.

http://www.allsafehome.ca/01-01-05.pdf

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Originally posted by ghentjr[/iHave we lost the art of inspecting for problems? Have we become distracted by the need to take photos instead of crafting words to tell the story? Distracted by reporting systems? Distracted by electronics and tools? Distracted by Building Codes?

The "art" of inspecting is seldom taught in the classes I attend. Too much emphasis is placed on gadgets. Send most inspectors out with only a ladder, flashlight, a wiggy and a screw driver and they're helpless. I'm also concerned about the tendency to perform faster inspections.

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The camera records defects, and I use it for that. I check the pics on my laptop before I leave the premises. To me, the camera is my best tool for checking in dark and inaccessible corners.

My report is 20 -25 pages and contains glamor shots along with the deficiencies. It reads as a complete overview that way.

Pics show that I inspected those areas. Take a look at this sample and I'd appreciate some feedback.

http://www.allsafehome.ca/01-01-05.pdf

I stopped midway thru the 'Exteriors' page. John, a sentence is supposed to have a verb in it.

Marc

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I do not flatter myself by thinking I am a professional photographer.

I do. I'm a professional photojournalist documenting the condition of my subject. I think like a photographer nowadays; finding the best establishing and detail shots has gotten second nature. Every defect or comment has one or two photos.

My comments are really short; sometimes as simple as "the front windows are rotten right here", with a red arrow pointing at the defect. The Mac operating system has built in dictation that's damn near perfect; I barely type anything in an inspection report anymore (and I type 110wpm). When there's some complicated thing that needs explanation, I pull it out of my Comment Library.

My inspection time has remained about the same, report generation time has dropped in half. I designed and built the software that allows me to do this in FM Pro; it's hilariously simple and fast with the dictation feature & drag and drop picture selection.

No one currently established in the HI biz will ever believe that the world has changed and people like pictures more than reading lots of single spaced narrative.

Claiming high ground with the argument "everyone likes my report" was debunked years ago by Cramer who astutely declared "everyone likes anything you give them because they don't know any better". If one does actual comparison research with real people, they will find out pictures win, every time. People want pictures and simplicity.

Katen's the only other person I know that's conducted anything resembling research. He came to the same conclusion. Folks like pictures.

And summaries.

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The camera records defects, and I use it for that. I check the pics on my laptop before I leave the premises. To me, the camera is my best tool for checking in dark and inaccessible corners.

My report is 20 -25 pages and contains glamor shots along with the deficiencies. It reads as a complete overview that way.

Pics show that I inspected those areas. Take a look at this sample and I'd appreciate some feedback.

http://www.allsafehome.ca/01-01-05.pdf

I stopped midway thru the 'Exteriors' page. John, a sentence is supposed to have a verb in it.

Marc

Thanks, Marc. I have added a few nouns and verbs for your literary satisfaction. [:)]
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Might want to check your spelling of refrigerator, John.

I did my research by reading here what Katen's and a couple of other peoples opinion were, asking a couple of my customers, and my own personal desire to type less bullshit.

LOTS of photos. Some just show condition at time of inspection. I don't comment, just drag and drop those.

Like Kurt, "finding the best establishing and detail shots has gotten second nature."

Click to Enlarge
tn_2013218233115_PlumbingLeak.jpg

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I recently posted a request on TIJ for inspector recommendations in a state far from me where a friend was buying a home. He ultimately made on offer on a duplex, circa 1960. He ignored my (your) recommendations, choosing to go with someone else. He told me that a local resident had recommended an inspector with 10 years of experience. Fair enough. At first glance, anyway. After the inspection was complete he sent me the 92 page "masterpiece" he received and I was blown away. And not in a good way, as you could probably guess. Here are a few gems: "The following definitions of comment descriptions represent this inspection report." Huh? And then came this: "Any recommendations by the inspector to repair or replace suggests a second opinion or further inspection by a qualified contractor." CYA, anyone? In the section about the heating system, he stated: "The gas fired furnace and gas fired water heater are placed in a closet that appears (emphasis mine) to open out to a bedroom." The photo he included quite clearly showed that the furnace and water heater were in an open corner of the bedroom. No door(s) whatsoever.

Oddly, he did not include any information as to the age or anticipated remaining service life for either of the furnaces. Similarly, there was no info on the age of the roof. Nor did he comment on the obvious absence of a handrail along one side of an open stairway to the basement. He did, however, helpfully state that the 2 x 4 bolted to the wall on the opposite side of the stair was loose. Actually, to be fair, his exact wording is as follows: "The safety handrail at the basement stairs is not properly attached to the wall and is loose under hand. This safety handrail should be repaired as needed so as to properly provide the support it is intended to provide to a falling person.

Geez...

Not surprisingly, there was no comment whatsoever about the fact that the bottom 3 inches of drywall had been cut away in all rooms on the basement level. Basements never flood, right?

The same photos showed up as many as three or four times throughout the body of the report, and almost never with any explanation as to what they were intended to show.

In describing the slope around the property he says "Grading around the home is generally negative to the home." Does that mean it's insulting or portraying the home in an unflattering light? Seriously, is the average buyer going to know what this means? In additional comments about the exterior he states that "Several trees are planted too close to the home and do impinge on the roof structure." Impinge??? Really???

I could give more examples but there's no reason to. So yeah, I agree that it isn't the overuse of photos that's the problem.

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Might want to check your spelling of refrigerator, John.

I did my research by reading here what Katen's and a couple of other peoples opinion were, asking a couple of my customers, and my own personal desire to type less bullshit.

LOTS of photos. Some just show condition at time of inspection. I don't comment, just drag and drop those.

Like Kurt, "finding the best establishing and detail shots has gotten second nature."

Click to Enlarge
tn_2013218233115_PlumbingLeak.jpg

47.48?KB

This is what I was suggesting, John. Write like you were talking.

Marc

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