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Designing a new software solution- input welcome


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Hi guys. I am in the initial planning stages of designing and developing a new Home Inspection software and business software solution.

Thought I'd get some input from you. If you use software reporting, what do you like? What don't you like? What's missing? What would you like to see?

What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages?

If you don't use software reporting, what has kept you from doing so?

A little background on me and how this came about. I am an engineer and use design software and engineering software daily. Currently I am a component designer but earlier in my career I worked as a 3-D modeler. Quite by coincidence, I have had the pleasure of being involved in the design and development of each of the very highly sophisticated programs I have used as well as Beta-testing them, making suggestions, fixing/finding bugs, etc.

Fast forward today...

I recently started researching my own HI business, have posted here on a few occasions. What I've found and as those posts reflect, I have been grossly underwhelemed with what is available on the software front, not to mention what they're charging for it.

So initially, I was just going to write up my own report template, but as I got into it, I was considering what I wanted my report to say, how to say it, how I wanted to put in information and where, what I wanted to give my customer as my product and what they should know and have access to. Precisely how was I going to go about doing all this and organizing it? It quickly spiraled out of the range of mear template writing.

At this point I cannot tell you how many demos I've tested, had demonstrated for me, researched, yadda yadda, and not one of these comes close to reaching the potential it could be and what it could offer.

So, as I said, I am in the initial planning stages and I am aware this may be a 2-3 year ordeal.

Thanks for your time.

Jeff

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Jeff wrote:

"If you don't use software reporting, what has kept you from doing so?"

Every software generated report that I have seen is only slightly better than handwritten checklists in containing useful content. They're usually overflowing with generalized garbage that has little to do with the actual building being inspected. General CYA disclaimers outnumber actual comments on the building and they're repeated on almost every page. They're full of inspectorspeak that seems to be written to impress rather than concisely inform.

We quickly and efficiently generate custom narrative reports that contain only clear information on the building inspected. We've had thousands of repeat clients mention that they have kept, and often refer to, the report throughout their ownership of their current home. The report is the final product, thus is our best marketing material. We do more high value properties, historic and commercial buildings than any of our competitors and charge hundreds, sometimes as much as a thousand more than their fees.

We dictate our reports using a digital recorder. The voice file and images are then E-mailed to typists that evening. The reports are prepared, proofread and E-mailed to the client usually well within 24 hours of the inspection.

The advantage to this system:

1. Every word in the report is specific to the property inspected.

2. Dictation aids in the preparation of a report that is written as if the inspector is speaking directly with the client.

3. My verbal communication skills are much better than my writing skills, and I have a live person editing/correcting the final product.

4. We don't have to spend extra time on site preparing a report.

5. Our typists are stay at home Mom's making some extra dough.

6. We don't do a "Positive Attributes" section or include other unnecessary crap that seems common in many software generated reports.

I don't know if this will help, but you asked.

Good luck Jeff.

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Kibbel's comments are pretty righteous; simply writing a report is better than any of the packaged systems. I've yet to see a packaged system worth a dime, EXCEPT Cramerware, for reasons to numerous to get into right now.

That said, my bread & butter "home inspection" software allows me to provide a customized report format for basic homes; conservatively speaking, I've spent, oh, maybe 2500 hours putting it together over the last 13 years. That's why I said the package systems are a "bargain". Package systems suck for my purposes, but for the average HI, they can provide a decent option.

This should be really interesting. I'm always interested when folks w/no background in home inspection start talking authoritively about the profession, the software, & how they're going to be the bustout option of the future. More power to you; when you get it complete, I'll be glad to purchase a copy to see what you've got that no one else has figured out yet.

I'll answer your questions; hope it helps.

1) If you use software reporting, what do you like?

My comment library that allows me to search for specific boilerplate; I customize comments to fit certain broad descriptive categories. My software also includes a couple modules for follow up letters, marketing, & data tracking. I've also got a billing & receivables module, & a scheduling component.

2) What don't you like?

I'm happy w/what I've got right now; don't really dislike anything.

3) What's missing? What would you like to see?

Well written boilerplate that uses industry standard language. To date, all the boilerplate in all of the packages sucks so bad it's painful to think about.

4) What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages?

Advantages- allows me to generate a report on site.

Disadvantages- allows me to generate a report on site.

5) If you don't use software reporting, what has kept you from doing so?

NA/I've been developing my own system for the last 13 years.

Good Luck!

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Jeff said:

"Home Inspectors are getting fleeced for this stuff at any price they pay."

I guess I take some offence to this comment. Software pricing is based on a number of factors like, the size of the market as well as the competition in the market. Comparing Adobe Creative Suite, Logic Pro, Final Cut, Photoshop, Mechanical 6, AutoCad, Alpine, even MS Office is like comparing apples to oranges. The size of the market is completely different. There are at my exaggerated estimate at most 30,000 home inspectors in North America (someone correct me if I'm wrong) some of them only work part time, some of them don't use software at all and some don’t even know how to use a computer. There are about 60 companies selling software or checklists. The software takes years to develop, build the libraries as well as money to advertise and support the product. You sell it once.

Jeff said:

"I see a huge opportunity here"

I think I remember saying that at one time. By the time you get out of the gate 5 more new companies will have started selling home inspection software and the 5 or 6 serious software companies will have new versions of their software out. When you have been there for 3 years they will have already been there for 10 to 15 years.

Now Jeff, my records indicate you didn't download and review our software demo anyway.

Give it a try, CUSTOMIZE it and then tell us why it wouldn't work for you and why it's not worth the money? Currently $595.00 US

Kurt said:

"I've yet to see a packaged system worth a dime, EXCEPT Cramerware"

Kurt your demo download of Inspect Express was almost 4 years ago also... hint! Not that you would switch, but your comments might be more up to date.

Sample Report

http://www.inspectexpress.com/samples/NACHISample1.pdf

Web Site

http://www.inspectexpress.com

Always looking for feedback!

Michael Brown

DevWave Software Inc.

http://www.devwave.com

Support: 1 250 743 1940

Sales: 1 888 739 4033

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Fair enough; you're right, I haven't tried it for several years. I apologize for any slight, perceived or otherwise; it was not my intent. As you know, I tend to roll on w/the verbiage, and am prone to dramatic proclamations.

I know a few folks that use your product & find it superb; those folks are cream of the crop operators, which tells the story better than I can.

You stated better than me what I was thinking when I read the initial post on the ripoff HI software vendors & comparing it to products that have 10's of millions of users; I nearly spit my coffee on the monitor when I read it. This market is so puny, it's laughable; someone imagining there's a "huge opportunity here" get's me giggling pretty good. I remember thinking the same thing about 12 years ago.

It's reassuring to know that there's a never ending supply of beginners who've figured it all out though. [:-idea]

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I've tried to reply 4 times now only to get "page cannot be loaded", so this will be far more concise. Maybe I'll learn to c/p from Word in the future.

Kurt, I'll be happy to send you a copy for free if I ever get that far. And you'll all be happy to know if this business model/plan is ridiculously out of reach with what I want to do, what I do end up with I'll make it shareware.

First, I agree, that was an unfair comparison of software and was not my intention to offend anyone, so I will edit that out of respect. First lesson learned. Don't belittle anyone or product even unintentionally. Not good karma or attitude and frankly, I'm ashamed of myself for having sounded that way. Perhaps I'll learn my lesson better after I work up my business model/plan and decide to charge $3200 for my product. (see previous comment)

Secondly, yes, I may very well be starting a hole too deep to crawl out of, become jaded and quietly go away, or; you all can enjoy watching as my enthusiasm and optimism slowly disintegrate away over time, which as we all know, on the internet, is far more entertaining than the former. At the very least, let's hope you guys get your "I told you so" chance and I become a better HI for it.

Third, I'm not alone in this project, so as I'm a "newb", that's not the complete story.

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Well, that's refreshing. Humility is a trait lacking in way too many folks entering this business. Sounds like you got your head in the right place.

Mike & Mike; I feel bad for being a dickhead yesterday. I reread my post, & am ashamed; you guys are putting this great resource out here for all of us, & I get into a rant & diss the good guys unintentionally. Please accept my apologies for shooting my mouth off; it was poor behavior on my part.

I'm downloading Inspect Express for another look right now.....

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Sorry guys I don't say much up here, as you know...

There is some junk out there. I was just having a little problem ignoring the size of your paintbrush. I really think your comments rolled off the cuff anyway, must of hit a nerve or something. Our software isn't perfect and neither are our competitors but most of us work very hard on it. I know a few of my competitors and like them and think they offer a good product for the money also.

Kurt you probably won't like all of our boiler plate comments but you can change them along with just about everything else...

Jeff:

I will also point out that the price of the software is nothing compared to the hours that an inspector puts into customizing it and making it their own. Once an inspector has committed to a software product they usually stay there. Unless your software is an absolutely huge improvement from what they are using they will not switch. You are left looking for the few new inspectors getting into business and competing with all the other companies for those few sales. It will take much more than a better mousetrap to make a business of it! I’m not trying to hold you back just offering some reality before you have committed countless hours to a project and can’t turn back!

No apologies needed... gave me a reason to do some advertising!

Always looking for feedback!

Michael Brown

DevWave Software Inc.

http://www.devwave.com

Support: 1 250 743 1940

Sales: 1 888 739 4033

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Mike,

I apologize anyway. After re-reading the posts they do not reflect my personality and attitude in any way. They come off judgemental and overly critical, and at the very least, as a new business owner, that can be a self-fullfilling prophecy you don't want. I think my excitement got the best of me.

But in the end, if it turns out this is something unreachable for me, far past my range of manageable knowledge, maybe I'll run it by you. See what you guys think.

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I like this place; folks got it together.

So, I downloaded the software, & yes, it's nice. Damn nice.

You're (Mike B.) commentary about how the real investment is in the customization is the truest thing in this thread; the time it takes makes the initial investment literally meaningless. This product looks like it is easily worth the time it would take to customize it to someone't requirements.

I'm still playing w/it; it's good.

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OK. Looks like you guys might get your "I told you so" ass kicking party early. Just got back from meeting with a member of the OFEE(Organization for Entrepreneur Enterprise), Seems like I've actually got two products on my hands, and in reality, two different markets. Not that it's a problem, but I hadn't considered what I was giving away. I know, ambiguous, and it doesn't make a lot of sense. Just an update.

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Well,

I'm using Inspectvue by Portervalley. What makes me cringe every time is when there is an update to the program...... Yes, It's adding features that I may need, but at the same time something goes wrong with other areas of the program. Incidentally, It goes wrong when I'm with the Client and at the Inspection site.

I make my best attempt to update it at lulls in business, but If I wait too long, I have to order the disc (free of charge) and re-initiate the program.....not to mention the synchronization for my PDA.

Having said that, if you intend to jump into the stiff competition of Inspection Software, you may want to design it for different regions of the country. Inspectvue appears to be geared for California/Western Region and I have had to chage a lot of my narratives to reflect the Chicagoland Burbs.

Furthermore, I would suggest your updates to fine tune the program overall, as well as add new features, so that people like myself can stay focused on explaining (to the client) the content of the report as opposed to the missing content of the report. [^] Best of luck!!![:-graduat

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Curious,

I've got an InspectVue sample disk around here but I've never got around to playing with it. Is it word or data base driven? I use Inspect Express and I've never had that problem on-site or off. The biggest problems I seem to have are always caused by something stupid that I did and had nothing to do with the program.

I used to think that it would be neat to be able to do the program from one of these little PDA's, but I used a Casio FIVA for a year (6.4" diagonal screen) and it was too small for me to read. When I sold the FIVA, I went to a touch-screen based computer and the world was right again, 'cuz I didn't have to fuss with struggling to read that tiny screen. Now they've got pen tablets and I'm chaffing at the bit to get one of those 'cuz IE is tailored to work with a touch-screen. I gotta go slow though. If the Korean connections sees me sell a perfectly good laptop and buy another one she'll dissect me while I'm sleeping.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Mike,

It's kind of both. It has a extensive narrative database, However it will let me change wording or multiple strands of text. I had to get use to it at first, but after changing the Librarys in the Program itself, I was able to streamline it to the typical houses here as well as the gepgraphical region. The Creator (Lorne) has always been helpful in supporting the product and If I can't get a hold of him right away, he E-mails me back within 24 hours with a solution.....furthermore, Not sure if InspectExpress hosts the reports on a server, but Lorne does for 30 days on an encrypted server, which allows my absent clients, or anyone with the client name and password to view the reports from anywhere on the planet. Big selling point of my services. People love the slogan "Your report will be on-line by nine" I would love to go to your hardware.......Touch Screen Tablet.....talk about the cats Meow.....I'm in denial (I probably need glasses soon) and a larger screen than the Dell Axiom I'm using now would be welcomed.

Denial, It's not just for the young anymore.......

Brad

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  • 2 months later...

After coming back from Inspection World in Ft. Lauderdale I have come to realize that there are more than enough inspection software companies out there to confuse and overwhelm us. It seems as though each week another one pops up and offers something another does not, each looking for their own niche.

I welcome this if it will promote competition which will "up the ante" for each existing company to constantly try to improve their existing software. Something that we will all benefit from. As long as each company keeps the format so that if complies with the SOPs then more power to them.

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Think about it,

There are maybe,....maybe, 30,000 inspectors in the US and Canada - most of whom have already selected a program and grown comfortable with it. Being mostly old farts (like me) they don't want to try and learn anything new and will probably never buy another program unless it is infinitely easier and quicker to use and does everything that they perceive their present program does for them and a whole lot more with no effort. Hell, I get upset every time the software maker does an upgrade and I have to learn how new features of the program act. Better or not, one gets comfortable and resists change. In fact, I'll probably never try another manufacturer's product unless it doesn't require me to type, talk, draw or use longhand and I can complete the report using thought processes only. Yeah, like that's gonna happen.

So, of that possible 30,000, who is left for the software companies to sell to? Mostly only the inspectors brand new to the market, and then only those who haven't already been convinced by some old hand to use a particular kind of already-established software because the old hand likes it best.

So, what's that? Guess at maybe,...maybe 10% of the field or 3,000 inspectors with a choice of at least a dozen software programs out there? I'm no accountant, that's for sure, but it doesn't look like there's a whole lot of money in it for anyone just gearing up because the established brands will have a huge lead.

So, how are you at developing thought-reading software?

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Hausdok,

Yeah, what you said.

I'm starting to think my best bet might to be drawing up a proposal and seeing what some of the larger companies think about them.

I'm still convinced I have a number of viable ideas for this.It's just realizing them.

I don't want to say I'm discouraged, though I am, but that is rarely helpful. I just need to go a different direction. Hopefully.

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I don't think anyone is trying to discourage you, we are looking at the reality of the situation and the fact that we are less likely to change software once we are established so you do have to market towards the newby or those who are shopping when it is time to upgrade versions of their existing software.

They have been building better mousetraps since the first day they were invented and more companies make them each year. It is was drives the marketplace.

I think you will start to see a decline in the number of inspectors as the real estate market cools off anyway. Good luck in your endeavor.

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Hmmmm, crawl space monkey cams. I can probably get a couple loner monkeys from the Columbus zoo, though I've been told, "never work with monkeys or babies".

Jeff Remas, I'm really not taking it as discouragement from you guys. I'm just realizing the hard truth as well.

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