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I'm curious, how many people are producing reports without special software aids (e.g. using Word, LibreOffice, etc.). If you are, how big is it, and what have you done to reduce the time to write it? My http://www.robertmiller.ca/media/139 format has been constantly evolving, but looks similar to this sample. They often take many hours to write... which is expensive on me, but clients are thrilled.

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I know a guy who still does handwritten reports. Says his clients love it.

Fact is, they'll love whatever snake oil you sell them.

It's junk. Run it through a spell checker and a grammar checker.

Looks very similar to the reports lots of the software produces, a lot quicker than "many hours".

Really, an appendix for each of the photos?

Spend some money on software. It'll do the same thing a lot quicker.

Do you want to be a computer programmer guy or a home inspector guy.

Time is money and I'd bet you're not even charging close to what you should be for the "many hours" writing one report.

But then, if you want to be a computer programmer guy...

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I'm curious, how many people are producing reports without special software aids (e.g. using Word, LibreOffice, etc.). If you are, how big is it, and what have you done to reduce the time to write it? My http://www.robertmiller.ca/media/139 format has been constantly evolving, but looks similar to this sample. They often take many hours to write... which is expensive on me, but clients are thrilled.

I do. But I'm amazed to see checklists in your sample. Checklists are the influence of report writing software.

Liberate your thinking. Drop the checklist, leave out the subsections on the TOC so that it fits on one page and make the contract/invoice separate documents and you'll have something similar to what I do.

I've got a review of scrivener on my 'to do' list, bought a book on my new MacBook to learn it's features, plan on adding an ipad and iphone, make use of cloud with all three devices, and plan on getting File Manager to keep track of all that I do - from the first phone call to the final report - with it's database.

I've a subscription to 'Word for Mac' for now, along with Adobe Acrobat Pro and a few other things. It's a lot of work to set all this up, but no single HI software will be able to touch it.

Marc

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Fact is, they'll love whatever snake oil you sell them.

Quite right.

I think Robert's design is lousy. Nearly incomprehensible. At 57 pages for a simple house, excruciating to read.

All one needs is a sentence or two for each item, a picture illustrating what the sentence is about, with items formatted into a simple list. Some things need more than a couple sentences; if so, write a few more sentences. Categorize each item as Major, Minor, FYI, or whatever. Do not have more than 4 or 5 categories.

Minimize boilerplate; it's often easier and much faster to type what one is trying to say.

Have a list of the stuff you didn't inspect, exclusions, restrictions to access, etc.

Include a list of the stuff SOP's require us to describe and stuff it in the back somewhere; few care about it....those that do can find it.

That's about it.

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I've got a review of scrivener on my 'to do' list, bought a book on my new MacBook to learn it's features....

Think long and hard about using Scrivener. It's an amazing program, but I can't imagine why I'd want to use it for HI reports.

plan on adding an ipad and iphone, make use of cloud with all three devices, and plan on getting File Manager to keep track of all that I do - from the first phone call to the final report - with it's database.

If you are going to make the database useful and not bulky, you will want it to be relational. Relational databases and clouds can get ridiculously confused. The cloud is always trying to synchronize the DB, the various files in the DB will be different sizes, and the cloud will not necessarily keep them all in the same sync with the speed you would like it to.

One discovers this when opening files; ID #'s are looking for information in other files that are probably not all at the same sync state. It can blow things up pretty quick. It will work, but it doesn't necessarily happen with the speed one imagines, and you can really demolish your system and reports with misaligned information.

Also, building around a device (or devices) sounds cool on the front end. Did it. A couple times. I won't do it again. Think systems and forms, not devices. But, go ahead if you have to. You'll understand what I mean in a few years, and by then you will have done what most, including me, did.....as you begin, so you must continue.

Think really, really hard about how you begin. Lots of smart DB folks thought through our issues years ago; it's all actually quite standardized. Thinking you're going to come up with something new......well, go for it. You'll understand in a few years.

I've a subscription to 'Word for Mac' for now, along with Adobe Acrobat Pro and a few other things. It's a lot of work to set all this up, but no single HI software will be able to touch it.

Marc

Sure they will. Some/most do it now. Where most mess up is lots of bells and whistles. HI's like sparkling twirly stuff, and bells and whistles sells systems. But, they're largely/completely unnecessary for informing clients simply and competently.

The hard part is making your system simple. It's real easy to make report systems big and complicated; simple is much harder.

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...At 57 pages for a simple house, excruciating to read.

Absolutely. My 12 page report from Friday's job had 15 photos and more info than Robert's sample. 12 pages includes the cover, intro, TOC, and Recommendation Summary, each on 1 page, leaving 8 pages worth of findings (2,983 words) and photos. Double columns.

Marc

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If I didn't have 10 pages describing all the stuff SOP's tell us we have to include, mine would be about 10 pages and most of that is white space. DB print protocols usually don't ever cut a field across a page break, so sometimes my reports only have one comment and pictures on a single page, similar to Homegauge.

One of the largest problems nowadays is report systems are operating on outdated concepts. Like it or not, we live in a 140 character world and folks read in chunks, not long narratives. Factor in most folks having no idea what we do or are talking about, and long form goes over most folks heads. I only use long form for commercial or historic gigs.

Young people, meaning most of my customer base, read in chunks. I give them chunks and pictures describing the chunks.

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In the "olden days" (most inspectors were cave men) we had a 4 page form to make field notes and check off where a pre-printed paragraph would work. When we finished the day we dictated onto tape and in the morning the girls typed the reports which were emailed to the client who loved the 24 hour turnaround. I was starting to play with dragon and other voice recognition systems using dictated taped copy being played to the computer. I gave up, because of the poor quality of the software at that time, but I had some small successes. That was in the early years of the new century. I think with the advances in voice recognition someone might be able to put together a system that would/could/might work. Dictate on site, play it into the voice rec program then edit the output. Even though I have been retired for 9 years I still think about ways to try to make it better for the client and easier for the inspector because poor quality reports seem to be everywhere.

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Already built one in FM Pro. Originally, one had to be online. Now, it's built into the OS.

FM Pro container fields hold pics, video, audio, pdf's, or just about anything. I had audio comments (and video & pics) categorized and filed in the DB under each clients ID#. Cool, but unnecessary and already behind times.

Built into current OSX is damn fine VR ability; I voice dictate some stuff...... I'm using it right now to "type" this comment. Double click the Function key, dictate, hit Function again (one time to end dictation), it "prints".

Dictating on site is weird.....walking around talking into machinery isn't as easy as taking pictures and typing a few words when I'm in the office reviewing pictures.

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I use a picture with circles arrows and labels. Then a written sentence or 2, "The gate swings left-handed and most people prefer right. Have a handyman repair it for safety."

Some of those sentences are cut and paste from my library, just a Word doc.

I was shown a competitor's report yesterday. He has 25 yrs in the biz and uses the voice technology I'm sure. His report 10 pages of text with one pic on each page. I could not stand there and read 10 pages of text, so I skimmed the text and looked at the pictures, 3 showing a defect and the others not clear what. I missed a few important items buried in text.

Maybe that's a good way to get realo referrals, bury the defects in with descriptions. [:)]

One sentence with a picture, "this post is rotten". Read that any way you want. [:)]

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There's more truth in Kogel's post than I've read in most report system reviews. Too much text, not enough white space, folks just skim through it. Simplicity is not easy.

If one wants to be humbled, try dictating an entire report. It's surprisingly hard. Dictation is a skill not easy to master. Composition, tone, voice, avoiding redundancy, clarity, simplicity.....all remarkably hard to do while dictating. Much easier for me to write it and see it.

"I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say."..........Flan O'Connor

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If one wants to be humbled, try dictating an entire report. It's surprisingly hard. Dictation is a skill not easy to master. Composition, tone, voice, avoiding redundancy, clarity, simplicity.....all remarkably hard to do while dictating. Much easier for me to write it and see it.

I've dictated every report for 29 years. It's much, much easier for me than typing. Dyslexia & ADD makes for developing strong verbal communication skills to compensate for deficient writing ability. I can't imagine doing it any other way for historic and commercial reports.

Dictating on site is weird.....walking around talking into machinery isn't as easy as taking pictures and typing a few words when I'm in the office reviewing pictures.

I don't use a recorder on site. I sit at my desk with notes and pics, speak into a digital recorder and email it to a typist.

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  • 2 years later...

Years ago,

Helped Mike and Rose improve their report format. Then took one of my reports, where I liked the format, and I just saved it in MS Word. Then I overwrote it again, and again, and again, changing the descriptions where necessary, names and dates and places, and word-searching and then grabbing an old comment about whatever issue from an old report and editing it as needed to make it fit the current report. I guess I've been doing that for the past 12 or 13 years.

I write all full narrative. Some of you will note that I've never posted reports here. Reason is simple, I know they'll generate a lot of blather that I just don't care to hear, cuz they are long and boring; and, someone above was right - it is a 144 character world now, 'cuz most Americans - particularly millennials - tell me they want me to boil it down to a couple of sentences per issue. I tell them if they want to boil it down to a couple of sentences, wait until they get the report and then have at it, 'cuz I write the way I write and I don't see a need to apologize for it.

I hear what everyone is saying about the 144 characters, etc., but most of my clients are Chinese, Indian or Russian university graduates; who've got more initials after their names than it takes to spell my name. I must be doing something right, 'cuz, oddly enough, they seem to love my reports just the way they are. Lately, I've been seeing a lot of customers from years ago. They are buying again and moving into more expensive neighborhoods. Lots of them tell me they still use the old report(s) all the time as guidance for how to care for their homes and the detail in the report was why they came back. A couple told me that in intervening years they'd tried a different inspector on their next house, had not liked the inspection or the reports, and when they'd got around to buying again had called me because they wanted to get that same kind of report again.

I'm not averse to trying something new, I just say that if it ain't broke I'm not going to try and fix it. From '96 to '01 I used a different format. Some liked it, some didn't but I eventually achieved a following and things got solid. Then I sold my franchise, dumped the franchise's report format and went to a full-narrative format like I'd used when I'd written investigative reports in the military. Business died off for quite a while until my new way of writing reports caught on with certain demographics. After that, Native American clients went from being the majority of my clients to the minority; and the number of Chinese, Indian and Russian clients, who incidentally in this area tend to buy bigger and more expensive homes (= higher fees), went through the roof.

A couple of weeks ago, one of them needed the report done within hours. Told him, "You know me. I've got two speeds - slow and careful - ain't no way I can get it to you by then. I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll throw together something super brief with the issues as simple bullets along with the photos, and email it to you in a couple of hours. You know what the issues are, so you'll understand what the comments are about. You and your agent can use that to respond to the seller. Meanwhile, the report will be in the queue and I'll get to it when it's turn comes up and you'll get it in a couple of days. OK?"

I got him the bulleted version with the photos. It was easy to throw together; but sending that over felt like I was somehow shortchanging the client. The bulleted version worked and he was able to negotiate what he wanted to negotiate, but he wasn't really happy with it. He still ended up pestering me for the full monte before it was completed, explaining to me that my report was the icing on the inspection cake as far as he was concerned. I guess, to him, in his native country, that's the kind of report he expects and appreciates.

I think what this proves is that, though most new customers come to us without the faintest idea of what kind of an inspection or report they're going to get, or what they should get, they all have their own ideas of what they want in terms of an inspection and the resulting report. There are lots of different types of clients. Some want short and simple, some want check boxes and icons, some want big photos with captions, some want anal retentive and long. There is no one-size-fits all answer for the entire profession across this continent. Play to your own strengths and you'll eventually find your niche - then just keep on repeating what works for you. In other words, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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