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3 inspection photos you should take to manage your risk

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Hi TJI Readers! 

Stephanie here with InspectorPro Insurance. We've been putting out a bunch of educational material for home inspectors, and we'd love to share it with you. You don't have to be insured with us (or insured at all) to benefit from most of the articles, which focus on risk management and business growth.

Read our latest article by clicking here, or start with the excerpt below. The article discusses the power of inspection photos and suggests a few often overlooked shots you can be taking to protect your business. We even share several examples of actual claims to show how inspection photos can help stifle allegations.

I'll make a point to post excerpts and links to the articles more in the future. 

Enjoy! 

Stephanie Jaynes
Content Marketing Manager
InspectorPro Insurance

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3 inspection photos you should take to manage your risk

In North Carolina, a home inspector performed an inspection on a property that had been vacant for about 18 months. During the home inspection, the inspector ran the water in the various fixtures, including the shower directly above the kitchen. The inspector photographed the kitchen, including the ceiling, which, at the time, showed no signs of any deficiencies.

Upon moving in, the clients found a large water stain above the kitchen sink and below the master bath?s shower. The fact that the stain was dry created some suspicion as to how long the stain had been present. The claimants alleged that the stain must have been there all along.

However, the inspection photos showed the exact area now exhibiting a water stain. The photos revealed that there was no staining at the time of the inspection. It was possible that the shower test caused the water damage. However, the inspector could not be responsible for the damage caused during the course of normal inspection operations.

In case you haven?t heard it enough, here?s the old adage again: A picture is worth 1,000 words. In an industry like home inspections, photos can do wonders. They can help inspection clients understand your findings and put them into context. They can bring reports filled with descriptions laced with technical jargon to life.

....

In this article, we go over a few of the essential but often overlooked inspection photos you should take at your inspections. While not technically exhaustive, this list serves as a reminder of what a powerful risk management tool inspection photos can be. After all, one of these inspection photos could help you stifle a claim.

[READ MORE]

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Once again I fell for the click-bait - its not 3 photos we should take, its 1300 (or is that 130,000?).

I've got to say that taking a picture of everything that is is not wrong (non-defect areas) would be considerably more time consuming than simply just doing a good inspection. Do I have to shoot a picture of all sides of every appliance, every wall, every ceiling, every window (inside and out) every door, hinge, handle? Do I need to back that up with an IR picture, and a picture with a moisture meter beneath every upstairs fixture, or the location of every possible drain pipe connection? Do I have to shoot videos of the toilets, taps and fans to document that they were working properly at time of the inspection, and shut off when I left? Maybe I should measure the layout of walls and posts in case something changes? This all gets pretty ridiculous if we let it.

I am not inspecting to document every single thing that is right or wrong within the home. I am helping my clients to better understand the size of the job that they are buying; I am helping them better understand the risks of purchasing that particular home.

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I take about 200 pictures per inspection. At a recent 4800 ft.² home I took close to 500 pictures.  I take at least one picture of every room and exterior wide shots of every angle of the house or building .  The pictures are my notes which I go over one by one when I do the report.  I use hand signals if the photo actually means something but is not obvious, and then of course, wide shots and close-ups of problems. It takes no time at all to shoot pictures from the hip while I'm walking or standing still. This is just how I am comfortable doing it.  99% of the pictures mean nothing. Occasionally, I will see something in a photo that I did not pick up live.

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I'm not with the school that says to take a zillion photos.  I take a lot but much less than Mike L. 15 years and I've never had a problem.  I don't want to start now with even more photos and forever give everyone a chance to find something, however small, to nail me down unless I pay exorbitant sums. JMHO

This vendor shoulda been moderated.  I come here seeking to get away from them.

Edited by Marc

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This is why I take inspection advice from lawyers and insurers judiciously. The advice usually begins with a germ of a useful idea, but is then extrapolated to the absurd. 

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I rarely recommend further review, unless drywall needs to be removed or some such.  I describe concisely what's wrong, why it's wrong, and what should be done about it.  With that approach, I usually get by with less than 10 pictures per report, and often just two or three.  Very often they're roof pictures where I can't show my client the defect.

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Same as Mike Lamb except I average around 400-550 per inspection, hand signs and all. I never take written notes. Photos are my notes also. I tend to go overboard on photos but it costs me nothing and has saved my bacon more than once. I don't have photos of everything but I do take a quick walk through and snap the basic interior and exterior, lots of photos in attics, roofs, etc. I too find some things I did not notice on site. All photos are saved with the report even though the client does not see them.

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Exactly my reason for pics is to see what I might not have noticed live.  Often I am talking to client as I move and click, so there is a lot to be missed at the moment, but still if I manage 100 I have made a good record.

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Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

Fair point, @ejager, that it's not so much 3 photos as it is 3 types of photos or even methodologies. However, other than that, I think we're more on the same page than you realize. We also don't advocate further skewing client expectations by going far beyond the scope of an inspection with things like pictures of all sides of pristine appliances and unnecessary measurements of the property. Instead, we encourage home inspectors to take photos as they go that create a solid record of what the property looked like on the day of the inspection. Doing so helps them to explain and defend their inspection findings. (See @Mike Lamb, @inspector57, and @Jim Baird's replies as they are good examples of the principle we described in action.)

At the end of the day, risk management is all about what you can do to protect your business. Inspection photos are one of the many avenues inspectors can and should take to mitigate risk. It's up to each individual inspector's best judgment to decide what is and isn't relevant when they're taking photos and putting them in the report. However, in our decade's worth of claims experience, we've found that home inspectors do best when they take more photos rather than less and when they have at least a few "big picture" photos and/or photos that show what they observe.

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21 hours ago, InspectorPro Insurance said:

Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

Fair point, @ejager, that it's not so much 3 photos as it is 3 types of photos or even methodologies. However, other than that, I think we're more on the same page than you realize. We also don't advocate further skewing client expectations by going far beyond the scope of an inspection with things like pictures of all sides of pristine appliances and unnecessary measurements of the property. Instead, we encourage home inspectors to take photos as they go that create a solid record of what the property looked like on the day of the inspection. Doing so helps them to explain and defend their inspection findings. (See @Mike Lamb, @inspector57, and @Jim Baird's replies as they are good examples of the principle we described in action.)

At the end of the day, risk management is all about what you can do to protect your business. Inspection photos are one of the many avenues inspectors can and should take to mitigate risk. It's up to each individual inspector's best judgment to decide what is and isn't relevant when they're taking photos and putting them in the report. However, in our decade's worth of claims experience, we've found that home inspectors do best when they take more photos rather than less and when they have at least a few "big picture" photos and/or photos that show what they observe.

Taking photos is like choosing words.  Adding many more doesn't fix the few well chosen ones that you missed.  You may have much experience in claims but you're at the tail end trying to fix something.  We're at the beginning trying to create that something.

Edited by Marc
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I take 400 or so pictures at each inspection too.  Sometimes I like to take several different angles of a particular problem so that it can be better explained.  Many of them make the report, but nowhere near all.  I use the hand signals and establishing photo as my notes as well.  It costs nothing extra and takes very little time.  I'd rather have too many pictures instead of too few.

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Yes, good article and good responses. When I was actively inspecting, I took 80 to 180 pics per house. They are filed by date, simple.

A few times, I had to pull up pics to back up my report. Replaying the shots in sequence is like reliving the inspection, and it refreshes the memory. I had a guy try, and fail, to lay a claim 2 full years after the inspection.  He saw 50 pics in the report, but I had saved 160, showing walls and ceilings in all the rooms, water flowing out of faucets, etc.

One thing I recommend is a notepad or just a scrap of paper and a short pencil stub in a pocket. Write down the significant deficiencies as you find them. Sometimes when writing the report, the picture you took earlier can get lost in the shuffle. A glance at the note while writing takes a couple of seconds, a quick check of the report before sending.

 

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