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Hi TIJ Readers!

One of the most common topics we're asked to address in our articles, presentations, and one-on-one conversations is report writing. How can home inspectors do it well? To answer this question, we went to several experience home inspectors and asked them for their tips. See what they recommend in the article, excerpted below.

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Stephanie
 



Inspection Report Writing: 8 Best Practices

For inspection clients and home inspectors alike, inspection reports are worth their weight in gold. Many inspection clients?often home buyers?rely on the findings inspectors detail in their reports to make important purchasing decisions.

"[The inspection report is] basically a giant list of everything that is wrong with your (potential) home," explained Kristin Wong in her article "How to Read (and React to!) a Home Inspection Report" for the Architectural Digest. "And while not every issue is a big deal, some are significant enough to have you rethinking your offer, or at least renegotiating with the seller."

Likewise, the home inspectors themselves find value in the reports they generate. For many inspectors, well-written inspection reports symbolize a level of maturity and expertise in the industry. Furthermore, many state licensing boards, associations, and franchises review inspector-members' reports annually as a way of measuring the quality of the inspectors' work.

"There's almost nothing more important to your reputation and success as a professional home inspector than the quality of the report your client receives after you've finished inspecting a home," argues Inspection Certification Associates (ICA).

As important as inspection reports are to the industry, there's a wide array of opinions regarding exactly how to write a good report. Sometimes, it feels as though there are just as many ways to generate a report as there are home inspectors.

As a home inspection insurance provider, we're interested in what techniques home inspectors can employ to create quality reports. So, we interviewed several seasoned inspectors to learn what strategies they suggest other inspectors use to achieve report writing success. We've compiled their tips into eight inspection report writing best practices below.

1. Don't rush it.

Of the home inspectors we interviewed, all of them have completed reports onsite, but none of them still do. Our interviewees argue that finishing reports offsite makes for better final products.

"I wouldn't put my John Hancock on any report that was completed and generated onsite," said Mark S. Lodner of LBI Home & Building Inspection in Virginia. "It's just asking for trouble."

What exactly did our interviewees find concerning about onsite reports?

Mistakes.
After reviewing some of their own onsite inspection reports, our inspectors realized that writing reports in one go made it more likely that they make mistakes?often, minimal misspellings, but sometimes, complete oversights. Thus, our home inspectors believe it's important to take the time to review reports with fresh eyes before sending them to clients. For many of them, taking a few hours or an evening to complete a report still allows them to deliver reports in a timely manner, thus respecting their clients' time and deadlines.

"[By writing reports offsite,] I don't have anybody looking over while I'm typing, rushing me, which can result in sloppy sentence structure, making mistakes, and leaving things out," said Miki Mertz of Complete Home Inspection in Kansas.

Randy Sipe of Family Home Inspection Services in Kansas and the Board for the National Home Inspector Examination (NHIE) agrees⁠?not just from his own report writing experience, but from reviewing other inspectors' reports. Additionally, Sipe finds that he's better able to contextualize defects when he reviews all the inspection photos later on. It also helps him determine the seriousness of the issues when considered as one piece of a larger puzzle.

Mike Burroughs of QED Service in Louisiana, too, has discovered ways to improve his reports post-inspection. In fact, reviewing his reports offsite has helped Burroughs catch significant property defects he would have otherwise missed.

"There have been a number of times [when] I've come home, blew up photos, [and] started looking to make sure I put all the right markings on them, indicating what the problems were. And lo and behold, I've found another issue that I didn't notice while I was onsite," Burroughs said.

Appearances.
In addition to defending the inspection information's integrity, completing reports offsite can also help with inspectors' appearances. As a former member of the Louisiana State Board of Home Inspectors, Burroughs has heard clients complain about home inspectors who spend their inspections buried in their phones and tablets. According to Burroughs, these clients wonder if their inspectors are paying more attention to their devices than the inspections themselves.

"As an inspector, you have to remember what the public sees you do and what their opinion of what you do is," Burroughs said.


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Very interesting that Michael Burrough's input was chosen for the article.  His is one of the worst report styles I've ever seen, despite his long experience. The man simply cannot write.  I've used his sample report several times at Home Ownership Training sessions (for first time home buyers) to get across how bad some reports can get.

Burroughs.pdf

Edited by Marc
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This is not one of your better pieces.  I read it as a Mertz and Sipe discussion.  You posited your points and then supported them via quote.

I know both and have great respect for them and their opinion(s).  

 

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"Exterior / Roof Survey Findings: The roof, roof drainage systems, jacks, flashings, skylights, chimneys, other roof penetrations were observed within the limits of accessibility. The method of observation, which is suggestive of the extent to which the roof and related components were observed, is set forth in the components section. Wall cladding, flashing, trim, eaves and rake fascias (barge rafters), doors, windows, and garage doors were observed if present. If bedroom windows have security bars, they may be required to have release mechanisms. The release mechanisms are not tested by the inspection company. It is strongly recommended that you have the owner or agent demonstrate the release mechanism on each window. Significant visible deficiencies or potential concerns, if any, are reported below. Any visible deficiencies in abutting or attached decks may be reported in the STRUCTURE section rather than here. Visible signs of leaks or abnormal condensation (if any) on surfaces are reported in this, and/or other pertinent, sections. Exterior systems or components are indicated by type or described in the components section. [R] [M] [N] 1000: Roof repairs / general maintenance needed. Roof deck appeared to have sagging areas [P] [F] 1120.02: Cut back tree limbs to break contact with roof. See series 1120.02 photo(s) [P] [N] 1120.02: Cut back tree limbs to break contact with roof. See series 1120.02 photo(s) [R] [P] [N] 1230.04: Metal flashing faulty or otherwise amiss. Flashing not flat on roof - could allow wind to damage materials. See series 1230.04 photo(s) [D] [N] [P] [F] 1280.13: Downspout part(s) appear to be missing. See series 1280.13 photo(s) [A] [N] 1320.02: Siding buckled. Soffit on rear of home appears to have and area that is either sagging or a change in pitch. [A] 1320.03: Siding warped. Noted at the rear of the building. See series 1320.03 photo(s) [A] [F] 1530.03: Window faulty or otherwise amiss. Noted at the front entry door. Photo: 1120.02 (1) Photo: 1120.02 (2) Photo: 1230.04"

little excerpt from Mike's report.  I have a little confusion on what the letter and numbers are and why.

Edited by Les
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24 minutes ago, Les said:

"Exterior / Roof Survey Findings: The roof, roof drainage systems, jacks, flashings, skylights, chimneys, other roof penetrations were observed within the limits of accessibility. The method of observation, which is suggestive of the extent to which the roof and related components were observed, is set forth in the components section. Wall cladding, flashing, trim, eaves and rake fascias (barge rafters), doors, windows, and garage doors were observed if present. If bedroom windows have security bars, they may be required to have release mechanisms. The release mechanisms are not tested by the inspection company. It is strongly recommended that you have the owner or agent demonstrate the release mechanism on each window. Significant visible deficiencies or potential concerns, if any, are reported below. Any visible deficiencies in abutting or attached decks may be reported in the STRUCTURE section rather than here. Visible signs of leaks or abnormal condensation (if any) on surfaces are reported in this, and/or other pertinent, sections. Exterior systems or components are indicated by type or described in the components section. [R] [M] [N] 1000: Roof repairs / general maintenance needed. Roof deck appeared to have sagging areas [P] [F] 1120.02: Cut back tree limbs to break contact with roof. See series 1120.02 photo(s) [P] [N] 1120.02: Cut back tree limbs to break contact with roof. See series 1120.02 photo(s) [R] [P] [N] 1230.04: Metal flashing faulty or otherwise amiss. Flashing not flat on roof - could allow wind to damage materials. See series 1230.04 photo(s) [D] [N] [P] [F] 1280.13: Downspout part(s) appear to be missing. See series 1280.13 photo(s) [A] [N] 1320.02: Siding buckled. Soffit on rear of home appears to have and area that is either sagging or a change in pitch. [A] 1320.03: Siding warped. Noted at the rear of the building. See series 1320.03 photo(s) [A] [F] 1530.03: Window faulty or otherwise amiss. Noted at the front entry door. Photo: 1120.02 (1) Photo: 1120.02 (2) Photo: 1230.04"

little excerpt from Mike's report.  I have a little confusion on what the letter and numbers are and why.

Wow.

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30 minutes ago, Les said:

"Exterior / Roof Survey Findings: The roof, roof drainage systems, jacks, flashings, skylights, chimneys, other roof penetrations were observed within the limits of accessibility. The method of observation, which is suggestive of the extent to which the roof and related components were observed, is set forth in the components section. Wall cladding, flashing, trim, eaves and rake fascias (barge rafters), doors, windows, and garage doors were observed if present. If bedroom windows have security bars, they may be required to have release mechanisms. The release mechanisms are not tested by the inspection company. It is strongly recommended that you have the owner or agent demonstrate the release mechanism on each window. Significant visible deficiencies or potential concerns, if any, are reported below. Any visible deficiencies in abutting or attached decks may be reported in the STRUCTURE section rather than here. Visible signs of leaks or abnormal condensation (if any) on surfaces are reported in this, and/or other pertinent, sections. Exterior systems or components are indicated by type or described in the components section. [R] [M] [N] 1000: Roof repairs / general maintenance needed. Roof deck appeared to have sagging areas [P] [F] 1120.02: Cut back tree limbs to break contact with roof. See series 1120.02 photo(s) [P] [N] 1120.02: Cut back tree limbs to break contact with roof. See series 1120.02 photo(s) [R] [P] [N] 1230.04: Metal flashing faulty or otherwise amiss. Flashing not flat on roof - could allow wind to damage materials. See series 1230.04 photo(s) [D] [N] [P] [F] 1280.13: Downspout part(s) appear to be missing. See series 1280.13 photo(s) [A] [N] 1320.02: Siding buckled. Soffit on rear of home appears to have and area that is either sagging or a change in pitch. [A] 1320.03: Siding warped. Noted at the rear of the building. See series 1320.03 photo(s) [A] [F] 1530.03: Window faulty or otherwise amiss. Noted at the front entry door. Photo: 1120.02 (1) Photo: 1120.02 (2) Photo: 1230.04"

little excerpt from Mike's report.  I have a little confusion on what the letter and numbers are and why.

Then ask him at Inspection World.  He's teaching there. Pile foundations on Monday.

He's well regarded here, so he must be a savvy talker, though I wouldn't know it.

Edited by Marc
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1 hour ago, Les said:

This is not one of your better pieces.  I read it as a Mertz and Sipe discussion.  You posited your points and then supported them via quote.

I know both and have great respect for them and their opinion(s).  

 

I'll take that. The purpose of the article was primarily to posit the inspectors' points because I think they're the authority on this topic. Mertz and Sipe definitely had the most to say, so I'm not surprised it came off that way.

2 hours ago, Marc said:

Very interesting that Michael Burrough's input was chosen for the article.  His is one of the worst report styles I've ever seen, despite his long experience. The man simply cannot write.  I've used his sample report several times at Home Ownership Training sessions (for first time home buyers) to get across how bad some reports can get.

Burroughs.pdf 2.23 MB · 5 downloads

 

42 minutes ago, Marc said:

Then ask him at Inspection World.  He's teaching there. Pile foundations on Monday.

He's well regarded here, so he must be a savvy talker, though I wouldn't know it.

Interesting feedback. Everyone who ended up in the article, including Burroughs, was recommended to us as someone who had authority to speak on report writing, in part due to his position as a Louisiana State report reviewer. While I can't speak on the quality of his reports because I didn't read them prior to writing the article, I think all of the advice he gave during our interview was good.

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4 minutes ago, InspectorPro Insurance said:

I'll take that. The purpose of the article was primarily to posit the inspectors' points because I think they're the authority on this topic. Mertz and Sipe definitely had the most to say, so I'm not surprised it came off that way.

 

😀that makes sense.  They really are authorities and certainly have lots to say!

 

I have a little problem when an entire industry seems to think the tasks can only be accomplished in one way.  For instance, some of the best reports I have ever read have no photos!  However, most reports would benefit from photos that are more "meaningful" and better composed. 

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41 minutes ago, InspectorPro Insurance said:

Interesting feedback. Everyone who ended up in the article, including Burroughs, was recommended to us as someone who had authority to speak on report writing, in part due to his position as a Louisiana State report reviewer. While I can't speak on the quality of his reports because I didn't read them prior to writing the article, I think all of the advice he gave during our interview was good.

That's understandable.  You did what you could and I'm glad you did.  No article means no chance to learn.

Burroughs got that Reviewer position from the Board of Home Inspectors but several of these board members themselves are bastions of incompetence.  Incompetence pervades every corner of this profession.  The only respite is within those inspectors who are self taught.  They've walked into this profession carrying their own compass, their own standards and you can find them by what they write...here and in their reports.

Burrough's sample report would have alerted you to his true incompetence.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry for taking a while to respond to you. Had a crazy week and a half here at the office.

On 11/7/2019 at 8:28 AM, Les said:

😀that makes sense.  They really are authorities and certainly have lots to say!

 

I have a little problem when an entire industry seems to think the tasks can only be accomplished in one way.  For instance, some of the best reports I have ever read have no photos!  However, most reports would benefit from photos that are more "meaningful" and better composed. 

I think there's definitely something to say against the one-size-fits-all approach to report writing. However, one of the reasons we wrote the article is because we get asked about report writing so frequently. There seems to be a high level of interest among home inspectors in report writing techniques--particularly amongst newer inspectors. So, I think it's beneficial to have some resources out there to give home inspectors some starting points/techniques to consider implementing.

On 11/7/2019 at 9:00 AM, Marc said:

That's understandable.  You did what you could and I'm glad you did.  No article means no chance to learn.

Burroughs got that Reviewer position from the Board of Home Inspectors but several of these board members themselves are bastions of incompetence.  Incompetence pervades every corner of this profession.  The only respite is within those inspectors who are self taught.  They've walked into this profession carrying their own compass, their own standards and you can find them by what they write...here and in their reports.

Burrough's sample report would have alerted you to his true incompetence.

Agreed on the opportunity to learn! I appreciate the continual feedback so that we have the opportunity to refine our approach to researching and writing articles.

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I was a mechanic for a long time. Many of you have heard me say, "I'm still a better mechanic than I am anything else." Even though I fixed every single thing that came into my shop, I couldn't have fixed any of it without tools. Many inspectors simply do not have the proper tools in their box to enable them to produce quality reports. If you can't write, you can't write a great report.   

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There certainly is an intellectual side to this profession and it was not recognized for decades.  At one point there were just a handful of individuals that were home inspectors and they got inundated with people joining the profession  that had changed a light bulb or built a deck.  It was not that long ago and many remain in the business. 

As I understand and recall your path, you choose complete immersion and are blessed with great ambition.  You also brought an intellect and mindset that was not common at that time.   Now you are an educator and mentor - but it has been a journey!  

We both (all) know inspectors that are off the scale with intelligence, knowledge and skill.   They keep me humble and every beginning inspector should be so lucky to know one as a friend.

 

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4 hours ago, Les said:

There certainly is an intellectual side to this profession and it was not recognized for decades.  At one point there were just a handful of individuals that were home inspectors and they got inundated with people joining the profession  that had changed a light bulb or built a deck.  It was not that long ago and many remain in the business. 

As I understand and recall your path, you choose complete immersion and are blessed with great ambition.  You also brought an intellect and mindset that was not common at that time.   Now you are an educator and mentor - but it has been a journey!  

We both (all) know inspectors that are off the scale with intelligence, knowledge and skill.   They keep me humble and every beginning inspector should be so lucky to know one as a friend.

 

Very few are the intellectuals of our profession who have succeeded in retaining their humility. I can count the ones I know on the fingers of one hand...and I'm sure as hell not one of them, though I try.

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On 11/7/2019 at 9:04 AM, Les said:

"Exterior / Roof Survey Findings: The roof, roof drainage systems, jacks, flashings, skylights, chimneys, other roof penetrations were observed within the limits of accessibility. The method of observation, which is suggestive of the extent to which the roof and related components were observed, is set forth in the components section. Wall cladding, flashing, trim, eaves and rake fascias (barge rafters), doors, windows, and garage doors were observed if present. If bedroom windows have security bars, they may be required to have release mechanisms. The release mechanisms are not tested by the inspection company. It is strongly recommended that you have the owner or agent demonstrate the release mechanism on each window. Significant visible deficiencies or potential concerns, if any, are reported below. Any visible deficiencies in abutting or attached decks may be reported in the STRUCTURE section rather than here. Visible signs of leaks or abnormal condensation (if any) on surfaces are reported in this, and/or other pertinent, sections. Exterior systems or components are indicated by type or described in the components section. [R] [M] [N] 1000: Roof repairs / general maintenance needed. Roof deck appeared to have sagging areas [P] [F] 1120.02: Cut back tree limbs to break contact with roof. See series 1120.02 photo(s) [P] [N] 1120.02: Cut back tree limbs to break contact with roof. See series 1120.02 photo(s) [R] [P] [N] 1230.04: Metal flashing faulty or otherwise amiss. Flashing not flat on roof - could allow wind to damage materials. See series 1230.04 photo(s) [D] [N] [P] [F] 1280.13: Downspout part(s) appear to be missing. See series 1280.13 photo(s) [A] [N] 1320.02: Siding buckled. Soffit on rear of home appears to have and area that is either sagging or a change in pitch. [A] 1320.03: Siding warped. Noted at the rear of the building. See series 1320.03 photo(s) [A] [F] 1530.03: Window faulty or otherwise amiss. Noted at the front entry door. Photo: 1120.02 (1) Photo: 1120.02 (2) Photo: 1230.04"

little excerpt from Mike's report.  I have a little confusion on what the letter and numbers are and why.

No homebuyer would read this all the way through to the end but if they somehow managed to, they would not come away with a clear understanding of what to do next. #InspectionFail

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2 minutes ago, Jim Morrison said:

No homebuyer would read this all the way through to the end but if they somehow managed to, they would not come away with a clear understanding of what to do next. #InspectionFail

It doesn't matter whether the homebuyer will read it or not.  This inspector writes to the agent's delight.  The buyer is just there to write the check.

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  • 4 months later...
On 11/7/2019 at 7:04 AM, Les said:

"Exterior / Roof Survey Findings: The roof, roof drainage systems, jacks, flashings, skylights, chimneys, other roof penetrations were observed within the limits of accessibility. The method of observation, which is suggestive of the extent to which the roof and related components were observed, is set forth in the components section. Wall cladding, flashing, trim, eaves and rake fascias (barge rafters), doors, windows, and garage doors were observed if present. If bedroom windows have security bars, they may be required to have release mechanisms. The release mechanisms are not tested by the inspection company. It is strongly recommended that you have the owner or agent demonstrate the release mechanism on each window. Significant visible deficiencies or potential concerns, if any, are reported below. Any visible deficiencies in abutting or attached decks may be reported in the STRUCTURE section rather than here. Visible signs of leaks or abnormal condensation (if any) on surfaces are reported in this, and/or other pertinent, sections. Exterior systems or components are indicated by type or described in the components section. [R] [M] [N] 1000: Roof repairs / general maintenance needed. Roof deck appeared to have sagging areas [P] [F] 1120.02: Cut back tree limbs to break contact with roof. See series 1120.02 photo(s) [P] [N] 1120.02: Cut back tree limbs to break contact with roof. See series 1120.02 photo(s) [R] [P] [N] 1230.04: Metal flashing faulty or otherwise amiss. Flashing not flat on roof - could allow wind to damage materials. See series 1230.04 photo(s) [D] [N] [P] [F] 1280.13: Downspout part(s) appear to be missing. See series 1280.13 photo(s) [A] [N] 1320.02: Siding buckled. Soffit on rear of home appears to have and area that is either sagging or a change in pitch. [A] 1320.03: Siding warped. Noted at the rear of the building. See series 1320.03 photo(s) [A] [F] 1530.03: Window faulty or otherwise amiss. Noted at the front entry door. Photo: 1120.02 (1) Photo: 1120.02 (2) Photo: 1230.04"

little excerpt from Mike's report.  I have a little confusion on what the letter and numbers are and why.

Yikes! That's a barrier to having a client read the entire report. I'd guess the letters and numbers are cross reference for photos placed in a group in apart from the narratives they support.

Reports are about communication and the information needs to be accurate and accessible, and when information is jammed together like this it's not very accessible. Narratives should have clear meanings that leave little room for interpretation. They need to be include what's necessary, but not include fluff that will just lengthen the report unnecessarily. Here are links a couple of short articles I've written on report writing:

The 3 Functions of a Narrative

Report Compilation Time and Length

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