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The SOP's require a description of certain items of inspection. I've gotten along just fine on the descriptions I have been giving stuff and have never heard of any inspector getting into trouble over descriptions but want to check to see how my descriptions might compare with others.

Has anyone every had a complaint over a messed up description?

How detailed are the descriptions suppose to get? I mean holy cow when I got a copy of "the Manual for the Inspection of Residential Wood Decks and Balconies" and I saw the detailed descriptions they give in their sample report It made me wonder if anybody on a normal HI made that level of description in their reports because I don't.

When describing structure should one include the on center spacings?

Is there any reason to describe the type of truss beyond "wood truss" Or does anyone describe the configuration, W, scissors etc and whether they have wood or metal gussets or bolted etc.

Particularly on older structure where its not homogenous, do you go into detail describing the location of the non homogenous structures or just list the types of systems?

And this question goes to Jim Katen. Jim why did Oregon change the headings in the structure section of the SOP to say "Floors and floor structure" from just "Floor structure" etc.? What was the purpose of that? What problem was that trying to solve that they felt compeled to add floors, walls, ceilings rather then the prior language of floor structure, wall structure and ceiling structure?

Chris, Oregon

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When describing structure should one include the on center spacings?

coughs nervously...I do and I also describe the lumber dimensions for joists,ceiling joists, rafters, studs etc. I also describe the sheathing and decking materials. "The house is platform framed with 2x4 studs on 16 inch centers" blah blah blah

Is there any reason to describe the type of truss beyond "wood truss" Or does anyone describe the configuration, W, scissors etc and whether they have wood or metal gussets or bolted etc.

I describe it if it's special or unusual. "The area over the great room was timber framed using king trusses" Otherwise I call it a manufactured truss.

Particularly on older structure where its not homogenous, do you go into detail describing the location of the non homogenous structures or just list the types of systems?

I describe the construction methods used in the original structure and the additions. I also identify the fact there is an addition or, as in the case of vaulted ceilings in a 60's ranch, that there's been a change of significance.

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I've never gotten a call or 'burned' for a poorly written description or lack of one.

Lately, I've been tempted to really minimize them in order to save time and alleviate the client from plowing through all the text.

I'm sure almost noone reads them. Can't tell you how many times I've had clients call me asking what type of wiring and plumbing are in the home - the insurance company needs to know. I refer them to the sections of the report that clearly outline this info. They politely apologize for wasting a phone call.

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Ditto to what Randy said. I realize it runs counter the the current trend of "narrative" reporting, but buyers typically merely want to know what's wrong, what it takes to fix it, and who's gonna pay for it. The report I created for myself is quasi-check-boxy, quasi-narrative for this precise reason.

It's difficult, knowing how much or how little information to deliver.

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Here in Illinois state mandated SOP includes a number of items to be "described", for example:

"Describe the roof covering and report the methods used to inspect the roof."

so "descriptions" of these components and items must be included in the written report.

There are a lot of odd omissions however - for example we must:

"1)Inspect the structural components including the foundation and framing; and

“2)Describe the foundation and report the methods used to inspect the under-floor crawl space, floor, wall, ceiling, roof, structure and report the methods used to inspect the attic."

... but are not *required* (it seems, to me anyway) "describe" any structural component but the foundation.

In this case my approach - since I have to describe how such components were inspected in any case - is to also provide a brief narrative description of each component which was visible as well.

This goes into the body of the report in a separate first item in the section for each system, for example the first item in the body of the report for foundations is “Foundation: Method of Observation and General Observationsâ€

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I write it exactly as Chad has described. That's how I'd interpreted the requirements of structural sections of SOP's.

I think that folks have lost track of the fact that the report is as much for the author as it is for the client. We need to produce something that will accurately describe what we've inspected and will serve to key your memory when needed later on. I learned how to write reports in the Army as a criminal investigator. Cops don't have the luxury of picking and choosing what they describe about a crime scene in a report, they must accurately describe everything that they see. Since cases often don't come to trial for months or even years, the investigator's memory hinges on how much, or how little, the investigator includes in the report.

When I get calls from someone asking questions about a home that I did years ago, I can pull up the report, read a page or two and the report will key my memory. It's like plugging in a video-tape in my head. Then, when I read further into the report, even though I might think that I'm remembering everything about the home, the report will remind me of all the little things that I'd forgotten. In the end, I'm able to clearly remember and describe what I saw and why I came to any conclusions in the report.

For instance, I occasionally run across old homes around here which have had the roofs framed with site-built trusses using 2 by 3's for the top and bottom truss chords. Off the top of my head, I can't remember which houses they were, but I can guaranty you that, even if my clients hadn't paid attention to that fact in the report, that it's there. So, if we ever get a freak snowstorm here like we had in 1996-97 that dumps a large amount of snow onto roofs, and I get a call bitching me out over roof damage, the report will ensure within seconds that I'm able to intelligently and confidently discuss that particular home, without any hemming and hawing, even before going out to take a look at it.

I'm absolutely certain that I wouldn't be able to do that with a checkbox or semi-narrative type of report.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I am being a little bit of a "devil's advocate" here.

We have no state requirements for reporting, so I get to see any number of report styles and formats. The worst examples are the programs with boiler written for all 50 states and/or those same programs that are modified by the inspector - poorly. The best reports I see are 1. short 2. written in first person 3. have photos 4. and have an executive summary that describes the house and the immediate major problems. ie: This was a 50yr old house on a stone foundation with a crappy roof covering that is leaking. The plumbing supply pipes are lead and there is knob and tube wiring. Update electrical system and replace water lines with a safe suitable material. bla bla bla.

For the record, I have seen very good "check box narrative reports" also.

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Well, but that's the difficult aspect--creating a report that best satisfies the needs of the client and that also protects us from the nutzos who may wind up wanting to sue us. Rather than continually scrawling out the same protective sentences ( Like: Windows above staircase landings are now required to contain tempered glass) it's much easier to check a box. Well, though, you might say, that wasn't a code requirement fifty years ago. But try that in front of a jury staring down at a child who's fallen through a window and who's now scarred for life. Is checking a box adequate protection? I don't know, but at least the information was there.

I enjoy writing. And one of the more gratifying aspects of my job is being able to educate and inform people. But if they aren't going to read what I've given them . . .

How many people take the time to learn what radon is all about? Do they realize the EPA bases its information on a bunch of miners who worked underground for many hours a day and who likely smoked fistfuls of cigarettes? Probably not. Buyers want a simple yes or no regarding the existence of radon in a house so they can act accordingly with a seller.

I'm recreating my report system over the next month or so and will let youse guys take a look and tell me where I screwed up once I've finished. I vacillate between a surfeit of information that both informs and protects, and a different kind of document that's incredibly short and sweet. And of course there's that cliched(I have no idea of how to insert the little accent mark) middle ground . . .

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

The SOP's require a description of certain items of inspection. I've gotten along just fine on the descriptions I have been giving stuff and have never heard of any inspector getting into trouble over descriptions but want to check to see how my descriptions might compare with others.

Has anyone every had a complaint over a messed up description?

Complaints *always* originate because the inspector missed a problem or because the customer perceived that the inspector missed a problem. Once the customer enters "complaint mode," then he might heap on other allegations such as missing or incorrect descriptions.

How detailed are the descriptions suppose to get? I mean holy cow when I got a copy of "the Manual for the Inspection of Residential Wood Decks and Balconies" and I saw the detailed descriptions they give in their sample report It made me wonder if anybody on a normal HI made that level of description in their reports because I don't.

That's a good reference but it's not intended to be a reporting style guide for home inspectors. Learn from it, but use your own reporting style. Include stuff that you think will be of use to your customer.

When describing structure should one include the on center spacings?

It might be nice, but it's hardly necessary.

Is there any reason to describe the type of truss beyond "wood truss" Or does anyone describe the configuration, W, scissors etc and whether they have wood or metal gussets or bolted etc.

I don't see any reason for that degree of detail. It usually won't mean anything to the customer anyway. Save your concentration and effort for stuff that matters.

Particularly on older structure where its not homogenous, do you go into detail describing the location of the non homogenous structures or just list the types of systems?

I just list them.

And this question goes to Jim Katen. Jim why did Oregon change the headings in the structure section of the SOP to say "Floors and floor structure" from just "Floor structure" etc.? What was the purpose of that? What problem was that trying to solve that they felt compeled to add floors, walls, ceilings rather then the prior language of floor structure, wall structure and ceiling structure?

Chris, Oregon

That change was part of a much larger change in the standards from last year. The HIAC committee was pissed off at the number of complaints that were coming in against home inspectors. When they looked at these cases, they were aghast at the brevity of many of the reports. This last round of changes in the standards was intended to force inspectors to include more descriptive information in their reports. (Even though it had been required before, the requirement is even clearer in the new standards.) They believed that, if they forced the inspectors to take more time in describing the various parts of the house, they'd end up seeing and reporting more problems.

At the time, I pointed out that forcing inspectors to more thoroughly describe each tree did little to improve their view of the forest. They disagreed.

My personal opinion: The less effort expended on the rote description of routine information, the better. I prefer to invest my time in considering how all that stuff is working, not in describing the nail spacing on the soffits.

More of my personal opinion: If the HIAC committee really wants to see complaints drop, they should mandate that inspectors only do one inspection per day and spend a minimum of three hours on site.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Chris,

I used to include detailed descriptions of many building components during the early years. I gradually realized that some are really not necessary to include in a report for any reason. I usually list structural lumber dimensions (when they're milled boards and not hand-hewn timbers), but not spacing, unless it's an issue.

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If they want to see the complaints drop why don't they share with the inspectors what those complaints were? When I worked as a design engineer and we got complaints back from the field we tried our best to incorporate the conditions under which it was said to have failed in our future testing. Theres only so much you can do in a lab enviroment. Its not real world. The complaints are real world so share them and let the inspectors work it out amoungst themselves in their associations or online forums. Directly addressing the complaints will get you 80% of the way there.

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

If they want to see the complaints drop why don't they share with the inspectors what those complaints were? When I worked as a design engineer and we got complaints back from the field we tried our best to incorporate the conditions under which it was said to have failed in our future testing. Theres only so much you can do in a lab enviroment. Its not real world. The complaints are real world so share them and let the inspectors work it out amoungst themselves in their associations or online forums. Directly addressing the complaints will get you 80% of the way there.

Chris, Oregon

They did. Some years back, they published the most common complaints against home inspectors in the form of a top ten summary. Topping the list, far above all other complaints, were WDO issues. As I recall, the next most popular screw-up was poor reporting. The inspector would identify the issue but not communicate it clearly in the report. The ASHI chapter reacted by offering a whole series of classes that addressed the items on the list in order of importance.

I personally submitted a proposal to the committee to alter the standards to include a WDO section and add a WDO section to the test. They debated it for some time but eventually rejected it.

I'll suggest that they publish a top ten list on a regular basis (kind of like Billboard). It would be useful if only to track changes over time.

- Jim in Oregon

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Some years ago I commissioned a survey of a couple thousand real estate salespeople. Likely the results are unchanged from that time.

Number one "complaint" from agents was the written report was confusing; ie: too much information to process in the few days between inspection and closing.

Now don't go nuts on me, we understood the complexity of the response. This thread shows a variety of reporting methods and amount of detailed info provided and an argument could be made on both sides. For me and mine, we first try to identify what buyers want to know, tell them what they must know and craft an inspection - on the spot - to satisfy them. I have to admit that there are times when it is difficult to fully incorporate ASHI SOP.

Your market and service area are critical elements in the liability area. Mark M is just a few miles outside our regular service area and faces challenges we just do not have and vice-versa.

My advice is provide as much info as possible, but be sure it is meaningful, accurate and properly documented.

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What was the reasoning behind the original inclusion of descriptions in the ASHI SOP? My best guess was that it followed from typical information needed by the insurance industry.

At the time the SOP was developed I don't think that clients were sophisticated enough yet to want to know details of the construction like some investors do today.

Jim, whats the HIAC commitee doing now? Are they planning on playing with the SOP again?

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

What was the reasoning behind the original inclusion of descriptions in the ASHI SOP? My best guess was that it followed from typical information needed by the insurance industry.

I doubt it. The insurance industry probably didn't even know that home inspectors existed back then.

From my conversations with some of the people who were involved in creating those standards, I think the point was simply to ensure a uniform, consistent standard for describing the condition of the house at the moment of the inspection.

At the time the SOP was developed I don't think that clients were sophisticated enough yet to want to know details of the construction like some investors do today.

Perhaps. A lot of sellers say that. Many of my retired customers tell me that, when they bought their first house, they didn't even consider having it inspected. Now that they're buying a retirement home, they wouldn't consider not having it inspected.

On the other hand, I run into lots of young couples who don't seem to understand the value of our inspections. They only have the inspection because their dad or their agent told them that they should.

Jim, whats the HIAC commitee doing now? Are they planning on playing with the SOP again?

Chris, Oregon

I don't know. Frankly, I try to stay away from those meetings these days. I tend to break out in hives when I get too close.

If you're interested, though, one of the HIAC positions is opening up. They could use a good critical thinker who works well with others. Unfortunately, while I meet the first criterion, I don't meet the second.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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