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John's willingness (different thread) to subject himself to constructive criticism to better his product made me realize that I haven't done that for a while.

If someone asked me to read a 30 page report and critique the contents and the author I'd sooner stab my hand with a fork so I won't ask anyone in particular. If you're interested in an opportunity to spank me though, here's the chance. Send me an email and I'll send you today's report.

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Originally posted by Chad Fabry

I'd put it up but now it's a pdf and I have no way to cleanse the client info.

What format is it in before you convert it into a PDF? My program writes it into Word, so you can easily go back to the root file, make changes to protect confidentiality, and then convert it into a PDF under a different name.

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Originally posted by AHI in AR

Originally posted by Chad Fabry

I'd put it up but now it's a pdf and I have no way to cleanse the client info.

What format is it in before you convert it into a PDF? My program writes it into Word, so you can easily go back to the root file, make changes to protect confidentiality, and then convert it into a PDF under a different name.

He's just making an excuse to avoid a flogging in front of his peers.

I would consider reviewing a report, but only after I inspected the same building.

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I'll post a report in a couple weeks after I finish alterations to my existing format.

I'm going to take the thing to the minimalist level, at odds w/current reportage formats. No long winded narratives running on and on, and then having to extract a summary about the stuff that counts.

Materials & locations will be as simple as it gets.

Foundation: formed concrete - original house

concrete block/cmu- addition

Supports: steel posts & girders - central supports main house

That sort of thing. Comments are going to be narrative stand alone, w/photos where applicable.

I'm changing to provide what folks want, which is a summary without all the "other stuff". If one wants to have lots of "other stuff", that's fine, it will accommodate the stuff.

Fact is, most reports now are so long winded and excruciatingly boring, it detracts from the message.

So, the report is the summary is the report.

We'll see what folks say in a couple weeks.......

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Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

Originally posted by inspecthistoric

I would consider reviewing a report, but only after I inspected the same building.

Just my humble opinion, but in a typical HI report, the errors aren't so much in the HI's understanding of the issues, but in the way he explains his understanding of the issues.

In many of the reports I review, the HI knows that a furnace is a furnace. He might even know that there's something wrong with the furnce, but he writes about the furnace in ways that nobody could understand.

So, I think it's probably useful to review an HI report, even if the whole thing's made up.

WJid="blue">

Walter, I won't argue with you, in fact I pretty much agree with you. But, the fact remains that many "inspectors" do not know how that furnace works. Most will know it is broke and are unwilling to write it is broke, because that really don't know what is broke. (Insert the latest furnace information you read in another inspector's report) Likely it says something about referring it to a qualified professional or licensed contractor, but never will say "the ignitor is broken, get it fixed or the flue fan is making noise, etc.."

My report format for October 2007, that we all use, is bare minimums. Most of the time it fully complies with ASHI standards. In fact we often use a check-list narrative with one summary page.

I am in one of my "what the hell is happening to my profession" moods!

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It's fascinating you say that, Kurt, 'cause I'm in the process of doing the exact same thing. Though it runs against HI tendencies, does the typical customer really care if the SE cables are #4 copper or stranded aluminum accompanied by some other number that's meaningless to him or her? I've forgotten who said it or in what thread, but someone here once complained that customers had called in the past asking where the main water shut-off valve was located.

"It's in the report I gave you. Did you read it?"

"Uh, well. Most of it. But where's that valve?"

I've had the same kinds of calls. I'm thinking of creating four different sections. The Bad Stuff, or summary. Important Things You Need to Know To Live In The House, which will include the water main, filter locations, etc. w/photos. Important Considerations(though with a catchier title) that'll include potential problems with galvanized pipes, etc. And lastly The Cold Hard Facts, which will include furnace size, construction components(foundation, roof framing, etc.), and all the other jazz in a concise couple of pages.

I think it'll be more effective in delivering the info. It'll save me time. And it will be more enjoyable to read.

I think most computer generated reports insert surfeits of fill that are tedious to read and digest for most of our customers. My sister bought a house in Denver last year and complained that the inspection report read like a Home Depot ABCs of home repair book.

I've forgotten who said it, but someone smarter than I once asked, "What good is it to write a thing, if nobody wants to read it?"

John

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Originally posted by Bain

I've forgotten who said it or in what thread, but someone here once complained that customers had called in the past asking where the main water shut-off valve was located.

"It's in the report I gave you. Did you read it?"

"Uh, well. Most of it. But where's that valve?"

id="blue">

Here's a clue...try looking in the plumbing section, for cryin' out loud!

Really, should we penalize the more intelligent clients to cater to those who have trouble tying their shoes without daily reminders as to how?

While I fully understand that some reporting software written by misguided souls seems determined to pad the page count (See! Mine's bigger than yours!) I think that catering to lowest-common-denominator types or those with short attention spans is a mistake. I think there are two benefits to a solid, informative report. And, no, I don't mean 12 pages of problems and double that of fluff. Leave out a lot of the maintenance tips, or at least relegate them to a separate section so they can be ignored, or read, as the client chooses. The benefits to a longer report? First, you inform the client that you actually DID something other than show up and note the obvious issues. Properly done, it gives the impression that you are professional and dedicated enough to assess all components present, good, bad, or indifferent. It doesn't matter whether you list items your client does not understand so long as you don't get too wildly esoteric in your report. Second, in the event of possible or actual litigation, do you think Mr. Plaintiff's attorney is going to be impressed by a just-the-minimum type of report? I doubt it -- and that means a greater likelihood of a lawsuit. Seems to me that if Mr. Attorney reads a thorough report with all conditions duly noted (whether Mr. Plaintiff understands them or not) Mr. Attorney may just be a little less likely to push for a suit. He might just doubt that the inspector is incompetent while realizing that the potential definitely exists that his client is a nut job. This assumes he's an ambulance chaser working on a contingency fee basis since he won't get paid unless he wins. Most of them, I would wager, fall into this category.

However, I do like the idea of a segregated report to accommodate all personality types who might read the report. Think of it as a multi-course report, with maintenance tips and the like being dessert. Put it at the end. You don't have to partake if you don't want to. Generally, only your anal-retentive types (engineers, accountants and the like) will read that part, but those who do will be appreciative.

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Here in AZ we really don't have the option of a short, concise report. We are required to report on things whether defective or not, so my reports are usually in excess of 30 pages.

In about 3000 inspections, I have had 2 complaints about the report (I'm not counting things I have missed, I'm talking about the style and level of detail). In both cases (and both warranted), the complaints were that I did not describe fully enough, not that I said too much. I have had hundreds of compliments about the level of detail and the thoroughness, clients like what you guys call 'fluff', it makes them realize you are doing your job. I think customers would be pissed if you charged them $400 for 3 pages of defects with no other explanations.

But, whatever works for you, do it.

As far as explaining, I try to assume that the client is not stupid but does not know the things I know and that's why I was hired. I try not to use technical terms and if I do, I explain them, all that takes words and more words. I am not trying to create a report for the "lowest common denominator", I am trying to get the point across to somebody who is not a home inspector or engineer. Same way I want my lawyer or doctor to explain things to me. Yes, there are clients who are smarter than others, that is what the telephone is for. I don't mind at all if a client calls me to find out where the water valve is, its not like I remember, I guide them to the page in the report that has a description and picture. They are happy for the help.

Also, I am very reluctant to tell them exactly what is wrong with the furnace. We know at this point that a service call is needed, why take a guess at a broken igniter then have the HVAC tech tell them the furnace needs to be replaced? All it does is get you in a pissing match with the furnace tech who will no doubt win.

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I think there's a complete misunderstanding about what I'm talking about.

The idea is about format; it's not about leaving things out, or dodging reporting requirements.

It's not about catering to the lowest common denominator; it's about catering to the highest denominator, who likes information delivered in a coherent format.

It's not about the # of pages. It's about having the number of pages that is appropriate to describe the house adequately.

It's not about providing the minimum; it's about providing necessary information in a format that is easily comprehended and digestible. It's not about leaving out stuff; it's about formatting it in a way that minimizes extraneous information, and focuses on critical considerations.

Folks are so locked into these report "writing" software packages, they've lost the ability to think & figure out better ways to do stuff.

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Kurt, that sounds actually like a great idea, I'd love to see it. I just get a little irked with the attitude that 'if nothing's wrong with it, don't report it".

The standards are there to be sure you looked at the size of the service entrance cables (not to pick on anybody). You look at it, you report it. If you don't report it, the client, the lawyer, the jury assumes you didn't look at it. Besides, I think it's lazy.

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"write their reports using nothing but their own brains and fingers" I would agree, but the software makes a nice template so you don't forget to report on something that is required to report on. Really, most of the software is just a fancy checklist.

"Did you check the service entrance conductors?" "Yes, I did, they are #2 copper."

The problem is the software companies have tried to substitute boilerplate for knowledge. I just don't see a problem with a long, boring report. Our job (unlike Walter's) is not to entertain our clients, our job is to inspect the home and convey to them what we saw. Whether they read it or not doesn't really concern me.

Bain's example is a good one. #4 copper service entrance conductors. Here are some choices:

1) Leave it out, it means nothing to the client and the conductor size is adequate.

2) report "the SEC are #4 copper".

3) Explain what this means: "The service entrance conductors are #4 copper. The size of the conductors is adequate for the 60 amp panel serving the circuits in the home. Most homes today have a 200 amp service. If you intend to upgrade the electrical system to modern standards, you should be aware that the service entrance conductors will also need to be upgraded at an additional expense."

To me, the third example (although maybe considered boilerplate) is more informative and serves the needs of most clients and is necessarily the most wordy. Probably the most boring to read also.

I don't know, I can see both points of view. I just feel like the best thing you can do for the client is to help them understand what they are buying and how it compares to "today's" standards.

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Other than in states where a certain report format is mandated, there is no standardized reporting method. So, anyone in the business in those other states has a lot of options. If some prefer narrative type reports, as I do, they're free to write narrative reports. If some prefer checklists or semi-checklists, or even Kurt's comic book format, so be it.

I probably write the longest, most boring reports in the business, yet my clients go back to their company message boards and rave about the reports to their friends and co-workers. I know, because when I'm at the job and I ask in passing how folks learned about me, they'll tell me about reading about me, and my type of report, on their intranet message board. So, I think there's a market for it; as I know there's also a certain segment of the market that likes the other types of reports.

Last year, I had my students at North Seattle Community College - mostly investors, homeowners, realtors, and property managers, go on the internet and each find one copy of a checklist report, a semi-narrative report, and a full-narrative type report. We discussed it in class and then they voted on which type of report they preferred. The winner was the semi-narrative with the checklist second. Though the third style came in last, those who liked the narrative report were emphatic that they wanted to learn about their homes as much as they wanted to know about its current condition.

Last week, I did something similar with this years class. I asked them to find examples of strong reports and suckup reports so we could talk about them in class. As it turned out, after doing their research, some expressed a certain amount of disdain for narrative reports and favored the checklist types that we all scorn so badly. So, you see, there is a market for every report style. You just have to find your niche and work within it.

Oh, by the way, they're probably on here right now doing research for next week's assignment and getting an eyeful from some of the commentary in here.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Mike,

You have hit the nail on the head! Our body of work can be expressed in many ways and, like it or not, it must SERVE the client not the inspector.

I just hate to see those 24pg boiler reports with a three ring binder and a homeowner manual. But many of our clients ask about them! Should I have one available? Maybe.

One problem is most inspectors only know one way to write reports. They know how to inspect in many ways and protocols, but can only write report one way.

Good thread!

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One thing is for sure, a poorly written report is bad for the profession as a whole.

9 people asked to see it and only two have had the nerve to comment.

We won't progress until we demand excellence from ourselves and each other.

More later...I'm on break; we're tearing up the report that I offered up for peer review.

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I have a dirty little secret. Between the time I left engineering and was prepairing to enter the home inspection biz I worked as a realtors assistant for a heavy hitter. I got to see first hand lots of HI reports and the reaction that clients and realtors had to them.

Back then reports were almost always check list style, no pics and hand written (scribbled) comments. The reports were extremely light and almost never contained more then clean the moss off of the roof and clean the gutters. Realtor friendly crap.

One thing that hasn't changed much is the organization of HI reports. They are horrible! If one has a particular question one usually has to dig thru the report page by page. Even though these reports have a purported table of contents realtors and clients usually need set aside a good hour to read the reports and put together their own list because the reports are so unordered!

You can write your report anyway you want but this is what I suggest - Make an ordered (numbered) list of your findings and present it first thing in your report. In your list, each list item should be cross referrenced to the pictures and any other necessary information. Don't put pics mixed in with text. Use the comic book format. In other words throw all your pics on picture pages right after your list of findings.

Organizing this way you could have a dozen people on the phone discussing the report and easily staying on the same page. See item 35 on page 4, now go to picture 8 on page 7. Right now somehow has say go to page 14 and look somewhere near the middle of the page it says... have your found it? uhh, I am still looking.

Chris, Oregon

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Hey Chris,

What kinda comics you reading??? All my comics have the text right over the pics - and I like it that way. (I think you are using the Playboy model, not the comic model.)[:-dev3]

I'm with Richard on the combined text/pics, but it is nice to have the software make the picture thingy easy for you (Hmmm, there's something around here for that...)

BUT... I do agree, Chris that orderly reporting is paramount. The software I used (Cramer) allowed me to easily insert a table of contents in the front. I also had a quick list (text only) for easy scanning at the end of every report.

But those are just my opinions. We all do what works for us, and in the scheme of things I don't have a strong preference for where pics go. Just write well. Chris, I am an engineer also - we have a terrible reputation as writers.

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