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In our Oregon SOP we have indicate our opinion whether or not each item of the inspection is satisfactory with no guidance as to what "satisfactory" means in this context.

I have been reading Certainteeds Shingle Technology Manual and they point out four objectives that residential buyers tend to have namely:

1) Simple problem solving - what is not working right.id="blue">

2) Peace of mind - what was done wrong and is likely to fail to work right.id="blue">

3) Property value - what is working right, was done right but is going to need replacement soon.id="blue">

4) Pride of ownership - what is working right, was done right, has plenty of life remaining, but the buyer for what ever reason doesn't like it.id="blue">

Determining if something is satisfactory with respect objective 1 is easy. Doing it for 2 and 3 tougher and with respect the fourth objective we're clearly not charged with that duty.

My question is on what basis do you form an opinion as to whether or not an item of inspection is satisfactory?

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

1) Simple problem solving - what is not working right.id="blue">

2) Peace of mind - what was done wrong and is likely to fail to work right.id="blue">

3) Property value - what is working right, was done right but is going to need replacement soon.id="blue">

4) Pride of ownership - what is working right, was done right, has plenty of life remaining, but the buyer for what ever reason doesn't like it.id="blue">

Determining if something is satisfactory with respect objective 1 is easy. Doing it for 2 and 3 tougher and with respect the fourth objective were clearly not charged with that duty.

I definitely agree that # 4 is not part of what a professional home inspector should be doing. We should be advocates only for the facts and our own professional opinions, not for a given client's whims.

My question is on what basis do you form an opinion as to whether or not an item of inspection is satisfactory?

It does get grey sometimes, but mostly I'm looking for anything significant that isn't right for any reason. Installed wrong, wrong material, breaking down or wearing out, flat-out not working, working but having problems, safety issues, etc. Little things don't make the summary, but everything gets reported. If I had to boil every questionable item down to either "satisfactory" or not, I would go 95% or more "not" just to make sure the client saw it.

Brian G.

Inform, Inform, Inform the Client [:-graduat

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Originally posted by Scottpat

IMO, Satisfactory means that it is working or is performing it's intended purpose.

Hmmm,

Well, yeah, except that it might be an FPE panel. I think there's a little more to it than that. I think that it means that there aren't any reasons known to the inspector doing the inspection to call for repair or replacement.

Keep in mind, though, that what one inspector terms "satisfactory" might be unsatisfactory to another inspector who's been better educated about homes and systems and has more experience.

I'm glad that I don't have to labor under such a system. Since I do a full-narrative report, the description of the house's components and systems proves that I've looked at something, so I feel that if I don't find an issue with something there's no reason why I have to state whether it's "satisfactory" or not. I prefer to list only the stuff that I find unsatisfactory.

My sympathies to all Oregon inspectors.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by hausdok

My sympathies to all Oregon inspectors.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Mine too.

This is a push for the binary/pass-fail decision making process, which so often is impossible if there are multiple considerations w/a component.

Functioning as intended doesn't cut it either. Whose intentions, and functioning how?

This stuff seems so common sense to folks that don't know anything about what we do, but seem to always be in control of what we do.

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Since I have weaned myself off the check-list style report I have also change my reporting methods from the Satisfatory, Marginal, Poor. I did like trying to put things on a scale. I now state Inspected for those things I have found no issues with and Repair/Replace for any item of defect. I also have a glossary of terms in my report that defines these comments.

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I had no idea that "satisfactory" was such a difficult word. I've used it for 15 years and can't remember anyone questioning what I meant by it. At an ASHI chapter conference that I just attended one of the speakers also told us not to use the word satisfactory.

This seems to be a fairly recent opinion. I don't remember ever hearing it until this year. Perhaps my view will change but for now I just don't get it.

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Anything is possible @ an ASHI Chapter meeting, so don't go by that.

I've been a speaker @ ASHI Chapter meetings; I've had the brethren both admire & condemn me in my approach. Honestly, I felt better when condemned because the bulk cognitive firepower of the attendees contained all the force of a popped baked potato in the oven. It's like talking to a group of salesman @ a lawn mower mfg's. convention, or something akin to that.

It's not a difficult word. It's a fine word for lots of stuff. I use it when things are, in fact and in function, satisfactory. But, to be fenced in to using a single word to describe all conditions where there may be levels of complexity is bad. Very bad.

This job is not always a binary decision making process. There can be nuance & oddities that need language outside of the little 2 sided box.

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Guys,

There is a perfectly good tool for report writing in the US and Canada. It's called the English language. It's all anyone needs to write a decent report.

It's filled with wonderful words that convey exactly what we need to say, but for reasons I shall never understand, some HI's feel compelled to try to change the meaning of these words by redefining them. Chris, I'm not picking on you here, but it sounds like you're heading down that path. Stop, and turn yer arse around!

Satisfactory is a perfectly delightful and useful word. It already has an agreed upon definition. Use it where it fits. Where you need to say something else, you have to find another word.

You wouldn't redefine the word "wood" in your reports to include "terra cotta, aluminum, and window glass" in your reports, would you? Of course not. Wood is wood. You can't change the meaning of the word "wood" for the purposes of your report simply because you want to. Certainteed can't; the great state of Oregon can't; and we can't either.

A whole lot of people do this, and it's part of what people mean when they talk about Inspectorspeak. It makes things less clear, not more.

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Originally posted by kurt

. . . This is a push for the binary/pass-fail decision making process, which so often is impossible if there are multiple considerations w/a component.

In this particular case, that's not what it's about. The whole "satisfactory with regard to each item" thing is a recent addition to the standards here. It's not related to reporting deficiencies -- another section of the standards deals with that -- it's about making the reports longer. Really.

The Home Inspector Advisory Committee was aghast to find that some inspectors were writing "defect only" reports. Some of these home inspection reports were only a page or two long. These only contained lists of defects, nothing else. The HIAC (made up almost entirely of working home inspectors) said to its collective self, "Gosh whiz. We're working our butts off producing 15-, 20- and 30-page reports while these rascals are only writing a page or two. Let's re-write the rules to make those guys write longer reports."

Never mind that the rules already disallowed what the rascals were doing. The HIAC members wanted to make it crystal clear that home inspectors need to list everything that they're supposed to be inspecting.

Aside from the satisfactory/non-satisfactory labeling, we still have to determine:

  • If an item isn't functioning as intended.

how the habitability of the dwelling is affected by this lack of function.

Make a recommendation to monitor, evaluate, repair, replace or take some other appropriate action.

Functioning as intended doesn't cut it either. Whose intentions, and functioning how?

In the "inspector's opinion, based on his education and experience."

This stuff seems so common sense to folks that don't know anything about what we do, but seem to always be in control of what we do.

Again. That's not entirely true of Oregon. The HIAC is made up of five working home inspectors a public representative and a chairman. For many years, we were lucky to have a public representitive who was a lawyer and a very astute fellow who constantly asked, "how does this benefit the consumer" at every turn.

The biggest problem with putting home inspectors in charge of home inspectors is that the guys in charge tend to want to make everyone else do things the way that the guys in charge do things.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Maybe it's just me, but this whole reporting thing is really easy. All we have to do is work at the level of a competent middle-school kid.

Suggestions:

1. Ignore advice/opinions of people who are poor communicators. (That means most folks at HI meetings. You should be able to identify them when they start talking.)

3. Don't try to come up with a one-word-fits-much word. Like "satisfactory." Lawyers -- and expert witnesses -- love errant HIs who try to go Orwellian. Gives us lots to talk about over lunch.

4. Just tell people what they need to know -- in plain English and complete sentences. A person who can write and reason can't go wrong that way.

We HIs get into these word messes because folks who have little if any communications skill keep trying to come up with ways to make things easier for themselves. That's what happens when states and/or HI orgs set the entry level for our "profession" at 30-year-old-high-school-diploma or barely-passed-the-NHIE level. We "graduate" people whose education comprises word-of-mouth guesses and folklore heard at an HI or RE agent gathering.

Anyhow, we need to drop the goal of making reports easy for HIs easy to fill out. We need to reach for the goal of making things easy for our customers to understand. I'm amazed that I have to explain this.

WJ

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The whole thing is about communication. Most newspapers are written so they can be read and understood by someone possessing the reading level of a sixth grader. Submit something with a bunch of polysyllabic words to a newspaper and they will cut, cut, cut away. The same should hold true for an inspecton report.

The flip side to writing an excellent report, is that our most precious commodity is our time. So, for me anyway, it's difficult finding the right balance between producing an informational document that someone may or may not take the time to read, and simply providing the information that a buyer needs to move forward with the purchase of a house. I could write a 100-page report for nearly every house I look at, but that report might actually be read by one in fifty customers.

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Bizarre. So I understand, let me say it back....

In Oregon, one has to list every item they inspect, and say it's satisfactory, and if not, list why it effects the habitability of the dwelling, and what should be done about it(?).

Does that mean you have long lists like....

1) 1/2 bath plumbing fixtures / Satisfactory

2) 2nd fl. bath plumbing fixtures / satisfactory

3) Kitchen plumbing fixtures / satisfactory

Or, can you say something like "I inspected all the plumbing fixtures and they were satisfactory"(?).

Is listing a component the same as indicating one inspected it? If I describe stairways & their location, is that the same as indicating I inspected them? Or, do I have to have

1) 2nd fl. stairwell / satisfactory

2) bsmt. stairwell / satisfactory

etc.....

What the heck are these reports looking like? Anyone got a sample?

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Originally posted by kurt

Bizarre. So I understand, let me say it back....

In Oregon, one has to list every item they inspect, and say it's satisfactory, and if not, list why it effects the habitability of the dwelling, and what should be done about it(?).

No, not quite. You're mixing up two different requirements. Requirement one:

You have to list every item that's *listed in the standards* and indicate whether or not it was satisfactory. If you inspect something that's not in the standards, you don't have to list that or call it satisfactory. You can call something unsatisfactory and not say another peep about it.

Requirement two:

Aside from whether it's satisfactory or not, you have to "State whether any inspected systems or components do not function as intended, allowing for normal wear and tear; and how, if at all, the habitability of the dwelling is affected." And then, "State the inspector’s recommendation to monitor, evaluate, repair, replace or other appropriate action.

Something might be satisfactory and still not function as intended and something might be unsatisfactory but it still functions as intended. It's a nice distinction but it's a distinction nonetheless.

Does that mean you have long lists like....

1) 1/2 bath plumbing fixtures / Satisfactory

2) 2nd fl. bath plumbing fixtures / satisfactory

3) Kitchen plumbing fixtures / satisfactory

Or, can you say something like "I inspected all the plumbing fixtures and they were satisfactory"(?).

I believe that either one is fine. The items don't need to be as specific as your first example. It's more like:

Fixtures/ Satisfactory

Distribution Pipes/ Satisfactory

Waste pipes/ Satisfactory.

Is listing a component the same as indicating one inspected it?

Probably.

If I describe stairways & their location, is that the same as indicating I inspected them?

Certainly.

Or, do I have to have

1) 2nd fl. stairwell / satisfactory

2) bsmt. stairwell / satisfactory

etc.....

You could do that, but you don't need to. You could just say, "I inspected the stairway and it's fine."

What the heck are these reports looking like? Anyone got a sample?

They're all different, just like the reports anywhere. There isn't any state-mandated format.

BTW, except for the "satisfactory" thing, these standards are almost exactly the same as the 92-2000 ASHI Standards. It's nothing all that strange.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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When they changed the Oregon SOP I had imagined that the reason was because the clients were complaining that even though the inspector listed it was not enough of an indicator that he or she actually looked at it.

At the time, it really pissed me off that they would try and pigeon hole an inspector into a binary yes/no indication that an item was OK or not so that they could more easily hang him or her.

What spawned this question was a recent inteview I conducted with a client/mortgage broker/financial planner concerning the current bad times. I made a comment about the NAR having death grip on inspectors that it made it difficult for us to build completely independent business's without relying on realtors for a large part of our referrals.

That opened into a marketing discussion on how inspectors could fling off the dependency of realtor referrals through proper marketing. I told her that all of my advertising efforts so far had been nothing but failures and she explained to me why.

The current way of thinking taught and promugated is that an inspector only has to perform to the minimum level of whatever SOP he or she is operating under. If you do this then you will become dependent upon realtors for the bulk of your referrals.

Also if you consider the client as someone that you are only going to meet once maybe twice then you will be dependent upon realtors for the bulk of your referrals.

I hate that word "satisfactory". It doesn't serve to indicate that the feelings of the client are probably protected. An inspector who offers that word will probably fail to win the confidence of the client.

My point is that there is no one word summation possible. It's way more complex then that. In consideration of the trends that we are now going thru and the desire to break away from a dependency on realtor referrals we have got to stop thinking in terms of satisfactory.

Chris, Oregon

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The term satisfactory and terms that are used to show an item is functioning as intended is not the tripping point. It is the other graduated ratings that some use such as marginal and poor or maintenance and repair that leads one into problem areas. What is a marginal defect? What is marginal to one may not be to another. These graduated ratings become a way to minimize the damage of the report and make in more palatable for the client and the agent. Look the Inspector says it is marginal therefore it is not a defect or a big deal.

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  • 2 months later...

Chris is exactly right however the Oregon SOP also affords the inspector a great amount of leeway. One example is the requirement to state how habitability is affected. That is such a vague term - attorney bait. I argued against its inclusion to the HIAC. Well it passed anyway and only afterwards did the committee try to define what it meant. (?) To be fair they did do a lot of work but a few gems like this still made it through. I simple wrote into my contract specific disclaimers which negated the "habitability" issue and other ill-defined terms or requirements. Oregon SOP says that if the inspection is going to deviate from the Oregon mandated requirements it must be clearly stated in your contract specifically where it will deviate. Easy enough if within reason.

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