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Many computer reporting programs use ratings such as, FUNCTIONAL, MARGINAL, NEEDS REPAIR and so on. They have a definition of terms page that describe what the ratings mean.

I figure if I do narrative reporting and I do a good job of describing things, do I really need a page explaining what these words mean? For those of you that do narrative reporting, do you have a "definition of terms page"? I would rather not waste space for things that are not really needed. Is it a bad idea to not have a definition of terms page?

Also, in narrative reporting, do you mention everything that was inspected or just focus on the items that need attention? I understand that SOP requires me to mention information about specific things regardless of condition.

My point is and question is, on the things that the SOP do not specifically require to be commented on, and of these these things the ones that do not need attention, do I need to spend time writing about them?

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I figure if I do narrative reporting and I do a good job of describing things, do I really need a page explaining what these words mean? For those of you that do narrative reporting, do you have a "definition of terms page"? I would rather not waste space for things that are not really needed. Is it a bad idea to not have a definition of terms page?

I don't use those words at all. I don't use any headings other than the system I'm describing.

Also, in narrative reporting, do you mention everything that was inspected or just focus on the items that need attention? I understand that SOP requires me to mention information about specific things regardless of condition.

I mention it by describing where it is... "the main clean-out is in the basement below the rear stairs" or just by describing what it's made of, as in "the kitchen counter is a solid surface material". Mentioning it proves I inspected it and then I'm released from saying crap like "appears serviceable".

My point is and question is, on the things that the SOP do not specifically require to be commented on, and of these these things the ones that do not need attention, do I need to spend time writing about them?

I have a preface to my report that tells the client the report will be a list of things that are wrong with the house. It's more eloquent and longer than that that but that's the general idea.

Things are supposed to be right so there's no need to report on those items that are.

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I figure if I do narrative reporting and I do a good job of describing things, do I really need a page explaining what these words mean? For those of you that do narrative reporting, do you have a "definition of terms page"? I would rather not waste space for things that are not really needed. Is it a bad idea to not have a definition of terms page?

It depends where your using those words. Don't use ambiguous words like those in your narrative. There is no need to. I use one notoriously ambiguous word in my report in a table where I am trying to compactly list all of items of the inspection and whether or not the item was included for inspection and was satisfactory or not. The word I use in that case is "Included" and I have a definition for it at the top of the table. Otherwise I never use the words you cited.

I can tell you Hausdok doesn't use those words, neither does Jim K. or W.J. nor does Chad and most of the other old farts that I have had a chance to see their reports. I use to use those words myself but ridded myself of the practice by following the examples of those cited above.

You'll find successful guys and gals practicing and advocating both extremes - pure narrative and glossary based reporting. You'll be one of the top inspectors in your area if you don't try and "pigeon hole" (Jim K.s word) problems in terms of ambiguous words.

Be sure and mine the report writing section here over and over. Cut and past your favorite quotes on report writing and make a list and print it out for easy referral. I have quotes blown up from the old farts all over my office wall.

Also, in narrative reporting, do you mention everything that was inspected or just focus on the items that need attention? I understand that SOP requires me to mention information about specific things regardless of condition.

Old farts here do it both ways. Some mix everything together for one particular item (Descriptions, problems, Disclaimers), others like me break them all out in separate sections.

My point is and question is, on the things that the SOP do not specifically require to be commented on, and of these these things the ones that do not need attention, do I need to spend time writing about them?

If it's an item required to be looked at in your SOP you should indicateid="blue"> that you looked at it and found it to be "functioning consistent with its intended purpose" (Les's words). Now, theres all kinds of ways to do that succinctly with out spelling it out in black in white and cluttering up the report.

Chris, Oregon

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If you are going to use terms as Satisfactory, Marginal or something along those lines then it would be prudent for yo to define those terms or someone else will define them for you and I guarentee you will not like thier definition.

My preference is to list things I am required to describe seperate from those that I am required to inspect. For those I am required to inspect that I find no issue with I simply list them as inspected and define inspected in my definition of terms section. Those that I find an issue with I label Repair/Replace. I do not create a graduated scale of minor problems/major problems in my written report. Note Wisconsin does not require this, some states do. My opinion is that one can marginalize problems thus soft sell a report using a scaling method of reporting. Let the client know what the problem is, what are its ramifications and then let them decide what may be a major/minor concern.

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I used Cramer's original AmiPro version of IR, the one that was created for Windows 3.1. It's ancient now, but it still works, even on Vista. And, truth be told, I think it's the best HI-reporting package ever created. (Of course, it's not pic friendly, but I used graphics, not pix.)

The beauty of the Cramerware was that I could click my way through a few drop-down boxes, and include things like: Water heater: 50 gallon unit; in the garage. Roof: Viewed from the ground using binoculars, from the roof edge, and via upstairs windows.

I could enter those things very quickly, and they showed where I'd been, and what I'd done. The words used to "fill in the blanks" were my words.

As far as coming up with buzzwords, glossaries, and all that, I never even considered it. It would be the very opposite of my conversational style.

Anyhow, I just wrote the report, at the house, with the laptop and printer on the kitchen table. I wrote it plain English with complete sentences, just like I do here. I wanted the customers to hear my voice when they read the report, not some robot voice "inserted" by a software vendor. (Generally, I hate and despise HI-reporting software, because most of it's just plain crap.)

I learned in high school that nobody likes stilted writing, tedious writing, or the writing of folks who are trying to sound "professional." I want my reports to sound like me talking, not like the minutes of a school board meeting. When the job's done, I want the customers to like me, not hate me for writing like a bureaucrat.

As for definitions: Hell, the words are in the dictionary. They already have definitions, which have stuck for hundreds of years. The HIs of the world aren't going to out-define the people who write dictionaries. An HI writing his own defintions is a great shortcut to the defendant's table. I'm amazed that I have to explain this.

Long story short: Write like you talk, make sure you're correct, make sure that nobody can misunderstand your words, and everything will be copacetic.

Writing a report is -- or should be -- a very simple thing.

WJ

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Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

An HI writing his own defintions is a great shortcut to the defendant's table.

WJ

An real world example of a possible trip to the defendant's table. A inspector comments about an A/C system that doesn't work properly. Needs Repair. Pretty straightforward. Tech comes in and says the entire condenser needs to be replaced. Owner calls inspector and says You didn't tell me it had to replaced, you just said the A/C needs repair.

A written description of Repair could say that some or all of components might have to be replaced. I think the descriptions are worthwhile.

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Originally posted by Neal Lewis

Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

An HI writing his own definitions is a great shortcut to the defendant's table.

WJ

An real world example of a possible trip to the defendant's table. A inspector comments about an A/C system that doesn't work properly. Needs Repair. Pretty straightforward. Tech comes in and says the entire condenser needs to be replaced. Owner calls inspector and says You didn't tell me it had to replaced, you just said the A/C needs repair.

A written description of Repair could say that some or all of components might have to be replaced. I think the descriptions are worthwhile.

I'm sorry, but that just doesn't compute with me. Using that logic, we're supposed to be HVAC specialists who can diagnose what's causing the ills in an AC system and prescribe specific repairs. How is that "real world?" What is the point of then recommending that an AC guy come in to look at the AC system, diagnose what's causing it not to function correctly and fix it?"

We get hired to find the things that the client can't find. The AC system might have a 7 degree temp split and the client thinks it's functional. We come in, discover that 7 degree split, we know that's not sufficient, so we write it up and we tell the client to have an AC guy find out why it's not functioning properly and then fix it. We don't tell them, the AC system only has a 7 degree split because the whatsis is worn out and needs to be completely replaced, unless we can physically see, without invasive inspection or use of specialized tools and equipment, that the whatsis is completely worn out.

Someone in this business with a background as an HVAC installer might be able to easily do what you say, but someone whose entered the business from a background as a framer, and comes from a state where air conditioning systems are rare, such as my own, might not have the faintest idea why that AC system isn't functioning correctly; and shouldn't have, because that's not our function.

No course for home inspectors is going to teach them what they need to know to be able to do what you're saying with every system in a home.

We are basically quality control consultants; we are not diagnosticians. We have set parameters to work within that have been defined for the past half century and those don't require us to be "experts" on every aspect of every system in a home. That would be an unreasonable expectation.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by AHI

Many computer reporting programs use ratings such as, FUNCTIONAL, MARGINAL, NEEDS REPAIR and so on. They have a definition of terms page that describe what the ratings mean.

I figure if I do narrative reporting and I do a good job of describing things, do I really need a page explaining what these words mean? For those of you that do narrative reporting, do you have a "definition of terms page"? I would rather not waste space for things that are not really needed. Is it a bad idea to not have a definition of terms page?

What you are talking about are what the folks who write these report programs call, for whatever reason, "conventions." If you're going to use those, you'd better include a definition of what you intend them to mean and that definition had better pretty much fall in line with what's commonly accepted as their meanings or you're going to get in trouble.

When I first got into this business, the report system required by the franchiser had conventions (probably still does) and I was pigeon-holed into saying that something was either satisfactory, functional, attention, or action needed, or something like that. After I sold the franchise, I began using a different software and even helped the developer include conventions. The difference being, the user can customize the convention anyway he or she wants to. If a user wants a convention that says, "Seriously dorked up," and wants it to be bolded and in red, green, or pink, then that's how the customer sets up the program.

I stopped using conventions completely about 5 years ago. Now I simply write something like:

Repair the roof now: On the south slope of the roof there are about a dozen shingles torn off. These were probably torn off by the wind because whoever installed this roof cover failed to ensure that every shingle was properly adhered to those it overlaps. There's an adhesive strip on these shingles. When they are installed, the heat from the sun causes the adhesive to soften and the shingles to adhere to one another, so that the wind won't lift them and cause them to snap off. If it's too cold at the time the roof is installed, the adhesive won't soften and the shingles won't bond to one another. When shingles won't adhere, the roofer is supposed to use mastic to hand adhere every shingle shingle. Obviously, that wasn't done here. Get a competent roofer to replace the torn shingles and hand adhere the entire roof.

Why use a convention when you can simply say what's wrong, why it's wrong, and, if you know, what needs to be done to fix it?

Also, in narrative reporting, do you mention everything that was inspected or just focus on the items that need attention? I understand that SOP requires me to mention information about specific things regardless of condition.
Let's get real; if you're writing a narrative report and you describe the exterior as having, "stucco siding with wood trim," do you need to add, "....that's in satisfactory condition," if you didn't see anything to be concerned about and have told the client that? Seems to me that if you stick that in there, six months, a year, two years down the road, when the nails might have worked there way out or the trim, and water has gotten into the wall around a window because the client hasn't been keeping up with exterior maintenance, when the client goes to sell and another inspector writes those issues up, that you're handing a certain type of client the tools to use to come after you in a frivolous action.
My point is and question is, on the things that the SOP do not specifically require to be commented on, and of these these things the ones that do not need attention, do I need to spend time writing about them?

I say no.

We have a problem in this profession, and it's one of our own making. Instead of focusing our attention on what's right for the client, on charging enough to make a fair profit, and on taking out time during inspections, so that we don't miss anything, we've allowed those in real estate to practically dictate the fees that we can command, our time on site, and what's acceptable language to be used if we expect them to refer us. Consequently, most of us have come to equate success in the business with the number of inspections we can do per year and that, for many of us, is mostly dependent upon how many referrals we can garner from agents.

Indeed, in some places, the client's expectation of what a fair fee is, based on what they've been told by their real estate agent, is so low that an inspector must do a lot of inspections very quickly or they'll find themselves out of business, and maybe even out of home, very quickly.

Over decades, many in this profession, whose path to success was through currying favor with those in real estate, stopped doing inspection and got into something with a much better profit to liability ratio than inspections - teaching. They began teaching their students that the secrets to success were by not upsetting agents, by being "fair to the house," by "keeping things in perspective," and by ooh'ing and ah'ing all of the features of the house in order to give the realtors a warm and fuzzy. Over time, they stopped teaching but those they taught began passing on those same tips.

Now, most instructors automatically teach this stuff without giving a second thought to why things are done this way. They teach this because they know that a new inspector that is not friendly to the house is liable to find referrals to be few and far between, and is liable to blame their course later on for their failure. They don't want students bad-mouthing their curriculum or coming back and breathing down their necks accusing them of not giving them the secret to success. It's backasswards, but that's what it is. Hell, one of the most used testing texts out there by one of the largest firms in the business says in no uncertain terms that the inspectors ultimate obligation, according to some/many, is "to the house itself!" Huh, shouldn't our ultimate obligation be to the "truth?"

So, back on point, most of the reporting systems and most of the unwritten "doctrine" is that you need to balance everything bad with something good. Checklist report systems are designed to do that and some states have some pretty lame licensing laws that require one to use these realtor-friendly report formats; Texas is the first one that comes to mind with it's weird I-inspected, NI-not inspected, NP-Not present, NR-Needs repair report format. You are required to put a check in those boxes and when the report is done the client is usually going to see that there are fewer Needs Repair boxes checked off than there are the others. So, in the client's mind, the repairs needed may be much more insignificant then they actually are. In the case of the franchiser who's report format I used to use, the client repeatedly would read the words satisfactory or functional, and, unless I was very careful to ensure that the client focused on those things that I wrote up for Attention or Action, which were always far fewer, it was easy for a client to end up bean counting the number of issues needing repair versus the number that don't need repair. It's a system that's designed to ease the client's anxieties and move things along; that's why realtors hate narrative reports written by folks who tell the truth and won't include the good stuff about a home.

My reports are very blunt and contain almost nothing good to say about a home. In each section, I simply describe that particular component or area of interest, and report those issues I'm concerned with. A few clients, who themselves have been conditioned by previous inspection reports on other homes that are more friendly to the house, have remarked something like, "Jeez, Mike, there's nothing in here talking about what's good about the house. It's kind of a bummer," to which I always respond, "Look, you need to consider my report your reality check. You already knew what you liked about the house when you made your offer and before you hired me. You don't pay me to make you feel good - you pay me to investigate the condition of this home and give you as truthful and accurate report as I can about what's not right with the home. That's what I've done. You don't need me to make you feel good about all of the neat things in the home; your realtor will be more than happy to remind you of each and every one of those things every time you express some concern about stuff in my report."

It's my opinion that we waste our time, the client's time, and do the client a disservice, by commenting on stuff that's functional, and on all of the neat-to-have and great stuff in the home, when we're fact finders that are paid to discover the stuff that clients are hoping and praying we won't find, but still want to know about nonetheless.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I don't use those words at all. I don't use any headings other than the system I'm describing.

I mention it by describing where it is... "the main clean-out is in the basement below the rear stairs" or just by describing what it's made of, as in "the kitchen counter is a solid surface material". Mentioning it proves I inspected it and then I'm released from saying crap like "appears serviceable".

I have a preface to my report that tells the client the report will be a list of things that are wrong with the house. It's more eloquent and longer than that that but that's the general idea.

Things are supposed to be right so there's no need to report on those items that are.id="blue">

What you are talking about are what the folks who write these report programs call, for whatever reason, "conventions." If you're going to use those, you'd better include a definition of what you intend them to mean and that definition had better pretty much fall in line with what's commonly accepted as their meanings or you're going to get in trouble.

When I first got into this business, the report system required by the franchiser had conventions (probably still does) and I was pigeon-holed into saying that something was either satisfactory, functional, attention, or action needed, or something like that. After I sold the franchise, I began using a different software and even helped the developer include conventions. The difference being, the user can customize the convention anyway he or she wants to. If a user wants a convention that says, "Seriously dorked up," and wants it to be bolded and in red, green, or pink, then that's how the customer sets up the program.

I stopped using conventions completely about 5 years ago. Now I simply write something like:

Repair the roof now: On the south slope of the roof there are about a dozen shingles torn off. These were probably torn off by the wind because whoever installed this roof cover failed to ensure that every shingle was properly adhered to those it overlaps. There's an adhesive strip on these shingles. When they are installed, the heat from the sun causes the adhesive to soften and the shingles to adhere to one another, so that the wind won't lift them and cause them to snap off. If it's too cold at the time the roof is installed, the adhesive won't soften and the shingles won't bond to one another. When shingles won't adhere, the roofer is supposed to use mastic to hand adhere every shingle shingle. Obviously, that wasn't done here. Get a competent roofer to replace the torn shingles and hand adhere the entire roof.

Why use a convention when you can simply say what's wrong, why it's wrong, and, if you know, what needs to be done to fix it?

Quote: Also, in narrative reporting, do you mention everything that was inspected or just focus on the items that need attention? I understand that SOP requires me to mention information about specific things regardless of condition.

Let's get real; if you're writing a narrative report and you describe the exterior as having, "stucco siding with wood trim," do you need to add, "....that's in satisfactory condition," if you didn't see anything to be concerned about and have told the client that? Seems to me that if you stick that in there, six months, a year, two years down the road, when the nails might have worked there way out or the trim, and water has gotten into the wall around a window because the client hasn't been keeping up with exterior maintenance, when the client goes to sell and another inspector writes those issues up, that you're handing a certain type of client the tools to use to come after you in a frivolous action.

Quote: My point is and question is, on the things that the SOP do not specifically require to be commented on, and of these these things the ones that do not need attention, do I need to spend time writing about them?

I say no.

We have a problem in this profession, and it's one of our own making. Instead of focusing our attention on what's right for the client, on charging enough to make a fair profit, and on taking out time during inspections, so that we don't miss anything, we've allowed those in real estate to practically dictate the fees that we can command, our time on site, and what's acceptable language to be used if we expect them to refer us. Consequently, most of us have come to equate success in the business with the number of inspections we can do per year and that, for many of us, is mostly dependent upon how many referrals we can garner from agents.

Indeed, in some places, the client's expectation of what a fair fee is, based on what they've been told by their real estate agent, is so low that an inspector must do a lot of inspections very quickly or they'll find themselves out of business, and maybe even out of home, very quickly.

Over decades, many in this profession, whose path to success was through currying favor with those in real estate, stopped doing inspection and got into something with a much better profit to liability ratio than inspections - teaching. They began teaching their students that the secrets to success were by not upsetting agents, by being "fair to the house," by "keeping things in perspective," and by ooh'ing and ah'ing all of the features of the house in order to give the realtors a warm and fuzzy. Over time, they stopped teaching but those they taught began passing on those same tips.

Now, most instructors automatically teach this stuff without giving a second thought to why things are done this way. They teach this because they know that a new inspector that is not friendly to the house is liable to find referrals to be few and far between, and is liable to blame their course later on for their failure. They don't want students bad-mouthing their curriculum or coming back and breathing down their necks accusing them of not giving them the secret to success. It's backasswards, but that's what it is. Hell, one of the most used testing texts out there by one of the largest firms in the business says in no uncertain terms that the inspectors ultimate obligation, according to some/many, is "to the house itself!" Huh, shouldn't our ultimate obligation be to the "truth?"

So, back on point, most of the reporting systems and most of the unwritten "doctrine" is that you need to balance everything bad with something good. Checklist report systems are designed to do that and some states have some pretty lame licensing laws that require one to use these realtor-friendly report formats; Texas is the first one that comes to mind with it's weird I-inspected, NI-not inspected, NP-Not present, NR-Needs repair report format. You are required to put a check in those boxes and when the report is done the client is usually going to see that there are fewer Needs Repair boxes checked off than there are the others. So, in the client's mind, the repairs needed may be much more insignificant then they actually are. In the case of the franchiser who's report format I used to use, the client repeatedly would read the words satisfactory or functional, and, unless I was very careful to ensure that the client focused on those things that I wrote up for Attention or Action, which were always far fewer, it was easy for a client to end up bean counting the number of issues needing repair versus the number that don't need repair. It's a system that's designed to ease the client's anxieties and move things along; that's why realtors hate narrative reports written by folks who tell the truth and won't include the good stuff about a home.

My reports are very blunt and contain almost nothing good to say about a home. In each section, I simply describe that particular component or area of interest, and report those issues I'm concerned with. A few clients, who themselves have been conditioned by previous inspection reports on other homes that are more friendly to the house, have remarked something like, "Jeez, Mike, there's nothing in here talking about what's good about the house. It's kind of a bummer," to which I always respond, "Look, you need to consider my report your reality check. You already knew what you liked about the house when you made your offer and before you hired me. You don't pay me to make you feel good - you pay me to investigate the condition of this home and give you as truthful and accurate report as I can about what's not right with the home. That's what I've done. You don't need me to make you feel good about all of the neat things in the home; your realtor will be more than happy to remind you of each and every one of those things every time you express some concern about stuff in my report."

It's my opinion that we waste our time, the client's time, and do the client a disservice, by commenting on stuff that's functional, and on all of the neat-to-have and great stuff in the home, when we're fact finders that are paid to discover the stuff that clients are hoping and praying we won't find, but still want to know about nonetheless.

I'm pretty sure we both said the same thing?

Mike, do you get paid by the word?

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Originally posted by hausdok

Repair the roof now:

It seems to me that if you use that phrase in your report a few times, in bold before the narrative, it becomes a convention, at last for the reader. Someone looking through the report sees that once and starts to look for it again (or at least the repair part) as a reference point, since I could imagine that your reports are voluminous.

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Cute,

That's the second time I typed that. I had it all done and then the box locked up when I went to post it and I hadn't done it outside of the program, so I had to re-type it. It took me about 10 minutes.

Do I get paid by the word? Nah, I don't get paid at all - even for inspections; Yung gives me an allowance. [;)]

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Originally posted by Neal Lewis

Originally posted by hausdok

Repair the roof now:

It seems to me that if you use that phrase in your report a few times, in bold before the narrative, it becomes a convention, at last for the reader. Someone looking through the report sees that once and starts to look for it again (or at least the repair part) as a reference point, since I could imagine that your reports are voluminous.

Yeah, that's true; sort of. However, I've also prefaced that same comment with something like, There are torn shingles on the roof: On the south slope of the roof .....

Other examples are:

There's a drain leak in the master bath: Under the left-hand sink in...

The water heater is installed wrong: Whoever installed the water heater....

Some of the electrical receptacles need to be corrected: Throughout the house....

Toilets are loose and leaking at the floor: In every bathroom....

I'm not constrained by specific language. I can say the roof needs repair now or I can say there are torn shingles on the roof or I can say The roof cover was installed incorrectly or whatever I care to say to lead into that. It doesn't really matter as long as I report the issue and the comment makes it clear what the issue is, why it negatively impacts the home, and what to do about it.

I can use the exact same boilerplated text for any of those lead-ins, as long as I'm careful to insert text or delete text from the comment that's necessary to make the comment fit that particular house.

I dunno if my reports are voluminous, most of the volume is taken up by the format. I have a cover, a separate page for the table of comments, a page for scope of the inspection, a page for exclusions and limitations, a page for an introduction, a page for the General Information (client, seller, location, etc.), and then I use page breaks between each section; Structure, Exterior, Roof, Landscaping & Drainage, etc., so that increases the length of the report. However, since I don't waste page space with long lines and columns of checkboxes, it's a lot shorter than if I were to say, "The condition of the roof is satisfactory," "The condition of the siding is satisfactory," "I just love the way that the hydrangeas set off the color of the house so effectively," and that kind of needless pap.

My reports average about 21 to 23 pages, including the cover and the other 5 pages that basically say nothing about the house. Sometimes they are more, sometimes they are less, but, even if it were a perfect house with no issues, the format wouldn't allow a report to be less than about 17 pages long.

Could I make is shorter? Sure, I could do it without page breaks and it would be about 60% as long and much more tiring to read. You have to have plenty of white space on a page or a reader's eyes get tired. Hell, reading checklist reports, with their constant single spacing and narrow columns, and icons, and explanations, and keys to this or that, are a whole lot more difficult for me to read than any narrative report and I do this every day. I can only imagine what it's like for the poor client who has to tread through one.

Sometimes I go on the net and check out examples on other folks' websites. For me, the narrative formats are the easiest to read and understand and I don't experience the anxiety that I do when I have to read a checklist or semi-checklist example without plenty of white space to let my eyes rest and give me a break between sections.

Works for me.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Many computer reporting programs use ratings such as, FUNCTIONAL, MARGINAL, NEEDS REPAIR and so on. They have a definition of terms page that describe what the ratings mean.

I just looked up three words I have used: serviceable, functional, acceptable. I will no longer use the word, acceptable.

I think it's fine to use conventions, if the meaning is clear and they serve a purpose for you and your client. I use "repair". I define repair (and include "or replace") along with: safety issue, major concern, further review and monitor at the front of report. They highlight the type of deficiency. As long as there is no confusion w/ intent of the convention, they make the report easier to read. In the case of "further review", this convention in a report is usually followed by a description of the problem, usually a manuscripted comment as the boiler plate won't fit- and the convention definition doesn't have to reinserted.

I was once told by a FREA E&O rep. that you should define such words like, acceptable. (Of course, E&O carriers would have you refer to a specialist for a missing door knob.) If there can be ambiguity in a value description type word (acceptable by who), it should not be used or be more clear, or define in a report section. If Websters is clear (functional-it works), then why define.

Also, in narrative reporting, do you mention everything that was inspected or just focus on the items that need attention? I understand that SOP requires me to mention information about specific things regardless of condition.

I think most folks expect their report will concentrate on repair items. If you look at an SoP, does it they say anything about reporting on the condition of items that are not deficient? Mike had an opinion on this. Describe the structure, plumb, hvac, elec etc. And Report on what's damaged or broke. I include short comments in some sections of report which further describe system or component, and give inspection result that say, eg: the water heater was properly installed incl. blah blah. This is done to let client know this system was inspected, provides info.

Does your SoP include the doorbell? If not and the bell doesn't work, do you report it? Would your client want it to work, or have been informed? This is on another tact and I won't get started on "representative" sampling, which back to point, at least is defined in SoP(s) .

Dave

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Originally posted by Neal Lewis

Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

An HI writing his own defintions is a great shortcut to the defendant's table.

WJ

An real world example of a possible trip to the defendant's table. A inspector comments about an A/C system that doesn't work properly. Needs Repair. Pretty straightforward. Tech comes in and says the entire condenser needs to be replaced. Owner calls inspector and says You didn't tell me it had to replaced, you just said the A/C needs repair.

A written description of Repair could say that some or all of components might have to be replaced. I think the descriptions are worthwhile.

Oranges turned into apples somewhere between my post and the one above. I'm not talking about a spitting match with an HVAC guy. I'm talking about a home inspector creating new definitions for words that got defined hundreds of years ago.

Home inspectors aren't really qualified to get into the definition business. Neither are tradesmen. Folks who aren't masters of the language would do well to stay out of arguments involving linguistics and semantics. Leave that to the wordsmithy lawyers, judges and qualified experts.

As far as real-world situations go, let's just say I've been in a few in which the disagreeing parties were dumb enough to (metaphorically) shoot themselves in the feet, shins and knees via their own ignorance, bad logic and their stubborn insistence that whatever screwball ideas (or definitions) that popped into their heads are correct because, well, they think they're correct.

Let me offer one simple example. Let's say there's a leak in the trap, under the kitchen sink. I'm not going to try to define this as a "deficiency," or "in need of repair," or any such bureaucrat-speak; and, I'm surely not going to direct readers to a separate section in which I define "deficiency." I'm just going to say that there's a leak in the trap under the kitchen sink, and the leak needs to be fixed.

Pity the poor reader.

WJ id="blue">

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The answers that were given were what I wanted to hear. This place must be rubbing off on me. I'm ditching the definitions page and removing as much unnecessary chat as I can. I will focus on the SOP required items but also include writings to things needing attention.

Chad, your idea of a preface in the report was already floating around in my head. I figured it could help the client prepare to understand the style they were about to delve into.

I wont commit to not using any specific words and I will not provide a definition for whatever words I may use. I figure a word can have more that one meaning depending on the context it is used. Why lock up a word by providing a specific definition for it?

I figured the questions I posed in this thread would generate some action. It looks like I was right. Thanks everyone for chiming in.

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A little tread drift here.

A friend of mine who, is a good inspector, is facing a $75,000 law suit because of poor report writing.

The buyer claims there is serious structural damage to the house because of a lack of deck flashing. My friend found and reported the lack of flashing but failed to mention what harm the lack of flashing could cause or recommend the the client have it fixed.

This inspector is still in denial over the extend of his liability. He feels that since he found the problem he should be off the hook. I tried to explain to him that to the average client just writing up that there is something missing is meaningless to them. He needed to report the missing item could cause harm and that action should be taken.

I have learned a lot about report writing on this forum from Jim K., Walter J., and others. It really does not take much to write three simple sentences that say. what was wrong, what could happen, take some action.

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Originally posted by MMustola

A little tread drift here.

A friend of mine who, is a good inspector, is facing a $75,000 law suit because of poor report writing.

The buyer claims there is serious structural damage to the house because of a lack of deck flashing. My friend found and reported the lack of flashing but failed to mention what harm the lack of flashing could cause or recommend the the client have it fixed.

This inspector is still in denial over the extend of his liability. He feels that since he found the problem he should be off the hook. I tried to explain to him that to the average client just writing up that there is something missing is meaningless to them. He needed to report the missing item could cause harm and that action should be taken.

I have learned a lot about report writing on this forum from Jim K., Walter J., and others. It really does not take much to write three simple sentences that say. what was wrong, what could happen, take some action.

That's classic. I see it again and again. Not to beat a comatose horse, but this is an example of an HI "convention" that, I think, comes from 30+ years of HIs serving as reeltors' little helpers. I could be wrong, of course, but how else could a reasonably competent HI find himself seeing and understanding a well-known and well-defined problem, yet leaving out the one paragraph that (to paraphrase brother Katen) could have saved his customer's ass and his own ass at the same time.

How hard would it be to write something like, "The lack of flashing could cause rot, which could cause structural damage, and even deck failure (collapse). Hire a good deck builder to make the needed repairs."

And, IMHO, this is one of those times when it would be smart to cite the building code's requirement for deck flashing, even if the deck is older than the code requirement. (Another little service so many HIs provide to reeltors: the "I don't do codes inspections" tapdance.)

For the sake of one reeltor's referrals, this poor guy has blown something like a year's pay. Not to mention the attorney's fees, ulcers, and sleepless nights that come with a lawsuit.

I should start a service: Email me a picture of the problem, and I'll write a paragraph that will keep you out of the courtroom. What would that be worth, I wonder...

WJid="blue">

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I can see it now,

A huge dark circular room with large flat video screens mounted high on each wall. The room is full of rows of computers with operators sitting behind them. At first glance, one could easily mistake this room for NASA's mission central in Houston. Standing in the center of the room wearing a headset, like the captain of a Starship, is Walt Jowers.

The computer operators are all wearing two-way headsets and are running various software programs; Inspect Express, Intelligent Writer, 3-D, etc.. They're watching the video screens and are receiving, and listening to, live video feeds and commentary being transmitted via satellite from video headsets being worn by inspectors at various inspection sites around the country.

As Katen in Oregon describes an issue to his client, his operator, listening it, makes a few deft clicks of the keys, slams Katen's boilerplated comment into the report, and then quickly edits it to make it apply to that particular house. Jowers, curious, sees that the video displays "Katen - Oregon," walks over and looks at what the operator has typed on the screen. He nods approvingly; no passive voice there, it makes sense and is defensible in court - no need to interject anything into one of Brother Katen's reports.

Suddenly, a red light begins to blink on monitor #12; it's a relatively new inspector from Maryland who's hit the assist button on his headset. Jowers dials his headset control to channel #12 and turns up the volume. The inspector is trying to make a couple of bewildered looking buyers understand the significance of an unflashed ledger. The reason he's hit the assist button is that he's unsure of himself and how to handle these folks. Jower's presses the talk button and chimes in, "Steady boy, there's nothing to be nervous about. Just tell 'em that without flashing the area behind that ledger can rot and that, if it does, it's going to be expensive to fix. They need to get good deck builder out there to fix it now." The inspector has heard this on his headset but the clients are oblivious to it. Jowers turns to operator #12, who's been listening to his input, and says, "Make sure you include all of that in that comment." The operator nods, slams away at his computer for a few seconds and then hits a key to display the finished comment on screen #12. J Jowers briefly scans the comment for logic breakdowns, correct grammar and syntax, and lack of passive voice. It's OK; he gives the operator a thumbs up. The screen reverts back to the video feed from the Maryland rookie, who's been stalling the clients for a minute while Jowers handles things at his end, hits a key on his keyboard and the rookie hears a bell sound in his headset that tells him to move on to the next item. Under his breath, the inspector lets out a sigh of relief, Uncle Walter has saved his bacon again.

An alert signal appears on screen #6 on the other side of the room and Jowers turns his attention to it; it's an inspector from Nevada. Jowers turns to channel #6 and listens in. The inspector is trying to make a pigheaded reel-tour lady understand why an issue needs to be fixed by a pro and not by Rufus, the neighborhood handyman. The reel-tour lady is obviously one of the manipulative types who thinks home inspectors live and breath to bath her feet and she's being a royal pain in the ass. Jowers feels his adrenaline go up; he's going to enjoy this, there's nothing he likes more than to skewer some wise-ass Lexus-driving realtorzoid. He presses his talk button, talks softly into the microphone and watches as the inspector parrots his words and the big hair lady turns white and is reduced to a stammer and walks away looking very deflated. "Yes! Rip their hearts out and feed them to them," he thinks.

And so it goes. As inspections are completed, the operators send them via email directly to the various clients' email addresses, the processing fee is added to the inspector's monthly bill, and the operator keys in the next inspector that's standing by to be served.

At the end of the day, Captain Jowers is feeling pretty pleased with himself; he's prevented at least 30 inspectors from making huge costly mistakes, skewered at least a dozen know-it-all realtorzoids, and made more in a single day than he used to make in a week as an inspector and home inspection pundit. It's time to go park on the porch and enjoy some libation.

Life's good.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I know that many of you here don't rave about the practices of the many HI schools out there now. Having said that, the instructor for my particular classes really pushed the 3 step approach to writing things up. We went over it again and again and again.

1. Say what the problem is.

2. Say why it's a problem.

3. Say what to do about it.

It never hurts to hammer that home over and over and over.

BTW, excellent imagination Mike. The visions were flashing through my head as I read the bit.

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It's good advice, John, but you have to be cautious and selective when, "Saying what to do about it."

I specify that cracked flashing boots should be replaced and not caulked, for example. But with structural defects and other issues that require a little thought and exploration, you're better off deferring to someone else. If you don't, and something gets screwed up, the person who effected the repairs will take the position that he was only following the inspector's instructions and that's who should be blamed.

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That is excellent storytelling, brother Mike.

And, y'know, it's not so far from what actually happened in the two weeks after my bypass surgery back in '99. Co-inspector Rick, who's perfectly able to do HI work all by himself, made his days easier by arriving at the jobsite early, and describing what he saw to me, via his cellphone, as I sat with my feet up on the computer desk, back at my office. He took a few breaks to show the customers the points of concern, then pulled the finished report that I sent via email out of the printer. We did about 20 jobs that way...

Customers thought Rick was the smartest man in the world. "The man did the whole job in an hour, then handed us a report still warm from the printer."

The concept of competent eyes in the field, reporting to competent report writers back at the office has a lot of merit.

WJ

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