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OK Everyone,

In response to my invitation to ananymously post reports here for critique by the brethren, I've just received a report for review.

The submitter really wants to improve on his delivered product and he asks that you all be professional and not to worry about hurting his feelings 'cuz he can take it, so here it is.

https://www.inspectorsjournal.com/forum ... oto&id=113

Please, if you think you know who submitted this, keep it to yourself; the point of this is to help someone and not to out them.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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It's the usual nearly incomprehensible bunch of blather-speak until you get to the summary on page 17, parts 1-4.

Way too much of "appears to be satisfactory" language in pages 3-16. A clear reliance on software program inspectorspeak language in several areas.

Some of the commentary about brick flashings & weeps was incomplete; you tell folks these things are lacking, but don't really say what it means. The masonry comments kind of left me hanging.

Maybe it's just me, but forcing the customer to read through all that pre--summary stuff w/the concerns, descriptions, FYI's, and general commentary all mixed together and back and forth for 16 pages is cruel.

I did not like the photos being separate from the comments; it seemed like there are two reports; one with comments, one with photos. It is the problem with that particular software; I think it provides disjointed reports.

I think it's probably an accurate descriptions of the buildings issues, but disjointed; the report just didn't read well for me.

I imagined myself being a stressed out buyer reading through this, and I found myself asking "what's that mean?" more than a couple times, and wondering why I had to toggle back and forth between comments and photos to understand what you were trying to tell me.

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I concur.

The inspection itself seems to be thorough and catches quite a few issues. Grammar and writing is pretty bad, though.

Fix the grammar; create proper, simple sentences; don't get lazy and not write enough info because the boilerplate doesn't have that particular option or you don't know how to type efficiently (think Dragon Naturally Speaking software if you need.)

One thing I changed long ago in my report writing: sentences like, "The flashing is / was / will be / not quite / possibly was missing" drive me up the wall. Pick one: "The flashing is missing."

And another pet peeve: report layout. This one actually reads a bit smoother than most, but all the lines, different text, headers, etc. just make it tedious. Keep it simple.

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This person seems to have done a very thorough inspection. He's technically well informed and I'll bet that he's found all of the significant problems that there are to be found in this house. While there are a lot of grammar problems, I really like the way that the comments are short and to the point. In this regard, he's well ahead of at least half of the other reports that come across my desk. I'd like to congratulate him on not trying to "write fancy."

Unfortunately, his grammar is rocky. While I was almost always able to figure out what he was trying to say, the poor grammar kept distracting me from his message. If a customer is inclined to like this inspector, the customer will tend to forgive the grammar issues. On the other hand, if the customer is disinclined to like the inspector, watch out. The customer could really use the poor grammar to make the inspector look bad.

Since this inspector seems to have a very good handle on the technical stuff, perhaps he should spend a few months on improving his writing. A community college course or a writing coach could probably make a big difference. If Bonnie is still available for private classes, that'd be one great way for him to improve his writing.

I really dislike the report layout. It's designed for the convenience of the inspector, not for the reader. I agree with Kurt's observation that the separate picture section makes it seem like the report is written twice. There are lots of programs out there that will put the pictures next to the written description in the body of the report. I think that would be clearer.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I think several of the problems are with the report software, look at the end of page 13 and the start of page 14 (PDF page #'s). Why is the comment about electrical systems needing anual maintenance in the middle of the description of GFCI's? There are several instances of really ugly formating and other disconnects in the flow that all appear to be software driven. Why is there a narrative report, a photo report, and a summary? It' the crummy format of the software. The boiler plate also jumps of the page at you, it tends to be only loosely connected to the inspectors actual observations. Serious edits or complete rewrites are needed almost every time a canned comment appears. This guy needs a new system.

Personally, I think if he wrote his report in Word, his grammer would improve with all the automated spelling and grammer checks. Besides, it takes a lot of effort to build a document that ugly in word and his report would benefit from some simplicity in form.

Tom

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I have to agree that the report software is a big part of the problem. It looks like this is the old ITA computer matrix report. They tried to make the old paper matrix report into software and it was just a mess. Not a wonderful product, it was full of inspectorspeak and just difficult to use.

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I'll take some things from the first couple of pages, and please don't take my comments as an attempt to be harsh. For the record, I think it takes pretty large cajones for anyone to subject their report to this sort of scrutiny, even if done anonymously.

(Any comments that are in parentheses are mine)

Page1 states: The driveway is in adequate condition. We saw typical minor cracks.

Investigate Further - There are large cracks in the drive way, This would be caused by movement of the hillside

some time in the past. Unknown if the hill side is still moving.

First of all, is it "we" or "I" doing the observing? Secondly, the first statement leads a reader to conclude that there are "typical minor cracks," but then goes on to say "Investigate Further - There are large cracks in the drive way, This would be caused by movement of the hillside some time in the past. (It is) Unknown if the hill side is still moving. (The comma after "drive way" is incorrect. A semicolon is needed here since the phrases on either side of it could stand alone as complete sentences. Also, the word "This" should not be capitalized unless you replace the comma with a period.)

If I'm the buyer, I'm probably confused now. Are conditions normal, or is there a problem? Also, I recommend sticking to a consistent form of writing/spelling. In other words, don't bounce between hill side and hillside or drive way and driveway.

Let's not forget keeping subjects and verbs in agreement. The report reads as follows: (remember that comments/letters in parentheses are mine)

There is (are) moisture stains at the base of the support post(s) of the porch/patio roof cover.

Repair - There are cracks/opening(s) in the post (posts) of (on) the porch. These opening(s) need to be sealed to keep water from getting in.

Under# 7-Fences & Gates The report states: The fencing and gates are in adequate condition.

Repair - The gate should be adjusted so it will open and close properly. Post need to be repaired

Again, there is a statement that the item is in adequate condition, but a subsequent comment says otherwise. And the statement: "Post need to be repaired" is poorly worded, and is missing a period. How about "The post needs to be repaired."

As others have said, I suspect that a lot of what I see is the result of pre-written boilerplate that isn't customized for each job.

Like it or not, and whether it's reasonable or not, some folks will judge your competence as an inspector by the way you express yourself in the written form.

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All of the above

Try to include the complete home in your photo.

Is the scheduled date the same as the inspected date? If not, then change the wording to inspected.

'Items not found in this report are considered beyond the scope of this inspection.' What does that mean? If you miss something, then it's outside the scope of the inspection.

Personally, I like to identify my description of the home separately and then my observations below with photos along side so my client doesn't have to search for the information.

The overuse of the words 'appears' and 'adequate' would make the Pope swear.

What's with Page X - Part:1 and Page X - Part:2, that makes no sense. Every page should be numbered sequentially.

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"What's with Page X - Part:1 and Page X - Part:2, that makes no sense. Every page should be numbered sequentially. "

I never number my report pages. My document is converted into a PDF that numbers the pages for me, that way there is never any confusion between report page numbers and PDF page numbers. Automation is good.

Tom

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The format of the report is horrible. It's a painful read. That being said it's like most HI reports that I have seen.

I actually like Hausdok's reports, too much info, but fairly easy to read and understand. My favorite reports are Jim Katens. My own report writing philosophy is heavily borrowed from Jim Katen, Walter Jowers and Kurt Mitenbuler.

Imagine an exec trying to read that report. He takes one glance at it, and tosses it to his sec to decipher, distill and put action items into a simple list. Something that he can look at in 30 seconds or less, then toss it back to the sec, and tell her/him to have items 1, 2, 3, etc. repaired.

In my opinion, the crummy report format is a major obstacle for this HI.

Chris, Oregon

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I've taken the time to read a bit more of the report, honestly, if I was the client I'd demand a refund.

This kind of reporting will hinder your business and increase your liability.

For a start find a better software reporting system then change ALL auto text to fit your particular style and inspection environment.

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What' amazing.......

After finally decoding this report, it is apparent the individual knows their stuff regarding what to look for and how to interpret what they see. I think they know what they want to tell their customer. But it is not pedagogical.

They are sabotaged each inspection by really crappy software, created to benefit everyone but the end user/customer. The information doesn't teach anything.

This is an object lesson for me in how goofy our profession still is. Think how many people are out there letting this software speak for them.

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The format of the report is horrible. It's a painful read. That being said it's like most HI reports that I have seen.

I actually like Hausdok's reports, too much info, but fairly easy to read and understand.

Well, I've pretty much stayed out of this and other report-writing imbroglios, because I write the way I write and no amount of criticism is likely to make me change my style. These days, fully 90% of my customer base is foreign-born techies that actually need more description than the average person to understand how these things (houses) work. They seem to prefer the tedious explanations that everyone hates. In fact, it's the very short, non-technical explanations that they always seem to have the most questions about afterward. They do wish that I'd do the photo thingy, though. One of these days.

That said, this does give me an opportunity to plug TIJ's sponsor, DevWave and their Inspect Express report writing software.

The report format that Chris likes is Inspect Express and it runs in Word. It's designed specifically for those folks who have a hard time typing and all of the extra garbage that clutters up most report formats has been stripped out of it. One follows the report template, makes choices from drop downs and the software combines the choices with pre-written lead ins to form full, complete and, for the most part, correct sentences that describe the home; then one chooses the boilerplate to plug into the report. Basically, it garners all of the info necessary to ensure your report is in full compliance, information wise, with most association standards of practice, and then immediately after the description of a section is plugged in you can use the observations drop-downs to insert your boilerplate; that way, the descriptions of components and the observations aren't all intermixed and info is easy to find.

For this inspector, used in narrative mode, it would build a narrative description of the home that would likely be better written than his own. With the assistance of a decent writer - perhaps a junior-high English teacher doing the work part-time - he could create his own grammatically correct and properly spelled boilerplate that's unique to his style, plug that into the boilerplate and probably see a huge difference in the reaction of his customers to his reports.

The way I do my reports is to go completely through the program first using the pre-loaded descriptions and boilerplate. Once that's done, I go back in and re-read it from the beginning and edit the text to customize it to the house.

Writer, if you're interested in learning more, check out Inspect Express by contacting Mike Brown for a demo at mike@devwave.com.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Mike makes a couple of good points:

Most of us are better 'report critics' than 'report writing teachers'. I know I am. I don't know if he's still teaching or not, but I still say Mark Cramer's report writing class was excellent. Well worth it if you ever get the chance.

Plus, once you've been around awhile, and you develop a healthy client base of people who dig what you do. Even if you write like a chimp and your reports are clunky; if you're staying busy, you're doing OK. Sure you could always improve on what you do, -we all could- but if you can manage to keep body and soul together doing inspection in this market, you're doing OK.

Report writing is very important, but there's a lot more to this gig than just that.

OK Mitenbuler, go ahead and flame me :),

Jimmy

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No flame, but the final product is the report, and it should be comprehensible and accurate. It's not easy cranking out accurate comprehensible reports; it's hard.

It's important to place great emphasis on the quality and completeness of one's report. That doesn't mean one has to take themselves too seriously and become the cavalier house God, but they they should be seriously considering what their product is.

That said, I agree with Mike in the InspectExpress product. I think it's the best Word based option, hands down. Cramerware is fine, but it's Cramer, and isn't the final professional product that InspectExpress is.

There's also the commitment to the profession shown by the InspectExpress folks, what with this fine forum and all their other offerings. It's a good thing in here.

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These days, fully 90% of my customer base is foreign-born techies that actually need more description than the average person to understand how these things (houses) work. They seem to prefer the tedious explanations that everyone hates. In fact, it's the very short, non-technical explanations that they always seem to have the most questions about afterward. They do wish that I'd do the photo thingy, though. One of these days.

That is so true. As Jim Katen says, they're "risk adverse". If I had to write my reports the way Mike does I think I would have to double my fee, but I think they're great reports.

If I was buying some 1800's or early 1900's home back east, I would call Bill Kibbel. Now I wouldn't expect or even want Bill to list everything wrong with the home. I want Bill to distill it all down for me and just give me a list, then if I have questions I'll ask. But unforturnately our SOP's lead inspectors off providing a 3 ring binder full of useless crap.

If we could all hire a Hausdok, a Jim Katen, a Kurt Mitenbuler, etc. to perform our inspections, there wouldn't be any need for "The SOP", but because our ranks are peppered with people right out of the drunk tank, you need something.

Chris, Oregon

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Hi All,

OK, the inspector that submitted that report for your critique has asked me to post a response. Please, if you think you know who this is, keep it to yourself. Here is the response:

Hi To All,

I would like to thank each one of you for commenting on the report.

It is an old ITA report form that I used at one time and I was thinking about going back to using. The reason is that there is inspectors out there that finished there report on site

I am loosing inspections because I don’t. The realtors have their clients believing that the report should be finished there on site. I am looking at this report to try to print on site

I am not good at typing and English along with spelling where my worse grades in school.

This is not the only report system I have; the other one is word base and I can drop photos in with the comments. The problem is it takes me 3 to 4 hours to get the report out. I cannot get the program to make the changes in the program I want changed along with the boilerplating comments I want to use.

Also the word program with not let me make templates that can be used with the start up page. The ITA program will.

The bad side is the drop down boxes for the boilerplating only allows two sentences to be stored. So I have to make changes to some of the comments I have pick up from you good folks here at TIJ

Kurt

You are right about the "appears to be satisfactory" language. It is some of the Items I have to change. A lot of the wording is from what I was using a few years back.

What was some of the comments you changed after you seen the photos?

“I did not like the photos being separate from the comments; it seemed like there are two reports; one with comments, one with photos. It is the problem with that particular software; I think it provides disjointed reports.â€

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The report writer is an exceptionally good sport. I commend him or her.

A common theme in the responses to the comments was software and time limitations, which I totally understand. My own reports are created in Word, and the gallery of photos follows the written summary. I don't like the disjointedness, but inserting a photo after every written comment and properly formatting everything would add an additional hour or two to each job. I was even gonna buy Filemaker to improve the formatting till Kurt checked out one of my reports and said Filemaker wouldn't achieve what I wanted it to.

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My own reports are created in Word, and the gallery of photos follows the written summary. I don't like the disjointedness, but inserting a photo after every written comment and properly formatting everything would add an additional hour or two to each job.

If it's still available, check out Picture Drop for Word from Devwave. It's the photo utility that's built into the Inspect Express program. just edit your photos in photo draw or whatever with the little arrows and captions and such and then save them. Then, as you write the report and want to insert a photo, put your cursor where you want it to go, click insert word wrap photo form file and it drops it right where you want it. At that point, if you want to, you can move it around with your cursor, modify the border, etc.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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