Improving home inspection reports
Q. I am currently doing research on the home inspection industry to find ways that could make business more efficient and profitable. Right now my focus is on the methods inspectors use to write their reports. What are your thoughts on the ways reports are formatted and on the types of report-writing software that are available? I would like to learn about the pain points you and other inspectors experience in your day-to-day. Even a few sentences would be appreciated.
A. When it comes to writing home inspection reports, there is no answer to which all home inspectors are likely to agree. So here is one inspector's point of view.
Various software companies are currently marketing home inspection report systems. These products are typically written for ease of use by home inspectors. Ironically, these report systems only become easy to use after several months of initial struggle.
The point on which most inspectors agree is that these report systems are good enough, but they are not what home inspectors would prefer. The main problem, in this inspector's opinion, is that most report writing systems are formatted in ways that are not user friendly for the average homebuyer. What buyers want to know is "what is wrong with the house," and they don't want to wade through pages of other information to obtain the bottom line.
What most designers of inspection report systems fail to recognize is that there are three distinct categories of information in an inspection report. Only one of these is of particular concern to homebuyers. Therefore, each category of info should be clearly separated from the others to avoid confusing the customer, and the information of greatest concern to buyers should stand out clearly.
The three types of information in a home inspection report are as follows:
• Descriptive Details such as types of wall coverings, types of water piping, locations of fixtures, etc. This kind of information is necessary to the completeness of an inspection report, but it is usually not of particular concern to homebuyers. There are, of course, some exceptions, such as acoustic ceiling texture that might contain asbestos.
• Legal Disclaimers are vital to the financial survival of home inspectors and, therefore, must be included in every report. Examples include pointing out that portions of the building are concealed by personal property; that the inspector cannot inspect conditions that are contained inside of walls or buried in the ground; or that structural and geotechnical engineering evaluations are not within the scope of a home inspection. An inspection report is not complete without this liability-oriented information, but this is not what homebuyers are looking for in the report.
• Property Defects (the actual things needing repair or upgrade) are what matter to homebuyers. A good report makes these disclosures stand out plainly and distinctly so that the person reading the report does not have to sift through boilerplate descriptions and disclaimers to learn about the faulty conditions on the property. Home inspection reports that perform well in this regard are very rare.
The people who write home inspection software should seek to satisfy not just the home inspectors who buy their programs, but the buyers, sellers and real estate agents who have to read and understand the reports.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
Action Coast Publishing