A home inspector can give you the information about the findings verbally, but a home inspection report is the document that you need. Should you be kept waiting for this report?
Several years ago a home inspector told me that he took two weeks to write a report. His reports were long, filled with quotes and diagrams. Another home inspector told me that his report was a checklist, which he gave to the client at the end of the inspection. His reports were obviously short. Here we have two extremes, so which one do you prefer? That is a bad question. How long it takes to produce the report should not be our concern, but rather the quality of the content. Yet speed of report writing is still a bar by which we judge home inspectors. The irritation of some consumers did lead the state of Texas to make a requirement that reports should be produced within three days. This is fine with me, since I have always tried to produce a report quickly.
When I first became a home inspector, I thought that producing a report at the end of the inspection would be a selling point. I had set up my report in a form format, and I would write them in a half hour. The problem with these reports were that they presented cold facts at their most basic. I came to realize that these reports did not help my clients. I did present a great deal of information to each client, but this was generalized, which had nothing to do with the specific home. I was still concerned with the idea of producing the report quickly; however, my desire to create better content was a more important driving factor. I found that writing my reports was taking two hours when an inspection lasted three. I added content that would help my clients, being common to every home inspection. The reports were still taking two hours. Oddly, I had a real estate agent criticize me for this two hours of writing. We live in an age of immediate gratification.
The newest trend in home inspection reports is the use of software programs that produce the reports. The home inspector has to perform his investigation. He goes through a list of pre-written statements to fit his findings. There are often some spaces for personalization. I have known a few real estate agents to prefer these reports, because the automated format produces an easy to read list. I even had agents who claimed that this was a required aspect to a report. My question was if this way of producing reports was the best for my clients. I like the idea of the software, but I wanted better content, and I felt that writing my own reports was best for me.
Having better content is the key to a good home inspection report. I began adding more items to my reports. I had reasons for not including photographs, but I found that certain photographs enhanced the report for the client. I expanded the informational sections of the reports. I created space to make it easier to read the report. This idea came from studying web design. I could write the report like my college papers, but a well designed appearance makes the information in the report easier to read. After a broker mentioned to me that clients did not always see my invoice at the end of the report, I added a table of contents. This is a breakthrough, since this could allow me to expand the information in a readable format that can allow the user to go to the appropriate section quickly. I am still tweaking these aspects of the report. The goal is to produce better content with better content delivery.
These steps have increased the amount of time that I was taking to write the reports. Increasing work time does not seem logical from my standpoint as a business owner. More time on the job means lower profit. I decided upon a different approach to report writing. I began by writing the report backwards. I started filling in the information on the last pages. Afterwards, I would go back through the report in the standard order to check what I had written. This method forced me to edit. I had edited before, but this editing was done too quickly I discovered. Starting with the end of the report did not increase the report writing time, but I produced a better report. Still attempting to write faster, I added the idea of the information dump to my writing process. Instead of looking at my notes, I wrote everything from memory. When going back over the report in my editing process, I used my notes to fill out areas that I missed in my first draft. My report writing takes as long as my home inspection, and I am fine with this development.
A home inspector’s goal should be the delivery of a report in a timely manner. If you are looking for an inspector, asking them how long it would take to produce the report is a valid question; however, asking questions that relate to the quality of the content would be better.