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  1. #1
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    Default what to put in a report

    Fellow inspectors, question.

    I just finished a report that took me almost 3.5 hours to complete and was 57 pages with photos. The home had so many issues, many small but equally many will be quite expensive to correct. While I was inputting the info and findings I began to ask myself, why do I continue to put insignificant issues, like poor weather stripping around a door, when I just mentioned that the homes needs a new HVAC system, 2 total, for around $10,000 replacement. The buyer will more than likely walk from that item alone not to mention all the other critical issues.

    When would you stop spending a lot of time on reporting the less important items, house cleaning issues when you are certain the buyer will walk? Would you stop mentioning in the report the really small issues and just concentrate on relaying the most important, critical issues?

    I could have cut a good hour from the report this morning just by modifying what information I put in there. I know it is a double edged sword but afterall, I know there are times when i don't mention issues that are small, maintenance items like minor wood rot when there are much bigger, looming issues. It just becomes overload for the buyer reading the report.

    Just thinking out loud and wondering how others feel about this. Funny, in contrast, I had a second inspection that same day and the report took me only 1.5 hours to complete and send off. And, in that report, I mentioned all the smaller stuff because the house was fairly clean.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bronner View Post
    the homes needs a new HVAC system, 2 total, for around $10,000 replacement. The buyer will more than likely walk from that item alone not to mention all the other critical issues.

    When would you stop spending a lot of time on reporting the less important items, house cleaning issues when you are certain the buyer will walk?
    When I was finished listing *all* the items I found.

    It was not up to me to limit the information the client got or used, it was up to the client to use, or not use, any or all of the information I found.

    That said, during an inspection where it became immediately apparent that the client would likely walk, I would call the client and go over what I found to that point which caused me to think they would walk ... I would offer to end the inspection at that point at some reduced price (but still in my favor for the trip and work so far plus the report) ... *most* of the time the client would agree to end the inspection, but not always.

    Whatever the client wanted to do is what I did.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    I pretty much do as Jerry when the house has major issues, I call the client or if they are at the inspection I just tell them or ask them if they want me to continue.

    I had a home last week that had major problems, I think that my report had 8 pages in the summary and normal is around 2-3 pages.

    Michael, if you are spending an hour and a half writing your report on a fairly simple house I would say that your problems are not necessarily with what you are reporting on but with the way you are writing your reports. 3.5 hours is an very long time for a report The home last week that I had the 8 page summary was a 7,000sf monster, 6 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms, 2 kitchens, etc, etc. I was able finish that report in about an hour and a half, with photos as well and it was about 29 pages.

    Are you using a reporting software or are you writing them from scratch? Maybe you are including too many photos...

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    Michael,

    I run into the same problem that you mention. Normally, I will detail each condition with an individual recommendation. However, when I find multiple problems with a system; say an electrical panel, I will list the problems and make a blanket deferral to an electrical contractor. Saves time and cuts down on the size of the report. At some point, we cannot be expected to detail all conditions in a home. Jerry operated a bit differently from a typical home inspector and his reports were much larger. But, his clients wanted that kind of detail.

    Department of Redundancy Department
    http://www.FullCircleInspect.com/

  5. #5
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    Michael,

    I run into the same problem that you mention. Normally, I will detail each condition with an individual recommendation. However, when I find multiple problems with a system; say an electrical panel, I will list the problems and make a blanket deferral to an electrical contractor. Saves time and cuts down on the size of the report. At some point, we cannot be expected to detail all conditions in a home. Jerry operated a bit differently from a typical home inspector and his reports were much larger. But, his clients wanted that kind of detail.
    What Gunnar said. When I see an entire system that is littered with defects, I get away from listing every single defect. For example, if I see a service panel with multiple double taps, multiple breakers with undersized wires, etc., I'll simply say in my report "multiple unsafe and improper wiring configurations noted in service panel - have entire panel serviced by a professional electrician and all repairs made as needed".

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  6. #6
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    I too use a general phrasing on the systems when multiple issues are present but I still try to be a specific as possible so that the issues I see are addressed. Just having a "electrician" fix what is wrong leaves way too much wiggle room during a real estate transaction. I think fix a, b, c, d, e.... z and anything else that they may find during the course of the repair work is a wiser position and more what my clients are paying for.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  7. #7
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    If a client is paying for a full inspection report you need to provide a full inspection report. Don't cheat your clients by not reporting things just for your convenience.

    MinnesotaHomeInspectors.com
    Minnesota Home Inspectors LLC
    ASHI #242887 mnradontesting.com

  8. #8
    Joe Richmond's Avatar
    Joe Richmond Guest

    Default Re: what to put in a report

    To chime in on this issue, it is not your call on what the home owner will or will not walk away from. As inspectors, we have the obligation to record the data and report same. As our experience will allow, we can comment on construction related items, and if we are able to do so, even talk about pricing for items (although that is an opportunity to provide a cost estimate which can provide additional data as well as provide an additional source of income, if we are able to do). At that point they have to make their own decision about their purchase opportunity. You continue to do the best you can in compiling the data in a clear, concise, and correct manner and as time goes on you will be able to have a very meaningful conversation with your client, in providing data that they need in order to make their decision.

    Just my four cents


  9. #9
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    I frequently prove to myself that what is important to me is not always what is important to the client. Typically I express concerns about electrical panels, water heaters in attics, dead or near dead HVAC and sick foundations only to have the clients negotiate the real estate deal for bad window seal or a small section of rotting exterior trim. Go figger.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    I agree with Jerry and Scott, and handle my inspections about the same way.

    I report on everything I see, from major structural issues to that one missing outlet cover plate. Many things I report on are classified as "maintenance issues". Those are things that need attention, but are not significant repair items, and more associated with routine homeowner maintenance/repair.

    As far as when to stop an inspection goes.... If I find something really bad, something I know will cost a lot of money, or an engineer will be needed, and my client is not already expecting it, then I tell them. If possible, I SHOW them my concerns.

    I don't try to "lead them" into stopping the inspection, but, if in conversation I get the impression that they have been blindsided, and are considering bailing, then I will offer to stop it right then for a reduced fee. Obviously, if I find something really bad in the crawlspace, I'm at the end of my inspection process anyway, so no reductions are offered.

    If my clients attend the inspection and follow me around, I keep a running dialog, and keep them abreast of any "big" findings as they come up. During this communication I get a pretty good idea of their threshold and budget, and have a pretty good idea that if I find one more BIG thing, it is likely the straw that broke the camel's back.

    I agree with Scott that 3.5 hours to write the report seems too long.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    Gentlemen,

    Thank you for all the somewhat varied responses but all mostly along the same line of reasoning. I do know what to report and do report most everything, and that seems to be the dilemma. I have been inspecting now for almost 17 years, so I am not some young, inexperienced upshot. The longer I am in business and the more experience I have, the longer my inspections take physically and the longer my reports become. Although, I seem to have to have bumped into what appears to be a natural limit on average for length of reports and time to prepare.

    I am quite comfortable with how long it takes to prepare my report, its length, content and the number of photos I take and include. I leave almost nothing to chance. Hence, the question I queried yesterday. I was mainly curious how others felt on this issue and know many had asked themselves that same question.

    I do use a reporting software and I do include 'lots' of photos. Within each photo I place script with arrows ect. I operate under the idea that a picture is worth a 1000 words and only inculde photos of more important issues. I attempt to list every issue, within reason, I find in a home. I try and limit a lot of 'lumping'. For instance, if there are 4,5,6 different issues inside a panel, I list them all becasue they will vary in nature. I will not just say, ''Many electrical issues inside panel, have inspected by a qualifed electrical contractor''. I find that to be a cop out. Or when there are many plumbing issues, I list most every one and I try to be as specific as possible. Perhaps that is why my reports are long and it takes me several hours to produce one.

    I quit trying to lead clients into ending an inspection early as I have found more times than not that they will then talk to their agent and decide to have me finish the inspection because the ''seller'' is willing to address the big issues. At least that is how it is today in a buyer's market-it was not always that way.

    I was not complaining with my post or seeking tutoring on what to include or not include, in that I am well versed. I was, once again, just curious how others felt. I know that the report is all that remains from an inspection. And it is totally irevelant what was spoken to a client during the inspection as, once again, all that remains is the written word. So, if I have a 57 page report with 53 photos that took me 3 hours to prepare, I fell pretty confident that it was thorough, albeit long and time consuming. And again, not really complaining just probbing.

    Next question. How many of you have been sued, received complaints about missing something, or had to return the inspection fee? I will answer that question for me, I've only returned one inspection fee and had to pay for a few items missed (due to the area being inaccessible) but that was 10-12 years ago. Not bragging, just that I find that I am comfortable with how I conduct my inspections, how long they take and how long the report takes to produce-maybe they are connected.. Thanks again gentlemen..and ladies.


  12. #12
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    I've never been sued, but I had one serious threat about some concrete cracks that were under carpet at the time of the inspection. I refunded one inspection fee for a mistake.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    When I find a lot of issues within a system, e.g., electrical, I will list examples of serious defects observed and recommend a complete assessment and repair by a licensed master electrician. I've done the same for plumbing, structural, and HVAC.

    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

  14. #14
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    Quote Originally Posted by Darrel Hood View Post
    I've never been sued, but I had one serious threat about some concrete cracks that were under carpet at the time of the inspection. I refunded one inspection fee for a mistake.
    Sorry for the thread drift but if the cracks were under the carpet, where was the mistake on your part Darrel? Was there any way of knowing about the cracks with the carpet in place?

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  15. #15
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
    Darrel Hood Guest

    Default Re: what to put in a report

    Nick,
    There was a lot of complicating factors on that situation, but you are right in that there was no mistake. That's why it was only a threatened law suit. The refund for a mistake was on another inspection.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    Sued once by someone I did not do an inspection for, but I inspected the house 2 years before she bought it. Got thrown out, but cost me $1500 (or so, don't remember exactly).

    I have returned many fees over the years (since 1989). Some were something I really did miss, some were something that I would probably win if it went to court, but really didn't want to go to court. So it was cheaper for me to give back the fee and walk away, than go to court to win, and lose more money in lost work.

    Recently settled a fee much larger than the inspection fee, but less than my insurance deductible on a defect I felt positive I did not miss. In fact I hired a structural engineer to look at it and his opinion was that the defect was not likely there when I did the inspection. I settled because I was very sure these people would have sued me, and I was out less than my deductible, and didn't have a black mark on my insurance record.

    As soon as I thought I might have a claim, I contacted my insurance company (required per policy). The insurance company rep was awesome. He was telling me to tell them to pound sand. This process took several weeks and he was on board the entire time.

    Back to the original questions:
    1. When would you stop spending a lot of time on reporting the less important items, house cleaning issues when you are certain the buyer will walk? Unless they told me to stop, I never stop reporting on ANYTHING.

    2.Would you stop mentioning in the report the really small issues and just concentrate on relaying the most important, critical issues? NO!

    I treat my reports like they may end up in court. I don't want some attorney asking me why I left off 37 "small" defects, just because there were a bunch of BIG things that were wrong.

    As far as ending the inspection early, it is an uncommon occurrence, probably less than 1 in 1500 inspections. The number of inspections that should have ended early is much higher. I don't want to give the impression that I try to steer my clients into jumping ship just because I find some big stuff. I try to remain as objective as possible, and just give them the facts to make their own decision.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: what to put in a report

    Micheal, congratulations on your longevity and survival in the HI profession.

    I simplify my report by cutting out a lot of drivel around the problem. "A window seal has failed in the east bedroom. Have the glass or the window replaced."
    I personally don't think the client needs to read about why it is bad, when it may have occurred, what causes seals to fail, how some companies will try to suck out the moisture, and on and on.
    If the house is a dog's breakfast of faults, my comments get even shorter. "Failed seal, east BR, repair the window".
    The majors get the details, but even there, I keep it brief and to the point. Home buyers have a lot on their plate and some have poor reading skills, as you know.

    I'm not telling anyone else how to run their business, but I think our job is to identify and report, not to spend hours agonizing over the writeup. Engineers get paid to do that, and their reports are not all that great sometimes.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

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