How Home Inspection Reports Got Long, Very Long

Home inspection reports have changed a bunch over the years. When I first started home inspecting back in the 1990’s pretty much everyone used pre-printed 3 part forms. We added our handwritten notes and built a summary for our clients right on the spot. Most home inspection reports ended up in the 15-20 page range.

It worked pretty well. Our clients got a clear and concise home inspection report. The report was delivered pretty much immediately.  The buyer could get on with the next step in the home buying process. The repair request.

Today there are quite a few home inspection reports that go over 100 pages and include over 200 photos. So what changed? 

Desktop Inspection Software

A little over 15 years ago the first desktop systems started coming out to help build home inspection reports. They are probably the single biggest reason home inspection reports have gotten so long. 

Essentially you would go to the inspection with a checklist. Just like we had done for years. Then you would go back home or to your office and start building the report. Today you can use a mobile companion app instead of the checklist but you still go back to finish up the report.

Just follow all the prompts. Drill down into the options and select the appropriate boxes. When something needed extra clarification you could write and save a narrative or comment to your library. Over time you expand and elaborate your narratives and comments.

After another hour or two you would have a nicely formatted electronic report you could email to your client.

The legacy software like HomeGauge and Home Inspector Pro made it super easy to add photos. So many home inspectors would take hundreds of photos of everything in the house. Just in case they may need one specific photo when they were writing the report hours later.

Many home inspectors today still follow this exact procedure today. Even after technology has changed they still do it the same way it was done 15-20 years ago.


Home Inspection Schools

Most new home inspectors that have just come out of school have one common trait. They tend to report on everything just to make sure they don’t miss that one super important thing. This gets drilled into them in the course of their schools or from their mentors.

“If you miss something you could get sued.” is what they are told. New inspectors still don’t quite know what is valuable information to their clients. So they fill the report with all the information they can collect just to make sure. 

Eventually these new inspectors become experienced and learn what is really valuable to the client and what is just CYA or fluff. But it is incredibly hard to change the way you have done things for years. Especially if you think that is the way it is supposed to be done.

Desktop home inspection software promotes a ‘follow the prompts’ mentality. Put that together with the need to record everything out of fear. You will always end up with a long report. A very long report. 

Want to Provide More Value at the Same Price

Other home inspectors feel the need to provide so much information to their clients to make sure they know the value they are getting. This is compared to another home inspector that may be delivering a more realistic report in the 35-50 page range.

These reports include everything. The belief seems to be too much information and photos are better than not enough. They want their clients to know they got their money’s worth and don’t want any questions after the job. I often see over 200 photos. Photos of every room and every area of the home to prove what they saw in addition to anything unusual.

I understand this is a business decision of standing out from the crowd. It is really like providing a Kobe beef hamburger at a McDonalds price. The amount of time and resources it takes to do this is pretty amazing.

How Much Information is Too Much

I honestly believe that everything I’ve discussed is meant to provide a better home inspection report. In many ways they do. But how much information is too much?

Our job as a home inspector is to help our clients understand what they are buying. What reasonable person could really digest and understand a 100 page technical document. Even if they actually read the whole thing.

Reports have gotten so long that now the summary has also gotten too long. When buyers and Realtors are asking for a summary of the the report summary you should know it has gone too far.

They are telling you, “The report is way too long that we are never going to read it so we have only looked at the report summary”. Then, “The report summary is so long and has so many items that we don’t now what is REALLY important. Can you give us a summary of the really important stuff?”


What Can Be Done About It

I was just working with a home inspector that had been in business about a year. He was getting complaints that his 109 page reports were too long.  As we talked he told me that all his clients complimented him on his detail so he was very scared to take anything out of his reports.

I asked him how many home inspection reports had his clients had or seen. What did they have to compare his level of detail to? Is it possible they would feel the same way if his reports were maybe 75 pages? What about 60 pages? Was his idea of a detailed home inspection report the same as their idea of a detailed report?

My suggestion was for him to make a copy of a recent report and remove everything that was not valuable information for his client the home buyer. If he had a comment that was 3 paragraphs could he say the same thing in one paragraph? Did he need a section for each individual bathroom? Could it just be one section for Bathrooms?

Then there were the photos. Could he show the same thing with 2 photos that he was trying to show with 4, 6 or 8 photos? Could he use photos to describe things that he was describing in his comments? Remove anything that was not valuable information for his client. 

After his first edit the report dropped from 109 pages to 69 pages. He still reported on all the same things. He still made all the same recommendations. Now he had a report that a client could read. More importantly he had a report the client could understand.

Comments

    1. I worked as an Inspector for an Architect for 20 years before I decided to become an independent home Inspector. Our legal counsel told us that the more you say in a report the more chances you have of making a mistake. Say what needs to be said in as few words as possible. My reports average 20 pages.

  1. Great point I am new I think your right after awhile of inspection reports it’s clearer to report the important things only

  2. I agree! Home inspector schools put the fear of God into you. They make you so nervous of missing anything that anything and everything must be reported. The language they teach to be used in reporting is like adding short stories. Although the clients may like the detailed report making the value feel warranted the agents will run and goodluck getting another referral. It definitely takes time and experience to develop a product all can live with.

  3. Being 9 months into my home inspection business with years of experience in virtually all of the main residential trade skills, this is one of my top interests right now…what is/isn’t important and what is considered “summary worthy”. I currently average 40-50 pg. reports with 75-100 photos. This could be a fun webinar theme. Ultimately, I believe everyone will have a different style/opinion on levels of significance with findings and reporting. Ex. I realize the water heater wire should be in a protective conduit. However, most are not and I am on the fence about reporting it at all or just having it as a non-summary recommendation. I picture a client and an agent wondering about negotiating having an electrician come and do this. Just not sure an emphasis importance.

  4. I average 25 pages. Too many pages leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth including the realtors and lawyers. Be clear and precise and get to the point. Majors only in summary. Group similar things together in same paragraph. People want easy and to understand easily. We do 1500 home Inspections a year so it works well and everyone is happy. Most people hate to read 10 pages let alone 100. And I can promise you those lawyers and realtors and not recommending you to further clients. They don’t want to deal with long reports. Keep it short simple and move it long for everyone involved.

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