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 SoftwareA 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.
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.
Home Inspection Schools
“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 PriceOther 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 MuchI 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?”
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.
What Can Be Done About It
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.