Is Your Inspection Report Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

You might be well versed in HVAC systems, masonry defects and delaminated shingles but your clients probably aren’t. A survey by the American Society of Home Inspectors shows that most home buyers (88 percent) believe that inspections are a crucial part of the home buying process, but few understand what information is standard on an inspection report or what they should expect.

How clear is your inspection report? To find out, try this little experiment. Take a report you’ve recently done and remove the summary. Then give it to someone (a fifth grader if you’re really brave) and ask them to tell you what the major issues are in this home. Judging from any scrunched up noses and questioning faces you receive, you will instantaneously know exactly how easy (or cryptic) your report truly is.

So how are we, as an industry, simplifying things and helping the consumer to understand who we are, what we do and what they need to know about in their own homes? As home inspectors, we have a responsibility to organize and explain our findings in a way clients can understand, making it simple enough that they won’t be deterred by the report itself and skip straight to the summary. Here are a few tips for creating clear and concise reports:

  • A picture is worth 1,000 words…literally. Photos can help illustrate a problem faster and more directly than written words alone. Make sure to incorporate photos of any major problems or unusual cases in your reports.
  • Leave it to the experts. If there’s a special case that requires the help of a building professional, don’t chance it. Feel free to include a line in your report asking clients to get an electrician or plumber in to scout a problem before they close on the home.
  • Stay updated. The best way to create a solid home inspection report is to know how each component of the house operates. Review your building and code guidelines periodically and stay current on industry trends through continuing education courses.
  • A report is only half the battle. In addition presenting your report, stay on hand after the inspection to answer questions buyers may have. Your buyers could bring up an issue that you missed when doing the inspection.

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