How Much is Too Much in a Home Inspection Report

It’s a common complaint in the home inspection industry that clients never read our reports. They may look at the report summary. But very, very few will actually read the whole thing. We usually blame our client and that is really a shame.

I have watched home inspection reports get longer and longer. The biggest reasons for this have been fear. Fear of missing something so you record everything. Fear of getting sued so you make sure you have every possible disclaimer.

Do you honestly think anyone will read a 120 page home inspection report with 300 photos? Sure, they may browse through it and glance at the checklist and photos. But do you really believe they would actually read the whole thing? Do you believe they can digest it all? No wonder they don’t read our reports.

I get it. Our job has risks but delivering a report with so much information that no one can read it is not the answer.

Help Your Client Read Your Report

The very first challenge in serving a client is to give them a report they can read. How can they really understand what we are trying to communicate if they can’t or won’t read the home inspection report? 

We work for all kinds of clients and our home inspection report must satisfy them all. Some just want just the facts, some want more details and information, and some want full technical explanations along with illustrations. How is it possible to satisfy them all AND still keep the report simple to read and easy to understand?

My approach has worked well for over 10 years since I started using Tap Inspect. It can work for you too. Don’t flood them with more information than they want or can handle. Keep the report simple and give the client the ability to drill down to more and more details when they want to know more. 

Report Summary

The report summary is the very top level of the home inspection report. That means it is the short list for anyone that does not want to read the whole thing. For many clients and their Realtor this may be all that they ever look at. That should be ok if that is all they want to know.

The report summary does not need to list EVERY defect or issue found during the inspection. But it should have enough detail for any reader to understand the most important findings and information in the report.

I see some home inspectors put every issue they find on the report summary. The next question that always gets asked by the client or the Realtor is:  ‘Yea, I know all of this needs attention but what is REALLY the most important stuff?’

How can that be any service to our client? It means they have already been overwhelmed and they are not even past the summary. You may want to rethink what is really the most important stuff you want to communicate.

Body of the Report

The body of the home inspection report includes all the sections, the checklists, disclaimers, and usually what is also repeated on the report summary. I tell my clients that it is where all the good stuff is.

For the clients that want to know and understand more this is where they get it. From a home inspector’s point of view, this is the actual report.

If you want even your curious clients to read the body of the report it needs to be simple to read and easy to understand. Stay away from long checklists, repetitive sections and items. Add photos to tell the story but keep it readable. No one will scroll past 3 pages of driveway photos or read long blocks of disclaimers. 

Links to Reference Material

Back in the days of printed reports it was a different story. If we wanted to explain the details of a blow off leg on a water heater we had to put it in the body of the report. We may also have added diagrams or illustrations showing what we meant.

Not anymore.  For any client that wants more information you can add web links to explain it more. Direct then where to learn more if they want and you don’t need to put it in the body of the home inspection report. Sites like the interNACHI graphics library make it simple.

All modern home inspection reports are now electronic. It does not matter if they are HTML or PDF.  Both let the reader click on any web address and it will take them to that web page on the internet. There is no longer any need to put it in the body of the report. The added pages and technical details confuse and overwhelm clients that don’t want that level of information.

How Much is Too Much?

The simple answer is that there is too much in your report when very few are willing to read the whole thing. We need to provide enough information to do our job, but not too much to discourage a reader.

It is incredibly tough to build a report that will satisfy every type of client. Luckily, modern home inspection reporting systems and the internet have made it easier.

By providing a way for clients to drill down through the report summary, into the body of the report, and even to reference web links you can put the control into their hands. They can choose how much information is too much in their home inspection report.

5 Struggles Every Home Inspector Feels (and How to Overcome Them)

Struggles

We think we are the only ones with our own unique troubles, struggles, and concerns. I have gotten to know dozens of home inspectors across the USA and Canada. One thing has become very obvious after 20 years in the home inspection business. We all share the same struggles and some of us have figured out ways to overcome them.

Not Enough Business

The most common struggle I hear about is really the easiest to overcome. Not having enough business. Sitting in your office or at your ‘day job’ worrying about it will never make the struggle go away. It will just get worse.

Overcome this struggle by marketing. Not ‘fancy, costs you tons of money’ type marketing. I mean the ‘go out and meet people’ type marketing. When you need business you need to find people who are ready, willing, and able to hire you right now. Who knows those kind of people? Realtors. Go meet some and the business will come.

Too Much Business

This may sound like a struggle you want to have but it can be tough to deal with. I hate nothing more than to turn away business because I can’t fit it into the schedule. It is just like giving money away.

Overcome this struggle by raising your prices. You will get few holes in your schedule but will make more money on each job. Its a lot easier to handle slower times when you are making more money.

Demanding Agents

Demanding agents are tough to work with. We have all known a few. They want everything done the way they want it. They need inspections done at 5pm on Saturday or want some type of discount or special treatment for their clients. I make allowances for people that have been great to work with or have referred tons of business but there is always a limit.

Overcome this struggle in one or two ways. Put your foot down and let the agent know they need to chill. They may just need to know your boundaries. If that doesn’t work you may need to cut them loose. There are hundreds of other agents out there and most are honest and wonderful to work with. Go find them.

Client Don’t Seem to Listen

We have all had them. The client that just gives you that blank stare and you know they have not heard a word you have said. It gets frustrating. Nothing you seem to say gets through. More times than not it is our own fault and we can fix it.

Overcome this struggle by listening to your client. I know it sounds weird but get your client to talk and then listen to them. They will tell you what they need and the best way to communicate. Do that you will be amazed how well they listen to you.

Finding Time for Family

Running crazy through the summer is just part of the business. We welcome the time when things slow down and we have time to breath. Our families do too.

Overcome this struggle by setting time aside for family and sticking to it. It can be next to impossible to take a vacation in the busy season so do it at the holidays instead.

After the Home Inspection Comes the Repair Request

Working on a repair request

Purchasing a home can be a long and stressful process. Homebuyers have possibly been looking at dozens of homes with their realtor over several months. After finally getting an accepted offer they are ready for the next big step: inspections and the repair request.

A home inspector’s role in this process is pretty limited. We spend a couple of hours doing the inspection and building a report, and then we are off to our next inspection with a new client. But that’s not the case for the client we just worked with.

Big decisions still need to be made. What repairs should they address with the seller? Do they ask for repairs to be done? Do they ask for some type of credit, or maybe even a cash payment so they can fix it themselves?

That is the purpose of the repair request and that is why they are motivated to hire us in the first place.

What Exactly is a Repair Request?

Most real estate purchase contracts include a Home Inspection Contingency clause. That is what gives the homebuyer, our client, the right to hire a home inspector to help them understand the condition of the property.

Once the home inspection is complete, the homebuyer will get together with their agent and decide what in the home inspection report is the most important to them. The homebuyer must release the contingency for the purchase to move forward, and that is typically done with a repair request. The home inspection report is used to document what and why those repairs are reasonable.

Why is This Important?

The homebuyer and the home inspector often look at the purpose of the home inspection differently. Some realtors will say “Don’t worry, the home inspector will find everything wrong with the house and give you a list of what needs to be fixed.”  What the homebuyer really wants is a list of repairs to ask the seller to fix. They hire a home inspector with the expectation that they will receive that in the report.

This can cause misunderstandings and sometimes even conflict. 

Ask a home inspector and you get a different answer. Most of us want to teach you about the home you are buying and provide a report. We don’t just list everything that needs to be fixed.

Why Care About the Repair Request?

The best real estate agents know how to negotiate issues that come up in the home inspection. They know that no home is perfect and also want their clients to be happy. The repair request is just another negotiation and another step in the process.

Some home inspectors refuse to tell their clients how to fix things. Others are a little more flexible and try to provide some guidance about how important something is and what needs to be done to address it. Some others may even provide estimates of costs. There is no right answer, it’s up to you how to run your business and treat your clients.

The homebuyer is still the one needs to make the choices. With the home inspector’s expertise, and hopefully their agent’s guidance, they will request the items they want to be addressed. In the end it is up to the homebuyer to reach an agreement with the seller.

Help Your Client Along Their Journey

To be a true professional means understanding what your customer needs and how you can help. Getting a home inspection report can be overwhelming enough for most homebuyers. Do you want to be the kind of home inspector to help them, or leave them confused and stressed?

Take a little time and think how we fit into the entire home purchasing journey. Deliver the report your client really wants. Help them understand what is important and what to do next to fix it. By preparing them for the next step of making the repair request, you will have a grateful and satisfied client.

6 Costly Mistakes Home Inspection Clients Make

We do our best to help our home inspection clients understand the home they are buying. Sometimes we just can not protect them from themselves. Here are the most costly mistakes I have seen made and how to avoid them.

Mistake 1: Hiring on Price

It is understandable to get a little price conscious once it gets time to schedule the home inspection but this is not the time to go with the cheapest price. The reality is that the lower the price of the home inspection, the less the home inspector values their time and usually the less experience they have.

The home inspector that charges $300 needs to do 3 inspections to earn the same as a home inspector that charges $450 for 2 inspections. The $300 inspector depends on volume and speed. The $450 home inspector has likely done hundreds of inspections, will actually take less time because of experience, and make fewer errors.

Mistake 2: Not Attending the Inspection

Most buyers make their offer after only a few minutes in the house. The home inspection is their chance to spend a few hours really looking at the place and spending time in their new home. Why would anyone pass that up?

I tell all my clients to follow me around so I can show them what I am looking at and they can ask any questions. By the end of the inspection they know as much as I know about the house they are buying.

If you can’t be there for the whole inspection, make sure you are least there at the end. Can’t be there at the end? At least send someone you trust. Not being there at all could be a costly mistake

Mistake 3: Not Reading the Whole Report

The home inspection report is much more than a summary. It has descriptions, suggestions, information, and explanations. Take the time to read it all. There is tons of information.

Hopefully the home inspector is a great better communicator that can describe your home in a readable report less than 35-40 pages. If the report is over 100 pages it can be a nightmare and read like a text book but give it a try and stick with it. If you were not at the inspection, the report will be everything you have to go on.

Mistake 4: Missing the Big Picture

It can get easy to freak out after listening to a list of 20 electrical issues in your new home. Relax and look at the big picture. It’s probably not like the home needs to be rewired. Get the issues fixed and move on.

All home inspections have a ‘lead story’. Keep your eyes on the big picture and the little stuff will not cloud your judgement or distract you. This can lead to making costly mistakes.

Mistake 5: Asking Sellers For Wrong Things

Once you can see the big picture from your home inspection you know what to ask the sellers to do. Remember that you will be maintaining this home for years to come and have different tastes in finishes and quality.

It can be a costly mistake to ask the sellers to replace the deck railing when you have no control over what it will look like or how it is done. Sure, the railing was replaced but not the way you would do it.

Mistake 6: Not Asking the Seller to Fix the Right Things

I have personally inspected the same home over and over with the same issues that has never been fixed. This could be unique but it has happened in more than one home. How could that be?

Too many home buyers think they will fix the problem once they move in but life gets in the way. You get busy with packing, moving, changing addresses, and all the other stuff that goes with buying and even selling your home. It just slips through the cracks until the next home inspection gets done.

It can be tempting thinking especially if you are handy. Don’t make this costly mistake and just get it fixed before you move in.

6 Things Every Home Inspection Client Should Know

Your New Home Will Have Problems

I usually start my home inspections by telling my client, “Homes are like people. We are all a little messed up.” My point is to prepare them that there will be a list of issues and that is OK.

I like to go on and tell my clients that my wife still loves me even though I have my issues and that a home is no different. Embrace it.

Almost Anything Can Be Fixed

There are a few things that terrify a client when they hear them: mold, asbestos, safety. Yes they can be scary but no scarier than a furnace that needs replacing or windows that need repairs and painting.

Let us, your humble home inspector, point you in the right direction. Almost everything can be fixed and just because it was here, does not make it a ‘bad house’.

Not Everything Will Get Fixed

Right after I tell my clients that my wife still loves me, even with my issues, I qualify that by saying, “Some things will never change and thank goodness she understands.”

No home is perfect and not everything will be fixed. Even my own home has repairs that need to be done and systems that are ready to be updated. It is just part of owning a home. Relax!

We Can not Predict the Future

I really wish we could tell you how long the roof will last or when the furnace will need to be replaced. It’s just not possible. We can give you an idea how long they normally last and what kind of condition they are in now. But no one can predict the future.

We Will Not Find Everything Wrong in The Home

We are here to find the big stuff. Things of consequence like water, safety, structure. We will not find or report on everything wrong in the home. That is just not what we are here for.

Owning and maintaining a home is a continuous process. Every year I find, and sometimes fix, things in my home that have been there since it was built.

Get Your Heart and Head in Check

It can be incredibly tough to step back from your love of the home to see it as an investment. Once you see our list of repairs and observations, it can be a bit overwhelming. Take a deep breath.

Our report may include a few things that need to be done now. But it will mostly be a to do list while you own the home. Not everything needs to be done right away and a good inspector will help you understand that.

Takes things one at a time and don’t let a long list affect your love of the home.