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.

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.

3 Camera Shots Every Home Inspector Should Know


Photos are a huge part of all modern home inspection reports. Cameras are the most used tools we have. Photos do a great job telling the story of the home inspection. If they are good photos. Bad photos don’t tell the story because they can even cause confusion and initiate more questions.

After helping thousands of home inspectors I have seen a few trends and learned a few tricks myself. 

Overview Shot

It is really important to document what we were dealing with at the time of the inspection. That is where overview photos come in super handy. The most important thing to remember is that an overview photo is not meant to show detail. They show an overview of the big picture.

When you look at a report from 5 years back you will know exactly what you were dealing with. If you get a call back almost always your overview photos will explain why something was not visible. 



We take overview photos of the exterior of the home, basements, crawlspaces, attics, roof, and even garages. We get as far back as we can get to capture as much as possible in each photo. Sometimes we can get this in two shots. Other times it may be 4 or even 6 photos. More than 6 photos? Maybe you need to break it up into a few comments or items.

Closeup Shot

When you need to show details the closeup is you go to camera shot. Just remember to get close, really close. It seems like most home inspectors do not want to get close enough. 

If you don’t get your closeup close enough you will be cropping photos or the reader will need to zoom in. So make sure what you want them to see is what makes up to whole photo.

 
Closeup enough that you can read the dataplate

Example of Not a Closeup 
Not closeup enough to read anything

Orientation Shot

While the closeup shows the details of what you are reporting the reader still needs to know where the detail is located. That is where the orientation photo comes in.

For years I meticulously described exactly where the detail was located with text of my comment. Then I realized a photo from farther away with an arrow could do a much better job.

Because an orientation photo with a closeup photo can tell the reader exactly where and what I was reporting, no long text description was needed. The photos could tell the story.

How to Use These Shots

These are the basics and we use them to make our reports simple to read and easy to understand. Maybe you could try to use them as well. Photos show what so many home inspectors struggle to describe.

Use these three shots in all kinds of combinations. Photos don’t just need to be of things that are issues. Photos are also great to show information and conditions too.

Our cameras are our most used and most valuable tool. Keep practicing and getting better. Your reports will show it.

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.

How I Use Tap Inspect with HomeBinder

I have been using HomeBinder in my home inspection business. My clients have really liked the idea and seem to appreciate the free lifetime subscription I give them.

Since getting started, I have picked up a few best practices that I wanted to pass along. They should make it incredibly easy to use Tap Inspect along with HomeBinder. You can provide a little extra value to your clients without it taking any more time or effort.

What is HomeBinder?

HomeBinder gives homeowners a place to manage their home maintenance needs. They also provide a few other features like recall checks of appliances and equipment. HomeBinder will also send maintenance reminders that you can pre-setup.

Once you create a HomeBinder account as a home inspector, you can setup a template with all the reminders you want your clients to get. You can even add a list of contractors you trust and provide documents like a flyer or maintenance guide.

Create a HomeBinder from Tap Inspect

We tried to make getting set up as simple as possible. After you set up the HomeBinder integration, it shows up in the app just like the client or agents. When you publish your report, it gets published to HomeBinder too.

We put together a guide to help you get set up.

Update your Invitation Email

At the end of my inspections I have been telling my clients about HomeBinder. Then I say to keep an eye out for an email from them in a few days. It seemed a lot simpler to update my invitation email with the same info.

Invite Email
I think this has worked pretty well. It reminds my client what to expect and also lets them get a little more information before the binder arrives. I also like the idea that their agent sees the same invitation so they know about the gift.

Auto Transfer Your Binders

My goal is to get the HomeBinder into my client’s hands while they are still thinking about the home inspection. I think they are more likely to engage if they are still thinking about the inspection. HomeBinder has a setting to let you do it automatically.

There are two important things to keep in mind. First, once you transfer a binder you can not edit it again. Second, once you publish your Tap Inspect report to HomeBinder, you have to manually update HomeBinder with the new PDF if you re-publish the report.

The default HomeBinder Binder Transfer/Share Delay (in hours) setting is 5 hours. I changed it to 72 hours, or 3 days. That gives me plenty of time to update the report PDF if I needed to make any changes.

Remind Your Client to Enter Appliance Info

I am not a fan of typing or long checklists. That includes recording any serial or model numbers in my home inspection reports. Why not ask the client to enter them? In my HomeBinder template I have added a Maintenance Item to remind them 60 days after the binder gets created.


My thinking is that not everyone will find value in the recall checks and notifications. If my client does see the value they will not mind entering the information. By entering the information, they will use HomeBinder and hopefully explore a little more.