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.

5 Musts to Market Your Home Inspection Business on the Internet

It’s tough as a home inspector to get your prospective clients to contact you directly. For years it has been direct referrals from agents that has help build successful home inspection companies.

To be a successful home inspection company now you need to be doing digital marketing. Some people call it internet marketing. It does not really matter. It still means that your prospecting clients find you and contact you directly.

You Need a Modern Website

If you are a new home inspector or a home inspector that has been around for 10 years it does not matter. You need a modern website that can be easily viewed on a computer, a tablet, or a phone.

At the very minimum your website needs to let people know 3 things: who are you, how you can help the visitor, and how to get in touch with you.

It is really that simple. 

Since we are all in the service business our websites are our digital storefronts. That is where our prospective customers first get to see who we are and how we handle our business. Help them see that you are the one that can help them get through the home purchase and you will get business.

Building your own website custom can take weeks and cost $5000-$6000. Don’t spend the time and money. There are plenty of companies like FullView Digital that specialize in home inspector websites.

Get an SEO Plan

SEO is not some magic, dark secret. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it comes down to the simple idea that if your website is easy for Google and Bing to search AND that you have content that people find valuable your SEO score goes up. Websites with higher SEO scores are given better treatment.

At the very minimum your modern website should be setup with all the stuff that makes it easy for Google and Bing to see what you are all about. It can get a bit technical but FullView Digital does a great a job. Make sure whoever you hire does the same.

Beyond the basics of website design, SEO also means that you are providing valuable content to your visitors. This really ups your SEO score. If people come to you for advice and to read what you provide, you are valuable. More valuable than a site that just has a Call Me button.

Building this type of content is a long game. It can can 4 to 12 months before you get noticed. It pays to stick with it but there is no point if you do it half way.

At Tap Inspect we try to provide shareable content on our blog to help. Feel free to repost any of our content your own website. You can also talk with FullView Digital they can help if you choose a higher plan.

Buy Search Ads

I hate to say it but internet marketing has become ‘pay to play’. If you do a google search on almost any home service the first 6-8 listing on the results are paid ads. Since most people will never look past the first page of results you really have no choice but to buy ads too if you want to be successful.

Paid search ads are highly competitive. The truth is that most people that buy search ads pay way too much and get very bad results. You really need to talk with an expert for this step.

Do your research before you start throwing money away. Here are two great resources about buying Google ads and also about boosting Facebook posts directed to home inspectors to get you started.

Get Active on Social Media

It is a simple idea that you need to go where your customers are if you want to market. Even if you do not Facebook or Instagram, your customers certainly do.

From my experience social media has need be a great way to generate leads for home inspections BUT it has help helped people decide to use me.

We try to keep posting valuable information for homebuyers and agents on our social medial accounts. That helps keep the people we want to work with to stay in touch with us. It may take months or even a few years. We are planting the seed. They will remember us when they see our name again.

If you don’t know what to post just share some of our Facebook content. We post things that not only interest home inspectors but also home buyers too.

Ask for Reviews

There is no other way to say it. Reviews are like gold when it comes to internet marketing.

Once you over 50 reviews with 4 stars your online ranking moves up drastically. Good reviews tell Google and Bing that you take care of their customers. That makes it in their interest to help refer even more people to you.

Send a followup email 7 days after your home inspection. Thank our client and ask them to give us review. Most are quite happy to do it. You will be amazed how well it works.

Conclusion

When you decide to do internet or digital marketing the home inspection leads will come in. It takes time, money, and patience. Marketing is a long game. Results are not instant but they keep on coming on and coming. Invest wisely.

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.