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 ReportThe 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 SummaryThe 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 ReportThe 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 MaterialBack 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.