Monthly Archives: January 2013

What Makes a Good Home Inspection Report…Good?

Ask a dozen Home Inspectors, or make it a bakers dozen if you will, what it is that makes a Home Inspection report a GOOD Home Inspection report, and you are just liable to get 12 or, make it 13, different answers. Well, maybe there wouldn’t be that much disparity in response, but you get the general idea…there almost certainly wouldn’t be any unanimous consensus. Because individual Home Inspection reports, just as with individual Home Inspectors, simply aren’t created equally…one report absolutely is not (allow me to be repetitive here for emphasis)…is not just like the next…neither in content or in quality.

There are many differing opinions as to what constitutes a good Home Inspection report and this is evidenced by the large number of report formats and the myriad of various software programs that are used to create reports. Having been in the Home Inspection industry for more than 15 years, I was creating written (gulp…yes, hand-written) reports using carbon copy report forms, in triplicate (three copies…press hard, please) back when there weren’t any computers involved in the process. In fact, I had to be drug, not quite actually by my hair, and not quite literally…but almost…kicking and screaming, into what I’ll refer to as the modern computer age. In retrospect, it was a definitive change for the better (in most ways, anyway…I have yet to have my wrist “crash”…but I digress). As the owner of a Raleigh Home Inspection firm, I have my own professional opinion as to what goes into the production of a good Home Inspection, and as to what a good Home Inspection report should be.

There is differing opinion amongst professional Home Inspectors as to whether a checklist style of report should be used…or whether a narrative style report should be used. In the former, issues or problems (I have never have liked referring to issues as problems, even though an issue may very well be, and likely is, a problem for someone…) are conveyed to the reader using boxes that are checked off. In the latter, issues are presented using narrative, wherein each problem is identified by writing out those issues. In reality, most reports are a combination of the two. The combination style of report is the one that I prefer and recommend to other Home Inspectors; descriptive commentary e.g. materials or types of components, can be conveyed using a check box with the real issues conveyed using narrative.

So, what are the…ingredients…necessary to create and provide a good Home Inspection report?

To preface any discussion regarding this subject topic, and from a clients perspective (who is likely relying on the contents of the report to make a well-informed real estate purchasing decision), it is important that the Inspector be experienced, knowledgeable about most all related issues that might be encountered, and be entirely professional toward both the Home Inspection process as a whole and toward the client/buyer specifically. This must be, in my opinion, accepted as a given and be considered a baseline requirement. The overall philosophy of the Inspector should be to provide their client with not only a good inspection experience, but an excellent inspection experience. Of course, it should be herein acknowledged that if the home has a really large number of serious issues, then the experience may not seem like such a good one to the client at the time…but that’s likely (or should be) the fault of the condition of the home itself rather than the fault of the Inspector. In the event of a less than stellar report resulting from an Inspection of a particular home, the client is able to revel in the fact that their professional Home Inspector, and their most excellent and professionally produced Home Inspection report precluded their buying the proverbial Money Pit and their having any number of unexpected or unanticipated expenses associated with their home purchase.

Obviously, any report absolutely must provide the client value…with, at the very least, a good representation of the condition of the property. If a report doesn’t do that, then the report is likely not worth anything…it would be worthless even if it were free.

Among other things, a Good Home Inspection Report should:

  • Be well organized and well presented; the report should layout and presentation should be logical…it should be organized so as to provide a sort of road map, if you will, around and through the home
  • Be well written…and be readily understandable by anyone irregardless of whether or not they have ever been to the physical property and irrespective of their technical background. The report should, to every extent possible, be devoid of technical nomenclature that requires yet more explanation to be understood; it should be concise and clear. A report that has to be interpreted is of little overall value
  • Provide enough detail, description and direction to provide not only the client, but anyone involved in the transaction e.g. real estate agents, attorneys, mortgage lenders, etc., with a clear representation of the physical condition of the property
  • Contain enough, but not an excessive number, of digital photographs relating directly to significant or serious issues. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words…this is true of a home inspection report. Photographs make it immeasurably easier to identify and understand any particular issue. On the other hand, a report loaded with photographs that lend no additional value to a report and are provided as filler content, or to provide a CYB (Cover Your Buttocks..) function for the Inspector, are best left out of a report
  • Be presented using plain, but grammatically correct language. There is no place in a professional Home Inspection report for misspelled words, fragmented sentences, and general misuse of the English language (or whatever language is appropriate). A report filled with these types of deficiencies is, and again in my opinion, directly indicative of the professionalism of the Inspector
  • Be presented in a straight-forward manner…if there are reportable issues present, then they should be presented in such a way as to leave no doubt that they are, indeed, issues. There should be no Soft-Shoeing…no Song and Dance…no Weasel-wording…just straight talk, accurate description, and effective commentary. Further, there should be some commentary provided to explain why an issue is an issue, and how to go about correcting that issue or otherwise obtaining other professional opinion regarding its correction
  • Contain a well-designed Summary Section…a section of the report where all significant, and potentially significant, issues are clearly identified. General information, suggestion regarding routine maintenance, or recommendations regarding the upgrade of the property should not be included in the Summary section of the report. That type of information should most certainly be provided in the report for the benefit of the client…just not in the Summary section of the report

A client in search of a professional Home Inspection should inquire of any potential candidate Inspector as to what type of report they produce…nor should they be at all shy or hesitant about asking that the considered Inspector to provide a sample of their inspection report. That way, a client will have a very good representative idea of what they can expect from the Home Inspector. The nursery rhyme that goes…Patty Cake…Patty Cake, Bakers Man…Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can…may have been good for Mother Goose; but when it comes to a Home Inspection and the resulting report, you may or may not want to get it just as fast as you can… but you certainly, absolutely, and most unequivocally want it to be just as GOOD as you can get it!

If a Home Inspection report incorporates all of the previously identified components, then it is highly predictable that the result will be a Good inspection report…and maybe even an Excellent inspection report. Isn’t that what a consumer should be searching for…and be entitled to receive I might add, in exchange for their hard-earned dollars… a most Excellent Home Inspection report?

4 Time Saving Tips When Creating an Electronic Home Inspection Report

This article is going to discuss four tips that home inspectors can use to save time and become more efficient while creating their home inspection reports. The time saved can be used elsewhere such as working on their company website, marketing campaigns, or more time with their family.

Tip 1 – Use Software in the Field
Using home inspection software on a portable device in the field allows an inspector to create the report as they inspect. Depending on the software, this can be done on a laptop, tablet, or handheld device. Once the inspector finishes their inspection, the report is complete. The inspector can choose to go back to the office and make any final changes before delivering it, such as adding pictures and adding final comments, or deliver it to the client in the field. Many home inspectors are still using paper to do their inspections and not taking advantage of field reporting software. Using software on-site saves the inspector time by eliminating the need to create the inspection report a second time back at the office.

Tip 2 – Use Customized Forms
Another tip for inspectors is to use a customized home inspection form or template that suits them and their inspection style. Using a customized form that the inspector is comfortable with will save them time while filling out their inspection report on-site. They can choose the order in which the sections of the home appear in their software to match the order in which they inspect. Inspectors can also make one time changes for a specific property or make permanent changes to their template. For example, an inspector in Florida could delete the ‘Basement’ section in their report, since most of the properties they will be inspecting will not have basements. Using a form that is suited for an inspector will save them time and allow their inspection process to be more efficient.

Tip 3 – Use Dropdown Lists
The third tip for saving time is to select common answers from the software’s dropdown lists. Most inspection software programs already come with preloaded narratives. It is important that an inspector continues to build their library of narratives with their own comments to eliminate the amount of typing they have to do. Over time an inspector’s library will grow and give them the ability to choose very quickly from several different choices. This will eliminate the need to type out each narrative and will save a great deal of time each inspection. Typing takes a lot of time in the field and any chance an inspector has to eliminate it, is a benefit to them and their inspection process.

Tip 4 – Preload Data into Report
The last time saving tip for home inspectors is to fill out any information they may have about the home before they arrive on-site for the inspection. A home inspector should be able to fill out most of the general information about the home beforehand. Inspectors can use their knowledge of the area to fill out common information ahead of time as well. For example, if a specific subdivision has all asphalt driveways or hardwood floors, they can go ahead and put that information into their report. Filling out information ahead of time will not only save them time when creating their report, but it will also be one less thing they have to worry about in the field.

Using the tips listed above, an inspector will be able to save time and become more efficient while creating their home inspection report. Saving time will allow an inspector to schedule more inspections and also have more time to spend on other areas of their business.

Save Money by Becoming Your Own Home Remodeling Contractor

Many people want to have their homes remodeled, but put the project off due to a variety of reasons. Some are unable to raise the funds required for a good remodeling program, some do not know where to start with the remodeling of their house, and yet some others do not know who to approach to get their remodeling started. Sometimes all these problems can be solved with only one option – finding the right home remodeling contractor.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Home Remodeling Contractor

It will almost always be the case where the outside home remodeling contractor is more expensive. However, there are advantages of using these folks that can justify the additional cost. Many times people want to have a change, to modernize their homes, but do not have the slightest clue as to how to go about it, how to raise funds for it, or how to coordinate it.

Hiring an outside home remodeling contractor can certainly have its benefits. They know people, have relationships with the banks (for loans), and can even get grants for helping you to remodel your home. They can be a big help.

For example, a long time ago, in the movement to correct all the utility problems in the close neighborhood of a renowned suburb, the utility service announced that they will grant a certain amount of money to anyone who wants to remodel their homes to include the latest safety measures that are required in a home in the present day.

A home remodeling contractor will also know which financial institutions offer the best interest rates and options and can guide the interested party to obtain a good bargain in the process.

Here’s when you want to be Your Own Home Remodeling Contractor

The problem for most contractors is that they’re clueless about what you want the end result to look like. In this case, you can be in charge of the whole process so that everything is done according to your specifications. The best bet is that only you can really recreate what you have buried deep into your mind. The idea will take shape slowly, by and by, as you proceed step by step with the remodeling plan you have for your home. The cost that would have gone for hiring a contractor may be put to better use in buying more or better materials for the remodeling project.

When becoming your own contractor, you’ll have to manage all the subcontractors. Keep in mind that the average subcontractor has about a dozen other projects they’re managing at the same time as yours, and if you’re the quiet, shy type, you may be ignored. They’ll show up late – sometimes days late! You have to keep on track of them, and this is where some contractors can shine. They might have good relationships with subcontractors so that you don’t have to worry about it. If you do become your own home remodeling contractor, create a plan and sign good contracts with your subcontractors, giving bonuses for work done quickly, and penalties for delays.

And, yes, there will be delays, even if you’re in charge of the process. The advantage is that when you’re the home remodeling contractor, you’ll be focused on your project. Your contractor, especially in the later stages of the project, will be called off to work on some other “higher priority” project, leaving you with an unfinished kitchen. Learn to stay on top of all your subcontractors, and you’ll do just fine.

How to Manage Costs of Home Remodeling

A lot of homeowners work hard to update outdated aspects around their home, including revamping a bathroom, including more storage space in the kitchen, or by Going Green and becoming more energy efficient. People will often tackle these tasks without a lot of upfront thought which leads to added expenses. At times it might be advisable to hire a professional when you’re thinking about remodeling your home.

Complexity in Estimating Home Remodeling Costs

No matter the approach, the cost of remodeling a home must be taken into consideration. This can be a pretty complex issue for some of us. With the Eco-friendly options available to the do-it-yourselfer (DIY), you can often justify the switch to a solar electric system, an upgrade to energy efficient water heating, or to the increased insulation in your attic by the decreases in your utility expenses.

The real challenge relates to estimating future savings against the immediate expenses to get the remodeling completed. Often, there are trade-offs and balances to be estimated in to your decision making process.

Don’t Guesstimate Your Costs. It’s Dangerous.

It doesn’t make sense to guess at the cost of a remodeling project even if the project is relatively small. Take the example of switching out all of your light bulbs to new higher energy efficiency models. If you don’t at least calculate your costs, you might be surprised when you go to buy 25 new bulbs.

There are always surprises and it is very important that you have a solid idea of how much money you will need to finish the efficiency upgrades or remodeling job. Completing a simple spreadsheet with the costs of hired professionals, an itemized listed of materials, and even a hour breakdown of the work will save you large amounts of frustrations and lead to a more satisfactory result.

Getting the Project Half Done Usually Doesn’t Fly

There are plenty of people who have started home renovation projects and never can get them finished. These messes can be left undone for years if the cost of remodeling hasn’t been seriously considered. Before breaking out the tool box, you have to consider how much the whole project is going to cost you and whether you have the time and energy to complete the entire project.

Making Room for the Unexpected Costs

While you may think that you have a pretty good grasp on the cost of remodeling your home, you should always make room for the unexpected. Often home remodeling projects end up costing more than first thought due to many unexpected expensive add-on items. You may think after the fact about adding a new sink, running network cables for your computers, or installing a big screen T.V. when the stud walls are open and free to work in.

Consult with a Remodeling Professional

The best approach to determining the cost of remodeling is to consult a professional. Choosing someone who has a lot of experience in the field of home renovation is ideal. This individual knows all of the tricks of the trade. He or she will be able to point out factors that need to be addressed and he may even have some recommendations that will save you some money in the long run.

Using Reclaimed or Recycled Products Saves Money

It is also a good idea to consider more environmentally friendly products, reused or recycled household goods or common every day products that will save you money in your energy costs. Utilizing a strategic bead of caulking, an extra layer of plastic vapor barrier, or purchasing a perfectly good used bathtub could save you a great deal in the long run.

You’ve heard it before but with today’s energy costs it makes even more sense to reuse, recycle, and consider energy conservation right from the beginning of any remodeling project.

Getting Yourself Ready for the Sticker Shock

There are times that a home renovation project estimate will leave you with sticker shock. However, there are further considerations to make before scrapping a relatively expensive project. The considerations include the overall value of your home.

For example, you may find the cost of remodeling your kitchen is a few hundred more than you are willing to spend. But when you consider that the value of your home will increase significantly, then it may be best to make this sound investment. You may spend a lot but your home’s value can increase by thousands more than you spent on the renovation itself.

The Three Rules for Home Remodeling Estimates

There are basically three rules to figuring the cost of remodeling your home: Consult a professional if you do not have the knowledge yourself, be prepared for the unexpected, and consider the increase in value after the project is completed.

Not to mention the potential savings you will have in the long run by switching to solar generated electricity, upgrading to high efficiency lighting, or by reusing, Eco-friendly products across your remodeling project.