The Best of All Possible Worlds
In the best of worlds, reports would write themselves. Many inspectors would rather scrounge in the darkest crawl space than write a report. But clients want reports. And often what they want differs from what you put in your report.
Clients want clarity in language they understand. And they want brevity accompanied by images. For a client, a picture meets that old adage of being better than 1000 words. Basically, a client wants the ability to make a sound decision in a short time.
As an inspector, you want to write the report as quickly as possible. Time is money, and report writing feels like a time suck. But you need to detail your findings and highlight what the clients needs to know. And you need enough disclosure to protect yourself and your business from potential legal hassles.
How do you protect your business, cover client concerns, and help them make good decisions in the best way?
Meet Client Expectations
Home sellers think their house is perfect, and buyers want to know every tiny flaw that can help them lower their offer. Secondary clients like real estate and legal professionals want every detail covered in clear language that keeps them (and you) off the hook.
Help your clients understand the scope and detailed depth of your service with organized sections. You will meet their expectations and provide a professional platform that helps them make decisions about repairs and any purchase or sell decisions.
- A Summary at the beginning outlining your important findings.
- Headline summaries of important findings at the beginning. Give them the important news first.
- Organized, drilled-down information supporting the headlines in case they want all the details.
- Easy to follow navigation to get to any place in the report, to find the information they want.
Summarizing information at the beginning helps clients and professionals get to the important decision-making information they need right away. Supporting details and documentation provides guidelines for any professionals who need to make appropriate repairs or remediation. A client may know work needs to be done by may lack the knowledge and vocabulary to tell another service professional what the work entails.
The Value of Your Opinion
The biggest benefit of your report is the depth and scope that reflects your expertise. For example, a home inspection report covers a variety of systems that each require background knowledge most homeowners or real estate professionals do not have:
- Structural System
- Roof System
- Plumbing System
- Electrical System
- Heating System
- Air Conditioning Systems
- Insulation and Ventilation
- Fireplaces and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances
Your ability to investigate and identify potential system and structural issues is a testament to your training and experience. The fact that you examine each system and note your findings, even without discovering any flaws supports your expertise.
A thorough report backs up your expertise. Your findings and recommendations establish trust in your clients and real estate professionals. When you show up on time and connect with clients on site, you begin establishing trust. Your thorough report is a legal document that supports your expertise.
Your ability to spot issues and determine how they impact the soundness of the property and affect the health and safety of residents, is the guidance both buyers and sellers need to make informed decisions.
An outstanding report solidifies your business in your client’s mind. It supports any verbal interaction you may have during the inspection. You know that clients don’t always “hear” what you tell them on site. The written report supports your findings and recommendations. Whether a client decides to follow your advice is up to them, but you know you’ve covered all the bases.
From leaking toilet seals to cracked walls and insufficient structural support, you guide your clients with recommendations on urgency and scope of repairs. When a client contracts for repairs, they have a guideline for contractors on the scope of necessary repairs. If you save them from unscrupulous contractors who recommend unnecessary repairs, your report recommendations help them find a suitable contractor.
In your day to day work, you often see the same issues again and again, but for a client your inspection may be their first introduction to plumbing, secure roofing, and sound electrical wiring. Your report recommendations are valued guidance.
A layered report, is the best solution for meeting client needs and protecting your business. At the inspection a client or an agent may say, Just give me the bottom line. But once a client moves in and decides to make repairs, their questions may escalate to What did you say we should do about that torn flashing? That’s when layering gets all the questions answered.
A layered report progresses from the bottom line to detailed findings.
The Summary. The bottom line of your findings stated directly in simple language. This helps clients identify immediate issues.
The Issues. A list of issues found during the inspection categorized by urgency. This helps clients sort out the most critical issues from findings that need to be monitored. You may find 30 issues during your inspection, but only two are critical. You help your clients prioritize the work that needs to be done immediately from issues that need to be addressed soon. When you categorize issues by priority you demonstrate your expertise.
Detailed Reference Material. This is the data of your findings that allows clients to drill down to particulars. They can read it if they want, or can use it as a reference for service providers. You know the language and the particulars a client may not know.
This reference material also backs up the entire scope of your report and stands as a legal representation of the scope and details, including areas not inspected either because they are not required or because they were inaccessible at the time of the inspection.
Clear communication is at the heart of a professional report. Your detailed reference material may define various structural terms and electrical or plumbing system components that are unfamiliar.
The Core Representation of Your Business
Long after you’ve left the site, your report is the living representative of your professional inspection business. Although your client and the real estate professional make use of the report immediately to make purchase or sale decisions, your client may refer to all of your reference material months or even years after you visited the site.
Your inspection report is more than just a checklist. It’s a validation of your expertise. Establish a system of creating reports that reflect your knowledge and the thoroughness of your on-site inspection.
Inspect.com supports the inspector community. Have questions about creating reports? Ask your fellow inspectors on our forum.