Clients use the home inspection report to make important decisions about a home. Decisions are easier and less likely to result in problems later when your report is easy to understand. However, providing easily understandable home inspection reports can be a challenge.
Like many inspectors, you may have more experience communicating verbally than in writing. Written reports lack the feedback of a face-to-face interaction, and it can be hard to know how much detail to include and how to highlight what’s important.
Writing great reports can help your clients make easier decisions while managing your risk as a home inspector. Here are 10 tips for writing easily understandable home inspection reports for your clients.
1. Write Goal-Oriented Reports
Think about what you are trying to accomplish. The report should help clients make an important buying decision and make it easier to address defects after closing. The report also needs to be professional, meet association and franchising standards and minimize your liability.
2. Think About Levels of Detail
Easily understandable reports often have several levels of informational detail. Most clients want to see a summary with the key findings first. Then identify the defects and what to do about them. An appendix can serve as a reference for terms and definitions and go into even more detail.
3. Draw Attention with Bullet Points
It’s often much easier to read and understand information that is organized into bullet points rather than long paragraphs. Points may be particularly useful in your summary and when giving key details about each defect.
4. Focus on Info Organization
Reports that follow a logical order will also be much easier to read and understand. Make sure to organize your report. Using headings to help you organize information that goes together, such as exterior findings, systems and components, maintenance and monitoring, and so on.
5. Keep Terminology Simple
Remember that the clients reading your report could be first-time buyers. Use common words and explanations along with the more technical terminology to make sure you’re understood. Giving the location and purpose of items listed in the report can also help.
6. Provide Useful Information
When there is a problem, make sure the client has enough information to understand the severity, priority, cost and safety. Always include descriptions and locations for items that are non-performing or will fail soon, and the implications, solutions and timelines.
7. Disclose What Wasn’t Inspected
An easily understandable report should also be clear on what items were not inspected or could not be inspected, particularly if they were part of the original scope of the work. Note the report’s limitations, such as lack of access to the attic, evaluations of the roof made from the ground, or household appliances like security alarms or garage doors that were not tested.
8. Limit Your Liability
Limit your liability and control your risk by sticking to the scope of work in the pre-inspection agreement and documenting any discrepancies for systems or components that couldn’t be inspected. Also include information about limitations that may apply to all inspections.
9. Document the Inspection with Photos
Documentation with illustrations and photographs can help make your reports even more easily understandable for clients. Consider taking pictures from multiple angles and adding captions so the client knows which item in the report goes with the images. Photos are also a good risk management tool for documenting areas that were not a problem at the time of inspection.
10. Be Consistent from Start to Finish
Consistency is very important to create an inspection report that is understandable. If there are areas or items addressed in your pre-inspection agreement, work order or follow-up call that are not in the actual report, it can confuse your clients. Stick to the scope of your initial agreement and document any systems or components you were unable to inspect.
Writing easily understandable home inspection reports is always worth the extra effort. Clients are happier and more appreciative when they have all the information they need to make their decision. Plus, a well-written report can also greatly reduce your risk of complaints and claims, and help you and your insurer with your defense if you do experience a claim.
Find more risk management tips from Lockton Affinity, the administrator of the Home Inspectors Insurance Solutions Program.