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Off The Net

One More Post On Wordsmithing:

Question: Today I was handed a report to review and find I have to share one huge observation. All participants on this board have in the past discussed the use of the statement "appears to be".  Today's review finds me commenting a total of 75 times in this report the use of the word "We".  This company is a one man shop so where does "we" come from?  Time to go back into my own library to delete it!  Perhaps the inspector has something in his shirt pocket that calls for the use of that word?

RESPONSE: When I have had report review performed at least three times now, this was not ever an issue.  Why is it now?  An employee represents the company and the company assumes responsibility for that employee. So in essence, we recommend.... represents the company not the inspector.  Otherwise, all liability would fall strictly on the inspector for providing an opinion not supported by the company....right?  
This is one of those business decision deals I suppose. I choose to keep with the way I have been inspecting for 21 years now.  I have not had any complaints with the use of this term "we" or any civil action and really think this is a personal issue on how one wants to report.  Overuse of any repeated terminology is annoying.  Unless one wants to hand write each recommendation and change there library to individual terminology, I can think of better things to worry about.

RESPONSE: Good thread - 'we' need more like it.
What about "It is recommended ...." rather than "We recommend..."?
It is recommended that a qualified and experienced C-20 HVAC Contractor specializing in....

RESPONSE: "It is recommended" is passive voice (not good form). I have no problem with using "appears" in my report. After all, we only do a limited general inspection and in many instances, we cannot determine with certainty that okay. Of course appears can be overused, but to ban the word is silly. I also use "we recommend...", "we" this, "we" that. All personal preferences.

RESPONSE: OK. One more thought. Many of us use RECOMMENDATION after describing the defect. There really is no reason to use it again. Example:
Leakage was observed in the water supply piping in the crawlspace under the hall bathroom. 
RECOMMENDATION:  We recommend correction by a qualified plumbing contractor.

New method?
Leakage was observed in the water supply piping in the crawlspace under the hall bathroom.  
RECOMMENDATION: Correction by a qualified plumbing contractor.  OR...Correction by a qualified plumbing contractor is advised.

I think that may be the best way without having to do too much wordsmithing to a library of report comments.

RESPONSE: Just another tomatoes/ ToMatoe but I would say that "Correction by a XXX is advised" again can be vague. Depends on how the reader views this in the end.

RESPONSE: Not an issue, just an opinion and along with both aging and experience most of us are likely to change them.  Wouldn't you agree that as we mature both our perception and judgment improves and we are far better at what we do than we were a few years ago, especially in the beginning?  Don't most of us cringe when we read an old inspection report we performed back in the 90s....?  The written report is a method of communication just as speech is.  However, once on paper it becomes impossible to deny and has the ability to become the noose that we are hung by.

RESPONSE: I was always under the impression that in business writing the use of "I" implies and opinion of the writer, whereas the use of "we" implies the opinion (or commitment) of the company. So there are legal differences if it ever came to that. 

My preference is to state the issue observed (e.g. "The living room window was broken") and follow it with "We recommend.......".

RESPONSE: Here is my 2 cents worth.  
The market has changed, most properties are REO properties. Bank owned properties have no requirement for DISCLOSURE and the bank has NO liability as the seller. The agent has a duty to perform his/her own inspection and we all know what a joke that is. These homes ALL have issues from non maintenance and may also have been rehabbed  before the inspection concealing water stains and or mold. The homes are vacant and there is NO excuse for not inspecting ALL windows and electrical receptacles. These homes take longer to inspect not less time. Because there is no liability on the part of the seller (bank) the inspector increases his liability by 25% (one less party to share in litigation awards). Because of this increased inspector liability the fees should have gone up at least 25% and WEASEL words should never appear in the report. I could care less if the word I or WE is used, recommend should NEVER be used. I use the following:

"Complete evaluation/correction including cost estimate (bids) by a qualified licensed (electrician, plumber, roofer, HVAC specialist etc.) is advised before the close of escrow or sooner if your residential purchase agreement has a contingency time limit."

RESPONSE: My take would be:
 Pool water filtering equipment was operating at the time of the inspection.  Visible components of the filtering and related pump system noted no obvious concerns. Dismantling of the equipment to inspect internal components is beyond the scope of the inspection provided. Recommend a pool specialist be retained to service and inspect the entire system.
As to the questions raised about checking torque, would that not be technically exhaustive? I only say that because a torque wrench can get out of calibration and it could be argued that specialized training is involved to operate the tool..

RESPONSE: That was my point - I would never do that.  I'd never start pulling breakers (unless it's vacant unit and I saw paint on the hot bus - no one was there and I was just being curious).  My report on the house with the pool was 97 pages long., If I wrote on every component as you described my reports would be 100's of pages long.  'Appears' is just so much more to the point - it's not for sure but it does appear to be functioning as it should.

RESPONSE: More word smithing:  
Is there any advantage, disadvantage to using either present or past tense in the report?
Example: The guardrail was missing.  The guardrail is missing.  
I use present tense as much as possible but don't know if it matters.






My thoughts: 

No real estate property inspector worth his or her salt will ever stop trying to garner more knowledge of their craft including inspection report writing.  The premise that nothing in this world is perfect, especially in our industry, ultimately provokes serious inspectors into a never ending attempt at improving themselves not only in the technology of inspecting residential properties, but producing a first rate inspection report. It will always be what is put down on paper that not only provides vital information on the current condition of the property inspected, but also equips the inspector with the ultimate legal protection from potential litigation. In other words, one's inspection reports is similar to a college course final in that it is what every inspector is ultimately graded on.

Physically inspecting all of the readily accessible systems and components of a home is basically hard work and a full-bore exercise on defect recognition. The competency of the inspector is constantly being tested not only for his/ her knowledge, experience and skill, but also their patience and awareness, a generic trait that cannot be taught.  Of course, no matter how well the physical inspection is performed it will ultimately be tested by the inspector's skill in putting together an easy to read comprehensive accurately detailed inspection report, which in my opinion is an art form.  In other words, well composed inspection reports don't come ready made in a box from some vendor from Modesto and professionally successful inspectors will spend their entire careers endlessly tweaking them in an effort to improve them.

Response:  Sounds logical, however, since report writing is such an art form, how bout more detailed training for new inspectors in the art of writing reports? If the formal training doesn't provide this and the report writing software doesn't provide this and CREIA doesn't provide this then why should a new inspector learn the hard way by getting lumps along the way?

I would gladly pay a reasonable fee and drive a reasonable distance for such an education.

Response:  You're absolutely correct and I agree that CREIA could do a better job in providing its members more education on report writing.  We all know that no matter how aware, detailed and thorough you conduct your inspection without putting it into a clear and easy to understand written form that covers all you saw during your inspection including what you didn't see and why you couldn't see it your phone will not ring and soon you will be looking for another line of work.  I suggest you contact or your chapter president, and/or regional director and repeat what you posted.  

I will be providing some new Power-Point Slide Shows on the CREIA web site under the right-side settings titled "Documents & Logos," and one such will be "Inspection Report Writing: "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly." within the next couple of weeks.  Meanwhile I highly recommend our members purchase a copy of Inspection Basics II from the CREIA store, which has a chapter titled "Creating a Report" that outlines what it takes to produce a clear and informative inspection report.  There is no perfect report on the market anymore than there is a perfect house or a perfect inspector.  Therefore, the best teachers of our industry have always been our fellow members, the ones who have had years of experience in what works and what doesn't in a fairly litigious profession.

Response: Report writing is such a subjective thing. Each senior inspector/ mentor can give various tips on how to report a defect yet, the most important lesson a new inspector should learn is the 4 d's. Get Jerry McCarthy's  Inspection Basics manual to understand what the 4 d's are.
Once you have mastered that concept down, how you best communicate it while still being vague yet descriptive takes time and experience. 
An inspector will rewrite their comment library several times in their career. It is always work in progress! Proper use of English and proper grammar will determine how well you are perceived  as a professional by your clients. Knowing construction, codes and being technically savvy are the easy parts of this job. Report writing is something that it you were not good at writing when you were in school, you probably will not be real successful as an inspector  without significant effort being put into that area of the profession . Too many inspectors put too much fluff in their reports as a means to try to compete. The best reports are well formatted, easy to read, have an organized flow and have language a ten year old should be able to understand. 
I would suggest reading other senior inspectors sample reports and look for commonality in reporting of similar defects. (Not mine, I'm still rewriting mine.)



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