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Mastering your software is key in producing good-looking, accurate reports quickly. Which inspection software to choose is an ongoing debate among home inspectors. Here are some suggestions on how to approach the decision:
1.Patience and aptitude for working with computers
Give some thought to how much time, patience and ability you have in learning to use software. Some inspection software requires very little effort to learn and can be used almost as soon as you get it. Typically, software that requires less effort to learn also is less versatile and powerful. Some of the more sophisticated software allows:
- Scheduling, tracking, notifications, and invoicing;
- Secure report upload to the cloud;
- Electronic (email) contract signatures;
- Inclusion of video in- and attachments to- the report;
- Annotation, captioning, resizing, quality adjustment and placement of photos;
- The ability to merge multiple reports into a single report;
- The ability to email the report without immediate access to wifi;
- Choices of a variety of templates;
- The ability to store a variety of forms;
- A choice of summaries;
- The ability to control the look of the PDF report;
- Broad ability to control how the reporting system works;
- The ability to edit the template during the inspection; and
- Easy integration with software/programs designed to streamline your business.
This is really a short list. A detailed comparison is more than can be provided here, especially considering that software is always evolving.
2. What type of device will you use?
Some software can be used with a variety of operating systems, most commonly Windows (PC), OSX (Mac), or Android, and some have limitations. If you already have a computer or other electronic device that you plan to use for performing inspections and creating reports (not always the same device) your choices may be limited to compatible software.
3. Will you go mobile?
If you plan to use a mobile system in which you carry the device with you as you perform the inspection, enter information as you go, and have compiled a completed report when the inspection is finished, you should investigate the mobile platforms offered by the different software companies. Easy Inspect allows you to email the report to the client directly from the handheld device. HIP and HomeGauge require the report to be downloaded to another computer before it can be emailed.
- See an HIP overview of their mobile system here. Android, iPhone, iPad
- See a HomeGauge overview of their mobile system here. Android only
4. Do you want to expand to multi-inspector?
If you would like to eventually expand into a multi-inspector firm, you’ll want software that will allow you to merge reports. This allows different inspectors on the same property to fill out different parts of the report, and then merge them to form a single report.
5.Do your homework!
Brains are wired differently. I’m asked about my preference fairly often, but in talking to inspectors who tried say, both HomeGauge and Home Inspector Pro, it’s not unusual to hear an inspector say, “I tried it, but it just didn’t make to me, and then I tried the other one and it was easy!” and one was talking about HG and the other about HIP!
If you belong to a professional organization, chapter meetings are a good chance to talk with other inspectors about what they use. There are many discussions on the InterNACHI message boards. There’s really no good way around taking the time to visit the software manufacturer’s websites, learn about common features, and try out the demo versions offered by each. Most inspectors use whatever they buy for a long time, so making a good, informed choice is important. The quality of your software and how well you use it will be reflected in the quality and look of your reports, and will have a strong influence on how well your business performs. The more time you put into making your choice, the happier you’ll be with the results!
6. Your budget is another consideration. There are different business models. Some software carries a relatively high initial price, but you own it from then on and there are no following fees (HG and HIP). Other companies have lower initial cost but you pay per per report. Those are just 2 examples. There are more.
7. Support quality is another important consideration, and so is the amount of time a company has been in business (these are often connected). Sooner or later you will have questions, often on a weekend, sometimes late at night.
Support is not always limited to the hours offered by a particular software manufacturer. Both HomeGauge and Home Inspector Pro have their own forums on the InterNACHI message boards (so does Inspection Support Network [ISN]), and their own message boards. Using these message boards, users needing help during times when the manufacturer’s support is not available.