Regarding General Home inspection only, report length is a controversial subject among inspectors, is a question constantly asked by new inspectors, and is affected by:
- Jurisdictional regulations;
- Standards of Practice/Scope of the inspection;
- Personal preference;
- Risk tolerance;
- Report content;
- Report format;
- Report generating system (software);
- Access to a large narrative library;
- Property characteristics; and
- Local practices and expectations
Beyond the basic requirements of the standards of practice and any jurisdictional regulations, report length and content are choices made by the inspector.
1. Jurisdictional regulations
Jurisdictional regulations vary widely across North America and take precedence over any inspection standards of practice. Some jurisdictions, like the state of Texas, have stringent report format requirements that must be followed. Many other jurisdictions have no requirements at all.
2. Standards of practice /Scope of the inspection
The standards of practice(SOPs) are minimum guidelines stating what an inspector must- and need not- inspect. They can vary among jurisdictions and professional associations. As long as inspectors comply with the SOPs and stay within the letter of the law, they are free to expand the scope of the inspection to whatever degree they are comfortable with. Expanding the scope may increase liability, service value, and report length.
3. Personal preference
As long as they don't violate jurisdictional regulations, inspectors are free to include in the report any additional information they feel will add value to their services without increasing their liability beyond what they consider acceptable.
4. Risk tolerance
Longer reports offer more protection from liability, but are less likely to be read completely, which can result in misunderstandings and unhappy clients, regardless of whether the problem is the inspector’s fault. Short reports may omit information that might later turn out to be important, and may leave the report open to interpretation to an excessive degree. Inspectors must decide what degree of risk they are willing to tolerate and design their reports accordingly.
5. Report Content
Some inspectors use many photos, narratives, and include details that other inspectors consider superfluous. More content that covers the house in greater detail will increase report length.
6. Report Format
Digital reports can be supplied as:
6a.A digital version of a checklist report that supplies a minimum amount of information;
6b.A hybrid that includes a checklist showing what was inspected and narrative descriptions of defects/deficiencies, often including photos; or
6c.A report consisting mostly of narratives. Checklist reports will be shortest and narrative reports will be longest.
7. Report generating system (software)
Modern inspection software typically provides methods for both data collection and report compilation. Ease of use including transferring and annotating of photos can affect the time required to compile a report, which in turn may affect report length. Some software allows information to be included in the report but hidden unless the reader chooses to make it appear by clicking a tab. For example, using this method, the entire SOPs can be included in a report without increasing its apparent length.
8. Access to a large narrative library
Use of a large narrative library consisting of organized, pre-written narratives will save inspectors many hours otherwise spent writing narrative descriptions of conditions they find. Developing a fully founded narrative library typically takes years.
9. Property Characteristics
The property size, complexity, systems installed, accessibility, and condition will all affect the report length.
10. Local Practices/Expectations
Report length (and content) may also be affected by what is common in a particular market. Short reports in areas in which reports are commonly substantial may be viewed as inadequate. Longer reports supplied in areas where most reports are short may be viewed as excessively detailed and more apt to kill a transaction.
Inspectors should do their best to establish realistic expectations in the minds of their clients.
In making decisions about report length and content, inspectors may want to view online sample reports. The InterNACHI message boards contain more than 50 forums. Clicking on the name of a poster gives the option of visiting that inspector’s website where they often provide links to sample reports.