June, 2014
Discussion from Executive Director
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Being Frank


“The more things change the more they stay the same.” I think this is an appropriate quote when applied to home inspections. Some of you may remember when the only way to give a written report to your clients was to type it or use a pre-printed form. Some inspectors would dictate findings into a tape recorder which would then be transcribed by someone in the office who would type it. Although that method would take extra time, the report looked professionally done.

“Can you hear me now?” When cell phones first came out, some of those same inspectors jumped at the new technology and would call the office to dictate the report while driving to the next inspection. That may have saved time, but I can just imagine the number of irate drivers wondering who those inspectors were talking to while alone in their cars. What about the typist back in the office deciphering the garbled message from the inspector using the nascent technology? Not to mention the jumbled ramblings of some inspectors. Those secretaries deserved every dime they earned.

Other inspectors would use two or three part no carbon required (NCR) forms that had check boxes and/or blank areas on the pages to hand write remarks. Often, that report would be handed directly to the client on site. While that was a great time saving method and probably less costly, there was limited room for error or second thoughts. Changing the report after thinking about a missed or reconsidered thought was tedious, prone to confusion, requiring phone calls or even rewritten reports.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” 35mm single lens reflect cameras arguably take the best quality photos. But they are expensive, delicate, bulky and the amount of time from use of the film to development is an impediment to timely reports. Some of us used them during an inspection, but they were overkill for the type of photos needed in a typical home inspection.

The tried and true Polaroid camera was a favorite of many inspectors. An inspector could go into a dirty, damp and uninviting crawl space and find some amazing cutting edge workmanship performed by a local member of the Rube Goldberg Society. Describing the deficiency to our clients with any modicum of clarity is very nearly impossible. But, with the Polaroid, Voila!, the deficiency would be much easier to explain. Just take a quick shot of it and crawl out of the space. The photo would be developed by the time the inspector exited the crawl and the client could be shown the snapshot.

There were several downsides to the Polaroid, though. The film cost about $12 for a 12 shot pack. So back in the 80’s you didn’t want to go crazy with the photographs. The other problem was if you gave the photo to your client, you had to take another one for your own records.

“The longest journey starts with the first step.” Remember having local maps to help locate unfamiliar streets? Some of us are lucky enough to work in a metropolitan area big enough to have street maps all in one book. The ringed binders were about $50 but they were invaluable when trying to find where the inspection was. Unfortunately, the maps were outdated the minute they were printed. As soon as a new construction development was built, with new streets, the usefulness of the book was diminished.

Then, along came MapQuest. Just type in the address and you’ve got a detailed road map with turn by turn instructions to your destination. And aside from the annoying first six or seven steps telling you how to get out of your own neighborhood, it worked pretty well. The downside is it’s not always accurate. I’m sure we’ve all experienced a wild goose chase with any of these GPS systems.

So what’s the bottom line? It’s just this. We’ve come a long way in the past 40 years of ASHI’s existence. And all of the disparate items I mentioned in this story have been consolidated with the great report writing software available to us.

The software can help you book the inspections, find the location of the inspection, keep track of the inspection clients, remind the clients about follow-up inspections, insert photos of the inspection and what else...or yeah, you can even write the inspection report on the software! Although the delivery is much improved, the basic job is the same. Do a good inspection. Deliver a good report. Be a good person. If you do that, you’ll make a good living.

This month, Carl Fowler accepted my offer to our Reporter advertisers to write a story about the early days of home inspections and how his business developed. It’s an interesting story that shows the dedication of our long time supporters.