Narrative vs. Checklist Reports
As a home inspector, at some point you have to decide how to structure your home inspection reports. The first and most basic decision is whether you will create narrative or checklist reports. It is important to consider not only which method is faster, but also which will be appreciated most by your readers.
Sometimes checking a box doesn’t quite capture what you are trying to convey in a checklist report. For example, checking the “Satisfactory” box to indicate that a heating system is working well fails to mention that you foresee the need to replace a component in the furnace within a few months. You don’t want to mark it as “Not Satisfactory” because it does work right now, but it could be dangerous not to mention the future repairs.
These “in-between” conditions are what can make a checklist report challenging, and since you only present the conditions with one to three words, there’s no space to explain the problem except by manually writing in the content.
With narrative reports, you can pre-enter paragraphs of text into your library explaining all of the possible conditions you can think of, and then when you run into them there’s no need to be ambiguous.
If all homes were prefect, checklist reports would be the best option because your readers could simply scan through pages of “Satisfactory”. The reality is that houses always have issues. Your clients and their realtors don’t just want to be told that there is an issue; they want to know what the issue IS! This is really where the checklist report falls short. It may be totally accurate to say that the roof is not satisfactory, but your clients really want to know why so they can make an informed decision.
Clients and realtors like narrative reports because it makes them feel like the inspector really took his or her time to explain the issues with their new home. It also reduces the number of phone calls you will have to answer explaining the details that were just not in your report.
Checklist reports tend to be the quickest to put together. This is because reporting on a particular item only requires checking the boxes that apply. However, the time it takes to write narrative reports can be reduced if the software the inspector is using presents the reporting options in such a manner that it appears like a checklist to the home inspector, but like a narrative to the reader.
RoomToRoom Web Reports was created to allow inspectors to write fully narrative reports that feel like checklist reports when writing them.
Rather than having to edit your selected conditions so that they fit together, RoomToRoom does this for you by injecting common English transitions like “Additionally” or “Also”, or even “Finally” after many items. This means that you can check the “Faucets Leaking” and “Pressure Too High” boxes, and RoomToRoom will generate:
“One or more exterior faucets is leaking. Moreover, the water pressure was higher than the maximum recommended level of 80 PSI when tested at an exterior water faucet.”
It’s a checklist to you (with no editing), but a narrative to your readers. Once you experience the “magic” of this solution, it’s hard to go back!
-September 29, 2016