There were a few things we really wanted to understand when we were contemplating building a new home inspection reporting system. Knowing how much time the average home inspector was taking to complete a report, before and after the actual inspection, was tops on our must-know list. If you want to create a better solution, you first have to know the need and what your benchmarks are to exceed.
Survey of Home Inspectors
If you’ve read our previous posts, you know we conducted an in depth survey of home inspectors at the end of last year. We think that our survey was pretty representative of the industry, including those using most of the solutions out there, from paper to more elaborate software.
So, How Much Time to Create an Inspection Report?
We found that the median time home inspectors spent working on their reports was 3 hours. That is time spent before and after the inspection, and does not include the inspection time itself. Not only can this cut into personal time, but if you want to do two inspections in one day, you are looking at a 12 hour shift, minimum.
Does It Differ By Platform?
We found that times varied considerably from inspector to inspector, but we had to dig deeper to understand the difference by platform. For example, average report prep time was 3.2 hours for the subset of inspectors that used a tablet. That’s 12 minutes more than those not using a tablet. But, “that’s crazy” you say. How can what is supposed to be a timesaving piece of technology actually increase time spent? Before you throw out your tablet and pick up a clipboard, you have to understand the underlying causes. We found a few obvious reasons for unsatisfactory report prep time, including redundant technologies, double-entry of information and hard-to-navigate interfaces.
Paper and Technology Overlap Increases Report Times
We found that a full ⅓ of those surveyed were still using paper forms in one form another. Almost half of inspectors using paper forms would go back to their office and type the information into a software package to produce the report. No wonder it takes so long to complete the report. There is no time savings of capturing information about the inspection directly into the software during the inspection itself. Moreover, a good deal of information is being recorded twice — first on paper and then again in the software.
Using a Digital Camera Increases Report Times
40% of survey participants listed one of the most challenging issues with existing software to be incorporating photographs. And, it’s no wonder, since many of the respondents cited using their digital cameras instead of taking pictures with the software on their tablets or smart phones.
State of the art inspection reporting software should make it fast and painless to snap a picture or insert a video in place with a concern. It was unclear from the survey results if inspectors’ chosen software makes this so difficult to do that they might as well use their digital camera, or whether the digital camera was a habit that was hard to break.
Anecdotally, we have heard inspectors mention their belief that it would be difficult to bring a tablet into the attic and their fear that picture quality would be reduced. We believe that these fears are unfounded. You should be able to take all the high-quality pictures and video you need with a 7” tablet that can be easily tucked in your pocket when climbing through an attic or cellar. This negates the need for a separate camera and can significantly improve report turnaround time. For more on picking the right tablet for home inspection, see our recent post on tablet considerations.
Inefficient Data Entry Increases Report Times
More than half of home inspectors reported that recording the problem was the most difficult thing about their current inspection software. From entering the same information in multiple places, multiple times, to painful pre-inspection report setup, poor workflows can result in redundant data entry, excessive clicks, report inconsistencies, awkward paths and slower report production.
Meeting Realtor Expectations
Bringing in the data from the Realtor Survey we conducted, we found a mismatch in report delivery time expectations. With instant data access and decreasing delivery times for everything from bank statements to paper brochures, we found that realtors are wanting completed reports faster than ever before. At the beginning of the year, more than ⅓ of realtors said that they would like to get the completed report within an hour after inspection completion. My guess is that by the beginning of 2016, that figure will be even higher. However, only 14% of inspectors said that they expected to deliver a report that fast, and many said they never will. And, with 3 hours invested outside of the inspection to complete the report, it’s darned near impossible to meet such a fast turnaround, even if most of that time is invested in pre-inspection report setup.
Slicing and dicing the data last year confirmed that we were onto something big. There clearly appears to be a faster and easier way of getting all the intelligence of your inspection into an easily readable report format.
We’ll be releasing HomeHubZone™ in the near future for Early Adopters to use for free. Those that complete 25 inspections during the early adoption phase will get free use of HomeHubZone for life. We can’t wait to report back on HomeHubZone report turnaround time!