I’ve noticed recently that one of the challenges for relatively inexperienced PCA professionals is to sift through all the data that is collected at a site and focus on the few important “big ticket” items identified at the property. If there’s more to the truth than just the facts, it could be said that the all the data we collect at a site is the “facts” and the few important deficiencies we identify in any one assessment is the “truth”.

Those of us who have performed assessments for a while have come to realize that while we need to collect all the data required at the site, only about 10% of that will typically be important to the client. Usually this data ends up being addressed as an immediate or short-term repair need. The remaining 90% of the data will need to be in the report for the sake of completeness, but doesn’t need to have the same level of attention paid to it as the important 10%. The challenge for some newer writers is that they can get bogged down plodding through the 90% and barely have time to accurately and sufficiently discuss and address the important findings for the client.

When one is new to the world of performing assessments, it’s easy to spend a little too much time discussing the micro perspective – the random hairline cracks in the concrete tilt-up walls, localized areas of faded pavement seal coat or the isolated mineral surface cap sheet granule loss of a built-up roof system. While these are important to incorporate into our reported observations and findings, they are typically the minor items – part of the 90% of the data that isn’t usually important. It’s the macro issues – will the property have continued maintenance costs due to a specific construction defect for example – that form the “truth” of the property for the client.

One trick that improves the focus of an assessor is to prepare the report in a certain order to ensure that the focus is on the priority findings throughout the report writing process. It helps to initially review the photos and your field notes to create a focused list of immediate and/or short-term recommendations. Then, preparing the tables and report text sections pertaining to the priority issues, you have completed the “important” sections first. Then you can complete the remaining areas of the report and embellish them as time permits.

For me, sifting through the facts to get to the truth is one of the most fun aspects of the world of assessments. It’s a challenge for those of us that are relatively inexperienced, or not paying attention, but once you develop a good system, the process flows much more smoothly and the truth gets to the client in a quicker and more articulate manner.