Buying a home is one of the biggest investments most people will make in their lifetime. While exciting, it can also be stressful trying to find the perfect home for your needs and budget. Once you've found a home you want to buy, it's crucial to take steps to secure your investment by having a licensed home inspector thoroughly evaluate the property prior to purchase.
The Importance of Home Inspections
Many homebuyers forego professional home inspections in an effort to save money or speed up the buying process. This can end up being a costly mistake. Licensed Home Inspectors Milwaukee are impartial third-party professionals who provide an objective assessment of a home's overall condition. They check for defects, wear and tear, and potential safety hazards that could cost you thousands down the road.
A home inspection gives you insider knowledge about the property so you can make an informed decision and negotiate repairs if needed. Without an inspection, you won't know if there are expensive problems lurking behind the walls or under the floors until after you buy the home.
When to Schedule the Inspection
It's ideal to have the property inspected as soon as possible once your offer is accepted. This allows time for the seller to make any agreed upon repairs prior to closing.
You generally have 10 days from the date your offer is accepted to complete inspections. It's best not to wait until the last minute. Schedule the home inspection immediately so there is time to bring in other specialists if the inspector discovers issues needing further evaluation.
Choosing the Right Home Inspector
Not all home inspectors are created equal when it comes to experience and qualifications. Like many states, Wisconsin doesn't have statewide licensing requirements for home inspectors. However, there are professional certifications inspectors can obtain by meeting education, testing, and experience criteria.
Look for a home inspector who has credentials from respected organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). This demonstrates a higher level of commitment to their profession.
Check reviews and ask the inspector detailed questions about their background, training, years of experience, and the inspection process. A more experienced inspector will be better able to identify subtle signs of damage and potential problem areas. Their detailed report will provide greater insight compared to less qualified inspectors.
What's Checked During a Home Inspection
A standard home inspection covers the physical condition inside and outside the home. The inspection should evaluate:
Structural Components: Foundation, floors, walls, ceilings, roofs
Exterior Components: Siding, windows, doors, decks, porches, garages
Roofing: Shingles, flashings, gutters, downspouts, skylights
Plumbing Systems: Water and drain lines, fixtures, water heater, sump pump
Electrical Systems: Wiring, main panel, outlets, switches, fixtures
Heating and Cooling Systems: Furnace, heat pumps, central air, ductwork
Ventilation/Insulation: Attic, walls, crawlspace
Fireplaces and Chimneys: Masonry, venting, dampers
Common Areas: Walls, floors, ceilings, doors, windows, lighting
A standard home inspection generally takes 2-3 hours for the average single family home. Unique or larger homes may take longer.
The inspector will document their findings in a detailed report and discuss major concerns afterward. Expect to receive the full report within 24 hours following the inspection.
What Isn't Covered in a Home Inspection
While home inspections are very thorough, there are limitations to what's included:
Assessing property value: Inspectors don't determine if the purchase price is appropriate.
Testing for mold: Inspectors look for visible mold but don't do specialized tests.
Assessing soil conditions: Geotechnical inspections may be needed to assess soils.
Termite inspections: Special termite inspections are recommended.
Evaluating fireplace drafting: Smoke tests are not performed during standard inspections.
Assessing pool piping: Below ground pools pipes require specialized leak tests.
Checking septic tanks: Septic inspections are not included but recommended.
Testing building materials for hazardous materials (lead paint, asbestos, etc.). Specialized inspectors can test for these.
Evaluating home electronics, appliances, security systems, etc. Home inspectors only check built-in appliances.
If the home inspector discovers issues in any areas not covered in their inspection, they can refer you to the appropriate specialist to evaluate further.
Focus Areas for Milwaukee Homes
Licensed home inspectors tailor the inspection to the age, style, and location of the specific home. There are some focus areas inspectors pay particular attention to when evaluating Milwaukee area properties:
Age-Related Issues in Older Homes
Milwaukee has many beautiful historic homes, some dating back to the late 1800s. Older homes often have features and materials that require closer inspection. Key areas of focus include:
Plumbing: Older galvanized steel pipes can corrode and leak. Lead drain lines need replacement.
Electrical: Knob and tube wiring and insufficient electrical capacity for modern usage may be issues.
HVAC Systems: Old furnaces and air conditioners may need upgrading or replacement.
Attic and Wall Insulation: Lack of adequate insulation accelerates heat loss.
Foundation: Crumbling limestone or brick foundations need structural repairs.
Roofing: Aging roofing materials like wood shingles or slate may be near the end of their lifespan.
Water Damage Risks
Milwaukee's lakefront location brings plenty of rain, snow, and humidity. This moisture can lead to the following problems:
Mold: Water infiltration causes high mold risk, especially if ventilation is insufficient. Inspectors check attics, basements, and crawlspaces for any signs of mold.
Rotting wood: Water causes wood frames, shingles, siding, and trim to decay. Inspectors check for soft, punky wood.
Damaged masonry: Moisture deteriorates brick and mortar on foundations and chimneys.
Standing water: Inspectors check for proper drainage around the home to prevent flooding.
Heating and Cooling for Wisconsin Winters
Frigid Wisconsin winters mean your home's heating system will work overtime. Important areas inspectors assess include:
Furnace: They test furnace operation and look for cracks or corrosion indicative of wear and determine remaining lifespan.
Heat distribution: Inspectors confirm ductwork and radiators provide adequate, balanced heat throughout the home.
Chimneys: They check for proper installation, cracks, missing mortar, and blockages.
Fireplace dampers: Dampers must open and close properly to avoid heat loss up the chimney.
Radon Gas Dangers
Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that enters homes through cracks in the foundation. It's the second leading cause of lung cancer. Milwaukee has especially high radon levels. Inspectors test basement or first floor air to determine radon levels. Any amount above 4 pCi/L requires radon mitigation.
Handling Inspection Results
The home inspection report provides objective information to help you make informed decisions about the home. There are several ways to handle inspection findings:
1. Request sellers make repairs.
Most buyers negotiate repairs with the seller, especially for bigger-ticket items the seller didn't disclose. Be reasonable and strategic in repair requests. Focus on:
Safety issues like mold, electrical, or firewalls
Imminent failures like roof replacement
Expensive repairs like foundation work
Code violations that could delay closing
Prioritize the most critical items first in your repair request. Offer to split costs or adjust purchase price for bigger repairs.
2. Make your own repairs after purchase.
For minor issues or when sellers refuse repairs, you may opt to take care of repairs yourself down the road. The inspection report gives you a helpful to-do list. Budget for repairs and factor them into your total homeownership costs.
3. Walk away from the deal.
If the home has too many expensive, complex repairs beyond your budget or abilities, it may be prudent to walk away. Inspectors can provide a rough estimate of costs to help inform your decision to move forward or look for another home. Don't buy into a money pit out of emotion.
4. Renegotiate the purchase price.
If repairs needed are significant but you still want the home, renegotiate the purchase price with the seller. A lower price helps offset your repair costs. But make sure you have an accurate estimate of repair costs first.
Questions to Ask Your Home Inspector
To get the most out of your home inspection, here are key questions to ask:
What type of inspection do you recommend for my home? Do I need any
How long have you been a home inspector? Are you certified by ASHI, InterNACHI, or other organizations?
What does your inspection cover? What areas fall outside the scope of your home inspection?
How long will the inspection take? Do you inspect the home alone or bring a team?
What type of report do you provide once the inspection is complete? How soon after the inspection will I receive the full report?
Can I follow you throughout the inspection? I’d like to see issues as you find them.
Do you provide cost estimates for repairs needed? This helps me prioritize requests to the seller.
Can you explain technical terms and issues to me in simple terms?
If you discover any potential safety hazards during the inspection, will you notify me immediately?
Ask inspectors about their communication style too. Look for inspectors who take the time to explain their process and findings. They should be able to describe any issues found in everyday language you can easily understand.
Don't Neglect the Home Inspection
It can be tempting to skip the home inspection when you’re excited about a home and don't want anything slowing down the process. But this neglect can lead to some incredibly expensive surprises post-purchase. Don't let your emotions cloud your judgment - a home inspection is well worth the time and money.
Licensed Home Inspectors Milwaukee provide unbiased professional assessments that empower you to make informed decisions about major investments. Take time to choose an experienced, qualified inspector that meets your needs. Perform due diligence now so you feel confident proceeding with your home purchase knowing what to expect down the road.
Your home should be a stress-reducer, not a money pit of constant repairs. A home inspection helps set realistic expectations so your purchase will be a place you enjoy for years to come. Don't cut corners - take the crucial steps to secure your investment and your future happiness through a professional home inspection.