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Guidelines for Choosing the Right Licensed Home Inspector

by M Asim

Purchasing a home is likely the biggest investment you’ll ever make. That’s why it’s so important to have a professional home inspection done before closing on a property. A thorough home inspection conducted by a qualified, licensed home inspector can potentially save you thousands of dollars down the road by identifying issues early.

If you’re in the market for a house in the Milwaukee area, don’t skip this crucial step. Hiring the right Milwaukee licensed home inspector for the job will give you peace of mind and help ensure you don’t end up with an expensive money pit of a home. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the best home inspector for your upcoming purchase:

Do Your Research to Find Candidates

Start your search for a home inspector by asking your real estate agent for recommendations. They often have inspectors they regularly work with and trust. However, don’t rely solely on their suggestions. Do some research on your own as well.

Search online for licensed home inspectors in Milwaukee area. Look for professionals who are certified by reputable organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). This ensures they have the proper training and adhere to industry standards.

In addition to online reviews, ask for referrals from friends, family members, or acquaintances who have recently purchased homes in Milwaukee. Word-of-mouth can provide insight into an inspector’s quality of work.

As you compile a list of potential inspectors, verify that they hold an active license in Wisconsin. This is a legal requirement for home inspectors in the state. The Department of Safety and Professional Services has a license lookup tool on their website.

Interview Multiple Inspectors Before Deciding

Once you have 3-5 licensed home inspectors on your list, take some time to interview each one over the phone. This gives you a chance to get a feel for their expertise, professionalism, and communication skills before hiring. Here are some key questions to ask:

  • How long have you been a licensed home inspector in the Milwaukee area? Look for 5+ years of local experience.
  • Are you certified by any organizations like ASHI or InterNACHI? Certifications indicate a commitment to continuing education.
  • What type of inspection report do you provide after completing the inspection? Make sure it’s a detailed report with photos of any issues found.
  • Do you provide any kind of warranty or guarantee on your inspections? Some inspectors offer 90 days of support after the inspection.
  • Do you have references from past clients I could speak with? Reputable inspectors should be happy to provide references.
  • How much do you charge for a typical single-family home inspection? Get a quote to compare with other inspectors.

Verify Their Credentials and Affiliations

Before making a final hiring decision, take the time to carefully vet the qualifications, credentials, and affiliations of the Milwaukee licensed home inspectors on your short list.

  • Education & Training – At minimum, inspectors should have completed 90-120 hours of classroom training and have a certain amount of field training. Preferably, look for inspectors who have studied building science or engineering.
  • Certifications – Highly reputable certifications to look for include ASHI, InterNACHI, and NAHI (National Association of Home Inspectors). These require ongoing education credits to maintain.
  • Licensing – Confirm they have an active home inspector license issued by the state. This requires passing Wisconsin’s exam after completing pre-licensing education.
  • Memberships – Well-qualified inspectors often belong to professional organizations like ASHI and InterNACHI. Membership indicates a commitment to the profession.
  • Experience – Look for inspectors with 5+ years of experience and 200+ inspections completed. They’ve likely seen everything and can better assess a home’s condition.
  • References – Reach out to references personally to hear about others’ experience with the inspector. Verify their quality of work and professionalism.

Taking time to carefully evaluate inspectors’ credentials helps you find someone truly qualified.

Ask About the Inspection Process

The inspection process itself can vary depending on the home inspector. Once you’ve identified top candidates, ask questions to understand how each one conducts inspections:

  • How long will the inspection take? Typical single-family home inspections take 2-3 hours to complete thoroughly.
  • How do you proceed through the home during the inspection? They should have a consistent order and process.
  • What tools, equipment, and methods do you use during the inspection? Look for modern tools like thermal imaging cameras.
  • How do you evaluate the home’s major systems like plumbing, electric, HVAC, etc? Make sure they inspect every critical system.
  • Do you provide any additional inspection services beyond the standard inspection? Some offer sewer scope inspections, mold testing, and more.
  • When/how will I receive the full inspection report? You should get a detailed report within 24 hours.

By asking about their process, you can look for thoroughness, consistency, and use of current technologies. This helps surface any gaps or weak areas in how they conduct inspections.

Compare Costs of Inspection Services

Home inspection fees can range from $300 on the low end to $500+ for larger homes and more extensive inspections. Get quotes from a few of your top choices to compare costs.

Keep in mind that lower fees don’t necessarily mean better value. The most thorough, detailed inspections lead to better identification of existing and potential problems. Paying a higher rate for excellence is better than skimping on this vital step.

When comparing quotes, consider what’s included at each price point:

  • Does the quote include both inspection and detailed written report?
  • Are additional services like sewer scope or mold sampling included or extra?
  • Will you be charged for travel fees or other incidentals?
  • Are any follow-up consultations or warranty periods included?

Understanding exactly what you get for the quoted price helps inform your hiring decision. Be wary of super low-ball bids—there’s usually a catch.

Ask About Their Experience with Milwaukee Homes

Milwaukee has a wide range of historic housing stock along with newer contemporary constructions. Ask prospective inspectors specifically about their experience with different eras and styles of Milwaukee homes:

  • How familiar are you with historic Milwaukee homes and their common issues? Experience with old homes is crucial.
  • Have you inspected a variety of architectural styles in the area? From Milwaukee bungalows to mansions and more.
  • Are you knowledgeable about area builders, developments, and neighborhoods? Local market expertise is a plus.
  • How many inspections have you completed on Milwaukee homes? Look for 200+ local inspections completed, minimum.
  • What types of issues do you frequently encounter in Milwaukee houses? Listen for inspector insights into local housing conditions.

An inspector well-versed in Milwaukee’s eclectic mix of housing types will know where to look for problems and what to flag in their older or more uniquely styled properties.

Double Check Licenses and Certificates

Before making a final decision, take one last step to verify licenses and certifications. This ensures protections for the buyer:

  • Call the state to confirm their home inspector license is active and in good standing. Unlicensed inspectors operate illegally.
  • Look up certifications through organizations like InterNACHI to validate credentials. Some fraudulent inspectors falsely claim affiliations.
  • Ask for proof of membership in organizations like ASHI if claimed. Not all inspectors advertise valid memberships.
  • Search online databases to confirm credentials. Organizations like ASHI offer license lookup tools right on their websites.

Taking a few minutes for due diligence can help avoid situations where inspectors misrepresent qualifications or operate without proper licensing. This step protects your interests as the buyer.

What to Expect During the Home Inspection

Once you’ve selected a licensed, qualified home inspector, you’ll want to know what to expect during the actual inspection process. Proper preparation and understanding their process leads to a smooth inspection from start to finish.

Scheduling the Inspection

Contact your chosen inspector as soon as possible once your offer is accepted. You want to complete the inspection during your contingency period so any serious issues found can be addressed before closing.

Provide the inspector details like property address, style and age of home, square footage, and number of bedrooms/bathrooms so they know what to expect. Schedule the inspection for a time when you can be present at the home yourself.

The seller will need to ensure utilities are turned on and the property is accessible on the inspection date. Your real estate agent can help coordinate this with the listing agent.

Arrival & Walkthrough

The inspector will arrive onsite equipped with tools, tech, and more for the inspection. Take time when they arrive to talk about any areas of concern you may have based on initial home tours. This allows them to pay special attention to certain items.

You’ll begin with an initial walkthrough of the interior and exterior. This gives the inspector a chance to get familiar with the property and layout before beginning the detailed technical inspection.

During the walkthrough, inspectors are on the lookout for obvious visible issues like:

  • Signs of water intrusion like damp spots or stains
  • Cracks or signs of settling in ceilings and foundation
  • Problems with driveways, walkways, siding, windows, roofing
  • Malfunctioning doors, windows, and appliances

Red flags like leaks, cracks, and anything broken or non-functional will be noted early on.

Inspection of Systems & Components

The main event of the inspection is examination of the home’s major systems and components:

  • Heating and cooling systems – The HVAC system is thoroughly examined for age, capacity, and functionality. Ductwork is also inspected.
  • Plumbing system – All supply lines, drain lines, fixtures, water pressure, and more are inspected from main lines to sink faucets.
  • Electrical systems – Inspectors check the service panel, wiring, outlets, switches, and fixtures for safety issues or improper installations.
  • Attic and insulation – Attics are inspected for adequate ventilation and insulation levels. Insulation quality in walls is also checked.
  • Ventilation – Kitchen, bathroom, and laundry fans and venting are tested to ensure proper ducting to the exterior.
  • Appliances – Any included appliances are turned on to test basic functionality. Their age may be noted.
  • Roofing – Roof condition is evaluated including shingles, flashing, gutter system, and ventilation.
  • Foundation – Basement or crawl spaces are checked for signs of water intrusion, cracks, or structural issues.

And much more – inspectors will thoroughly cover every aspect of the home’s condition.

Wrapping Up the Inspection

Once the inspector has combed through the entire property, taking photographs and detailed notes along the way, you’ll wrap up with a debriefing.

The inspector will give you preliminary feedback on major finds and highlight any notable areas of concern that will be fleshed out later in the full report. This gives you a general sense of how the inspection went.

Don’t be surprised if most inspectors don’t provide a firm opinion on whether they’d “pass or fail” the overall property condition. They present unbiased findings for you to interpret.

You’ll typically receive the complete detailed report within 24 hours including all documented issues, photographs, recommendations, and more. The thorough report becomes a valuable resource as you determine next steps.

What the Home Inspector Checks (And Doesn’t Check)

Wondering exactly what a home inspector looks at when examining a house? While the specific components can vary depending on the age and style of home, there’s a standard set of elements that comprehensive inspections cover.

Understanding what’s included—and what’s not—can help set proper expectations.

Here’s an overview of what you can expect a home inspection to entail:

Structural Systems

  • Foundation – Checks for cracks, moisture issues, and improper construction
  • Framing – Identifies flaws like improper cuts, notching, or substandard materials
  • Masonry – Tests for loose, cracked, or damaged masonry throughout the property
  • Wood rot – Carefully inspects for wood rot or insect damage around doors, windows, roofline, and siding

Exterior Features

  • Roofing – Evaluates roof age, condition of shingles/materials, and any indications of leaking
  • Siding – Sides the exterior for damage, rot, drainage/moisture issues
  • Windows and doors – Tests functionality and seals, checks for broken panes, age, and quality
  • Driveways/Walkways – Looks for heaving, cracking, drainage issues
  • Grading and drainage – Checks for improper slope/drainage and water pooling
  • Eaves – Checks for loose tiles or boards, exposed nails, rot
  • Electrical, plumbing, and HVAC components – Inspects exterior units of these systems

Interior Features

  • Walls and ceilings – Checks for cracks, water stains, unevenness from potential structural issues
  • Floors – Identifies sloping, uneven, bouncing, or squeaking floors
  • Doors and windows – Tests ease of use, lock function, seals, and examines hardware
  • Cabinets and counters – Notes missing/broken hardware, damaged countertops, cabinet flaws
  • Plumbing – Checks water pressure, drainage, pipe quality, and fixture function
  • Electrical – Tests outlets, lights, breaker panel and wiring for proper function and safety
  • HVAC system – Examines condition and function of heating, cooling, and ductwork

Major Systems

  • Electrical system and panel – Checks for sufficient amps, safety issues, code compliance
  • Plumbing pipes and drains – Confirms there are no leaks and drainage flows as intended
  • Water heater – Checks tank for leaks or corrosion, notes unit age and capacity
  • HVAC system – Examines overall function and capacity for the home’s size, wears and tear
  • Insulation and ventilation – Evaluates levels in walls, attic, etc. and ventilation presence

Limitations of Home Inspections

While inspectors cover every feasible aspect of the property, there are limitations:

  • Appliances – Only basic functions are tested. Detailed mechanicals or lifespans aren’t evaluated.
  • Cosmetics – Things like paint, wallpaper, carpets, etc. usually aren’t addressed unless related to moisture or installation flaws.
  • Underground – Inspectors can’t evaluate underground foundation walls, footings, or pipes.
  • Behind walls – They can’t look inside walls for electrical, insulation, pipes, etc. Gauges are used to estimate condition.
  • Concealed defects – Any issues lurking behind finishes can’t reasonably be detected during a standard inspection.

Keep these inspection limitations in mind as you review your report. Some assumption of risk comes with any pre-owned property.

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10 Things Not to Do After Receiving Your Home Inspection Report

You just received a lengthy, detailed home inspection report on the property you have under contract. Resist the urge to panic when you see pages of issues flagged! Here are 10 key tips on what NOT to do once your inspection report is in:

1. Don’t Overreact to the sheer number of findings

It’s totally normal for an thorough inspection report to seem overwhelming at first glance. Inspectors note every minor flaw, upgrade need, maintenance item, and deficiency no matter how small. Don’t let the inspection list scare you away from an otherwise sound property. Not every item noted needs to be addressed.

2. Don’t Immediately Cancel the deal

Before making any rash moves, discuss the key findings with your real estate agent to determine materiality. Some repairs are simple fixes, while more significant foundation or roof problems may be beyond your budget. Make level-headed decisions about what is and isn’t a true deal-breaker.

3. Don’t Rush to Renegotiate Without Counsel

Resist the urge to immediately call the sellers and demand they fix or lower their price over inspection finds. First, consult your agent and attorney about the right approach based on issues found, laws, and your contract terms. Knee-jerk reactions often backfire.

4. Don’t Make Demands Without Itemizing

Lumping all repairs together into one demand doesn’t cut it. Be specific about repairs you want the seller to make by individually listing each significant item needing correction, based on your priorities. Get bids to quantify costs.

5. Don’t Ignore Small Issues

It’s easy to gloss over minor items, but seemingly small issues can balloon into costly headaches down the road if left unaddressed. Don’t dismiss maintenance needs like old appliances, bad caulk, worn roofing, etc.

6. Don’t Assume the Seller Will Fix Everything

Understand that no seller is likely to remedy all inspection nitpicks to perfection. Focus negotiations on issues that truly threaten home’s safety, function, or structure. Be realistic.

7. Don’t Wait Too Long to Start Dialogue

To have productive conversations about inspection findings, don’t delay reaching out to the seller. Contact them quickly to discuss your concerns professionally and rationally.

8. Don’t Go Silent Without Explaining

If you need time to digest the inspection results before discussing with the seller, let them know you intend to be in touch but need a few days. Leaving the seller hanging is a sure way to spur resentment.

9. Don’t End Negotiations Prematurely

If the seller won’t initially agree to all your requests, don’t jump to terminate the deal. Negotiation often involves compromise. Have your agent work with the listing agent to explore alternatives that satisfy both parties.

10. Don’t Forget Your Inspection Rights

Understand your rights under the purchase agreement should inspection results influence your willingness to move forward. Your agent can explain options like renegotiation, terminating the contract, or getting a second opinion.

Stay calm, get clarity, and make reasoned choices when responding to home inspection findings. With the right approach, you can get the peace of mind you need without derailing the deal.

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