5-facts-about-cream-city-brick-homes-in-milwaukee

5 Facts about Cream City Brick Homes in Milwaukee

5-facts-about-cream-city-brick-homes-in-milwaukeeMilwaukee is a city known by many names.  While “Brew City” or “The 414” may be fairly obvious, one moniker that tends to cause confusion among tourists and natives alike is “Cream City.”  The nickname derives from a native type of light cream-colored brick used to construct homes and other buildings in the 19th century.

At Towne & Country Building Inspection, we are passionate about helping Milwaukee homeowners understand and appreciate the uniqueness of their historic homes.

Read on to learn five fun facts about Cream City brick homes in Milwaukee:

  1. Cream City brick helped put Milwaukee on the map

As early as 1846 (the year Milwaukee was incorporated), reports in local and national newspapers point to the definitive aesthetic that Milwaukee’s Cream City bricks deliver.  Lake Michigan provides Milwaukee with a red, dense clay soil that has a higher concentration of calcium and magnesium compared to other clay soils.  When bricks made of this clay are baked in a kiln, the original red color fades into the distinctive yellow-cream color.  Compared to traditional red brick, this unique color was an instant hit with home builders and buyers in the area, and soon became one of the most desired building materials in homes and other buildings.  As news of this new style of brick spread, structures made of Cream City brick began popping up across the United States and even in Europe. Any home inspector in Milwaukee will be quick to point out the historical and structural significance of Cream City brick.

  1. Cream City brick is prone to discoloration

Compared to other types of brick, Cream City bricks are significantly more porous.  This means that pollutants such as smoke, dust, and gases in the air can cause discoloration.  Historically, this led to an eventual decline in the use of Cream City bricks because the methods used to clean typical bricks, particularly sandblasting, were not effective on Cream City bricks and actually caused more destruction than restoration.  However, since the 1970s, chemical washes have been created and used to clean Cream City bricks in a non-destructive manner.  This has led to a resurgence in demand that, as a historic home inspector in Milwaukee will likely point out, may very well create enhanced value in a property.

  1. Cream City bricks are known for their durability

Any building in the Milwaukee area has to have good bones (i.e. structural integrity) to stand up to southeastern Wisconsin’s intense winters.  As the ground freezes and thaws, the soil expands and contracts in a manner that can cause significant distress to a building’s walls and foundation.  If you want evidence of Cream City bricks’ longevity, consider the dates in which some local buildings were erected: The Italianate house (800 N Marshall St; built 1872); All Saints Episcopal Cathedral (828 E. Juneau Ave; built 1868); various buildings in the Schlitz brewery complex (1880s); and the Women’s Club of Wisconsin (813 E Kilbourn Ave; built 1886).

  1. Cream City bricks are eco-friendly

Cream City bricks are made from lacustrine clay, meaning clay that has been formed by lake deposits.  Milwaukee, and in particular the Menominee River Valley’s location near Lake Michigan, provide vast amounts of natural clay deposits for use in manufacturing Cream City brick.  The process of extracting this lacustrine clay soil is much less harmful to the environment compared to something like vinyl siding, which is composed primarily of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a man-made material. The manufacturing process for PVC and vinyl siding is known to produce greenhouse gases such as nitrogen oxide and carcinogens such as dioxin.

  1. Cream City brick may add value to your home

Cream City bricks were once one of the most in-demand building materials not only in the Milwaukee area but across the nation and even abroad.  Although they eventually fell out of favor because their porous nature led to unsightly discoloration from pollutants, modern cleaning methods have allowed those in the restoration business to take a renewed interest in Cream City brick buildings.  Owning a home built with Cream City bricks allows you to own a piece of Milwaukee’s history, and for those that are intent on purchasing a home within the city and committed to maintaining its historical integrity, the fact that a building is made with Cream City brick may very well be a factor that increases the value of the property.
At Towne & Country Building Inspection, we provide Milwaukee’s best historic home and building inspection services. Looking for a home inspector in Milwaukee? Give T&C a call today.

Prelisting-Home-Inspections-Milwaukee

5 Reasons to Schedule a Pre-Listing Home Inspection

Prelisting Home Inspections MilwaukeeIf you are thinking about selling your home, you probably have a lot of things on your mind! Is scheduling a pre-listing inspection one of them? If not, add it to your list; it is a great way to ensure the entire process of selling your home goes smoothly. 

A pre-listing inspection is just what it sounds like: a home inspection conducted before you put your home on the market. You may be wondering “but doesn’t the home inspection happen after an offer is made? Do I really need to spend the money on a second home inspection?” Well, you are correct: the potential buyer of your home will likely schedule a home inspection before they sign on the dotted line, but this is one of many reasons why you will want to also schedule a pre-listing inspection. As for the cost, believe us, it will be worth every penny. 

Here are 5 reasons why YOU should schedule a pre-listing home inspection today

  • Avoid surprises in the buyer’s home inspection. No matter how long you’ve lived in your home and how many repairs you’ve made, there are likely issues that you’re not aware of. This is true of new homes and historic homes. When a buyer schedules their home inspection before signing on the dotted line, they will probably uncover these issues and it may affect their buying decision or lead to a long negotiation process. With the knowledge you gain from a pre-listing inspection, you can decide what repairs you want to make that may smooth out the negotiation process. Ultimately, a pre-listing inspection equips you with the knowledge you need to avoid added stress during the selling process. 
  • Price the home correctly. What you learn during a pre-listing inspection will help you decide how you want to price your home. A home that is priced in a way that does not accurately reflect its condition will turn away potential buyers and lead to a long selling process. Incorrect pricing can also cause a potential buyer to cancel their contract based on what is found during the buyer’s home inspection. Canceled contracts show up on online home searching sites and may cause other potential buyers to skip your home completely. 
  • Potentially sell your home faster. If you are in need of an influx of cash to put a down payment on a new home, a pre-listing inspection may help speed the selling process along. Depending on what is turned up during the pre-listing inspection, a potential buyer may choose to skip their own inspection altogether. 
  • Easier negotiating. The knowledge you gain about the strengths and weaknesses of your home through a pre-listing inspection will help you not only price the home right, but will give you more negotiating power. For instance, say your home needs a new furnace. If you factor the cost of that repair and are upfront about it during the selling process, the potential buyer is less likely to try and renegotiate a lower price based on this element. Alternatively, if your home has very little on the inspection report, you can go into negotiations from a real position of strength. 
  • Better marketing. The purpose of a home inspection is not only to tell you all the things that need to be repaired but to shine a light on the good things, too. Your pre-listing inspector can tell you positives like that your roof has a good number of years left in it or that your basement is sound and dry. These facts are great to incorporate into your home’s listings and will draw in more potential buyers. You can also make your inspection report available to potential buyers as a way to build trust. 

Now that you know all the ways a pre-listing inspection can help you sell your home, let’s get started! At Towne & Country Home Inspectors of Milwaukee, we have decades of experience inspecting residential homes, commercial properties, historic buildings, and much more. We are here to partner with you in the process of selling your home and want to equip you with all the knowledge you need. 

Looking for a reliable home inspector in Milwaukee? Give us a call to schedule your pre-listing inspection today! 

 

brick-mortar-foundations-what-you-need-to-know

Brick & Mortar Foundations: What you Need to Know

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brick-mortar-foundations-what-you-need-to-knowIf you own a historic home in the Milwaukee area, you likely have a brick and mortar foundation. If this is the case with your property, understanding how to maintain and care for this particular type of foundation is critical.

Brick and mortar foundations require a different approach to maintenance than newer concrete or older stone foundations. Hiring a professional to do this work is ideal; the relationship between the type of brick, type of mortar, and how they work together will determine the longevity and health of your foundation. A professional mason can help you determine how to strike this balance.

Well-made brick has the capacity to last more than 100 years, but it’s the mortar joint – the material between those bricks – that requires more careful maintenance. The average lifespan of a mortar joint is about 25 years – around that time, it is likely the mortar will need to be professionally “repointed” (repaired).

 

What is “repointing”? 

You may have heard the terms “pointing” and “repointing” when it comes to brick-and-mortar foundation maintenance. The difference between the two is small: pointing means adding mortar to a wall built of masonry units (bricks or stone). Repointing means repairing mortar between masonry units.

Methods for pointing and repointing vary and depend on the type of brick and preferred style of the homeowner.

 

Types of mortars

To protect the longevity of your historic foundation, it is critical to use the right type of mortar. Older bricks are usually soft and porous, meaning they flex under pressure. Wisconsin’s rain and snow cause freezing and thawing of water within the soil, which exerts pressure on the foundation of a home. Mortar that is too rigid will inhibit bricks from flexing naturally, which can lead to cracking. Mortar that is slightly softer than the brick it supports will allow the brick to flex, leading to a longer lifespan of the whole foundation.

Mortar also needs to be breathable, letting internal moisture evaporate out instead of being caught in the mortar and absorbed by the brick, which can lead to damage.

Since 1900, many homes with brick foundations were constructed using a mortar mixture containing Portland cement, which is significantly harder and less breathable than more traditional mortar mixtures.

While a Portland cement mortar mixture may indeed be the right choice for your home’s brick foundation, if it was built before 1900 you will want to call in a professional to give their opinion. There are lots of mortar options on the market these days, some of which contain higher percentages of lime and sand – a better match for old brick.

When it comes to color and style of mortar, you have a lot of options. If you are planning a repointing project on your historic foundation, check underneath eaves and in other recessed areas to get a sense of the mortar’s original color. Then, it’s time to choose the style of mortar joint profile you prefer.

“Mortar joint” is the term for the length of mortar extending across a brick, stone, or concrete block (“masonry unit”). When repointing, a mason usually removes about 2 inches of the old mortar and replaces it with a new mixture. To finish the repair, the mason applies a profile to the mortar while it is still pliable. The most common types of profiles are: concave (or rounded inward – the most common type of mortar profile); weathered, where the mortar is inclined from bottom to top; beaded, when the mortar is curved outward; and vee joint, where the mortar is pressed into a v shape.

 

Types of brick

You may be surprised to learn that there are many different types of brick. Most historic brick-and-mortar foundations use one of the following three types: soft-mud, pressed, or wire-cut brick.

Soft mud bricks, most commonly used on houses constructed in the 1850s and before, are hand packed into molds, then fired in a traditional kiln. The mortar mixture most appropriate for soft mud bricks is a mixture of lime and sand – no Portland concrete.

Pressed brick, seen on houses built in the late 1800s and after, is made of machine-pressed clay and fired in hotter, more contemporary kilns. The best mortar mixture for these types of bricks is one made of Portland cement, lime, and sand.

Wire cut bricks are of similar vintage to pressed brick, but are cut with wire rather than pressed into a mold. Wire cut brick may be porous or more solid, so the right mortar mixture depends on the specific batch of bricks.

 

Common pointing/repointing methods on historic homes

While every mason has the opportunity to choose their own process, here is a typical workflow for repointing a brick-and-mortar foundation:

  1. The mason removes the old mortar up to 2.5 inches into the mortar joint. To do this, they may use a hammer and chisel, a scraping tool, and angle grinder, or a combination of tools.
  2. The mason then removes any debris from the joint to ensure a good bond between the new mortar and existing brick.
  3. The mason then moistens the brick – this is a crucial step, as mortar applied to dry brick means the brick will soak up too much moisture, leading to cracks and potential failure of the mortar joint.
  4. The mason will then apply the new mortar. They may use a mortar bag to insert the mixture or may choose to use a pointing trowel.
  5. Finally, the mason uses a joint tool to apply the selected mortar joint profile.

 

Milwaukee’s historic home landscape means local home buyers might find themselves with a brick-and-mortar foundation. This is not something to avoid: while they do require maintenance, a brick-and-mortar foundation that is lovingly cared for can last for hundreds of years.

Here at Towne & Country Building Inspectors, historic home inspections are our passion. If you are looking for a historic home inspector in Milwaukee, look no further. Give Towne & Country Building Inspectors a call to schedule your inspection today.

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3-tips-to-prevent-basement-flooding-Milwaukee

3 Tips to Prevent Basement Flooding

3-tips-to-prevent-basement-floodingWhile there are a lot of positive things about having a home with a basement (like extra living space, storage, and privacy), one of the biggest drawbacks is that all basements will eventually leak, and the risk of flooding. Any homeowner who has dealt with a basement flood knows that it is not an easy fix. That’s why it’s crucial to address basement moisture at the first sign and take steps to prevent water entering your basement.

Here at Towne & Country Building Inspection, we love helping people in the greater Milwaukee area understand how their home works.

Here are 3 simple tips for preventing basement moisture and flooding:

 

  1. Clean your gutters
    While it is certainly not the most fun chore on your list, giving your gutters a good clean twice a year is one of the simplest ways to prevent basement flooding. The purpose of a gutter system is to drain water away from your home, so get up in there and make sure leaves and debris are not keeping your gutters from doing their job.After your gutters are clean, check your downspouts to make sure they are securely installed and evacuate water at least three feet (if not more) from your home. Ideally, they should drain towards the street to move water toward the sewer system, but if you’re not close to the street, they should drain downhill from your home’s foundation.
  2. Fill gaps in windows and walls
    Water will try and make its way into your basement through even the tiniest of cracks, so take this chance to secure some of the most likely entryways. Look for cracks on the exterior of your home’s foundation. If they’re very small (less than a centimeter), you can fill them yourself with epoxy from the hardware store. If they are larger cracks, call in an expert to fill them. Then, check and seal all basement windows. If you still notice a draft, consider calling in a professional to address the issue.
  3. Check your sump pump
    The sump pump is the hero we need when fighting basement moisture. While this handy household tool can usually be left to do its thing, it’s important to check it periodically to ensure proper function. Never assume it is working. Be sure to check when it rains. First, listen to hear if it kicks on. This means it’s doing its job of removing water from the home.Next, lift off the sump crock cover and check the water level; if it’s low, the sump pump is doing its job.Finally, examine the sump crock and surrounding components for debris or blockages and clean if necessary.Before a big storm, test your sump pump and consider installing a generator to ensure it can still do its job in the event of a power outage.

What to do if your basement floods

If your home has experienced flooding in the past or does so before you’re able to take the preventative steps outlined above, act quickly to avoid big issues.

First, assess the severity of the flood; if water is covering the basement floor, you will want to call in a professional to remove the water and disinfect the space. Then, you may want to seek the help of a waterproofing expert to find out what measures you can take to prevent flooding in the future.

If the flooding is minimal, you may decide to address the problem yourself. First, turn off the electricity in your basement before making contact with the water. Next, drain the water out of the basement using a gas-powered water pump and ensure that your drainage plan has an exit point far enough away from the home that the water will not come back inside. Then, move items that have gotten wet to a place where they can begin to dry. Clean walls and floors by scrubbing them with a sponge and warm, soapy water, then open any windows, set up fans, and run a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air and promote circulation. Finally, keep your nose tuned for mold over the ensuing days and weeks – if you notice a smell, use a bleach solution (with plenty of ventilation) to clean the area again.

Flooding is a risk for many homes in Milwaukee and surrounding areas. But you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and trouble in the future by taking a few simple preventative steps. At Towne & Country, we take pride in providing individuals and families in the greater Milwaukee area with expert residential home inspections, commercial, and historic property inspections. Don’t wait – give us a call to schedule your inspection today!

What You Need to Know About Stone Foundations

What You Need to Know About Stone Foundations

Historic Foundation Repair & Home InspectorIf your home was built before 1915, it may have a stone foundation. As the most common foundation type in historic homes, we often see stone foundations when inspecting homes and older buildings in the Milwaukee region. 

 

Stone foundations do pose unique challenges but do not have to be a dealbreaker when purchasing the historic home of your dreams. With an experienced historic home inspector on your team, you can equip yourself with the knowledge you need to repair and maintain a stone foundation. 

 

At Towne & Country, Scot McLean applies his passion for history to providing expert historic home inspections in Milwaukee and surrounding communities. Scot’s extensive knowledge of regional architecture and the unique characteristics of historic homes makes Towne & Country Building Inspection Milwaukee’s go-to resource for historic home and building inspections. Give us a call to schedule a consultation today. 

 

Stone Foundations 101: What You Need to Know

 

When deciding to purchase a historic home, you may be nervous about sloping floors and crumbling plaster in the basement or around the exterior of the foundation. However, these characteristics do not necessarily mean you will need to pay for a full foundation repair. Settlement and minor shifting are normal for stone foundations, especially in homes older than 100 years. Crumbling plaster is a relatively simple fix if you hire the right expert. As long as the stones of the foundation are generally in the same place the original builder put them, you can expect that they will likely stay there. 

 

Crumbling Mortar & Repointing

 

Most historic homes in the Milwaukee region are coated with a mortar mix that can flake off over time due to moisture and movement issues. When this more solid mixture flakes off the outside of the stones, the more crumbly interior mortar can also start to erode. 

 

As soon as you notice this flaking start to happen, you will want to bring in a specialist to repoint (i.e. repair) the mortar. In almost all cases, you will only need to repoint the area that is experiencing the issue, rather than redoing the whole foundation. As long as you are proactive about repointing when and where it is needed and your foundation otherwise remains solid, you should be good to go. 

 

Protecting Against Basement Moisture

 

One unfortunate feature of stone foundations sealed with mortar is that they likely will not protect against moisture seepage. Wisconsin’s wet and snowy weather causes the soil around any foundation to expand and contract, exerting pressure on the foundation and potentially causing cracks. With a foundation material that is already porous, as with stone foundations, water will have an easier time creeping in. 

 

That’s why it is critical to install and maintain a drainage system around the exterior perimeter of a stone foundation. You will also want to ensure the ground around the foundation and any exterior structures like a patio slope away from the home. Moisture coming off the roof should be carried away from the foundation by a properly functioning and clean gutter system, and be sure your sump pump discharge pipe empties well away from the home. 

 

It’s best to avoid sub-grade drainage systems and interior waterproofing systems in homes with stone foundations as these can cause more problems than they fix. Sub-grade drainage systems actually work well with stone foundations, but require the well-compacted soil around the foundation to be disturbed in the installation process, which can cause the foundation to move and shift. Interior waterproofing systems can cause soil erosion underneath the foundation, which can also cause undesirable movement. 

 

An expert home inspector like the team at Towne & Country can recommend stone foundation experts who can provide you with the information you need to protect your historic home against basement moisture. 

 

Call in the Experts for your Historic Home Inspection

Towne & Country Building Inspection is Milwaukee’s go-to expert resource for historic home inspections. If you are a lover of historic homes and are on the market for your very own piece of history, you will want an expert inspector on your team. Not only do we know what we are talking about, but we bring a passion for Milwaukee’s history and architecture that is unparalleled. Give Towne & Country a call to get started today. 

 

Home Value Boosters at Every Price

Home Inspectors MilwaukeeAre you thinking about selling your home? If so, you may wonder what improvements you can make now to elevate the value of your home and make it more attractive to potential buyers. 

When it comes to making repairs and preparing your home to go on the market, there is no better strategy than scheduling a seller’s home inspection. Here at Towne & Country home inspections, we provide expert inspection services to customers in Milwaukee, Waukesha, and surrounding communities. Read more about the benefits of a seller’s home inspection here or give us a call with questions. 

Here are some of our favorite tips for making your home more attractive to potential buyers. Trying to stick to a budget? Don’t worry – we have suggestions at every price. 

Under $100

  • Schedule a design consultation. If you are wondering what cosmetic updates to make to your home before putting it on the market, there is no better person to call than a professional interior designer. Many designers offer 1-hour consultations for under $100 and can make recommendations on paint colors, room layouts, and other ways to elevate the look and feel of your home. 
  • Home inspections MilwaukeeGet out that paintbrush. Paint is one of the most cost-effective ways to update the look of your home. Not great with choosing colors? Always go neutral. A neutral color palette is appealing to many people and provides a blank canvass upon which a potential buyer can visualize how they would make the home their own.
  • Schedule an energy audit. For a nominal fee, many local utility companies will assess the energy use in your home and provide guidance on how you can cut costs and improve efficiency. An energy-efficient home is attractive to potential buyers and the money you save on utility bills can be put toward other upgrades as you prepare to list your home.
  • Keep your home tidy. This one is basically free! If you are preparing to show your home, you want it to look as clean and inviting as possible. Aside from hiring a professional to provide a deep clean (see the $200-$500 section), it is up to you to keep the home looking good throughout the showing process. Clear away clutter from surfaces, keep garbage cans empty, wash and put away dishes before a showing, and dust every day.

$100 to $200

  • Get rid of that popcorn ceiling. Looking for a relatively easy DIY project that will make a BIG difference? Get rid of that popcorn ceiling! Visit your local hardware store and ask about the supplies you need to remove a popcorn ceiling – usually, all you’ll need is a softening solution and a tool to scrape away the texture. Then, throw down a tarp and get to work!
  • Give your landscape some love. An easy way to update the “curb-appeal” of your home is to freshen the landscape design. Visit a local garden center for advice on adding shrubs, flowers, and trees to elevate the natural look of your home. Studies have shown that a home with a symmetrical design is more pleasing to the eye, and adding shrubs and trees is a great way to achieve that balance without making major architectural changes.

$200 – $500

  • Hire a cleaning pro. You want your home to make the best impression on a potential buyer, and making sure your home is sparkling clean is the first step. Most professional cleaning surfaces will provide a top-to-toe deep clean for under $400. If your home has carpeting, you may also consider bringing in a professional cleaner or renting a carpet shampoo machine. Then, while your home is on the market, you will just need to perform small maintenance tasks, like dusting and clearing away clutter.
  • Spruce up your bathroom. You don’t need to shell out for a full bathroom remodel to majorly elevate the look and feel. Remove old wallpaper and replace it with a neutral paint color or a textured finish. Replace dated light fixtures and update drawer pulls and voila! Your bathroom will feel brand new.
  • Add a ceiling fan. Ceiling fans are a cost-effective way to keep your home cool in the summer months and are an easy DIY upgrade for a living room or bedroom. Add a new ceiling fan to a room or replace an outdated model with a fresh design.

$500 to $1,000

  • Get rid of that carpeting. No matter how good it looks, carpeting can harbor odors and bacteria that can affect the air quality of a home. If rooms in your home are carpeted, consider replacing them with tile, laminate, or hardwood floors. Not only is this a more desirable, contemporary look, but hard floors are easier to clean and last much longer than carpet, making your home more attractive to a potential buyer. 
  • Make smart kitchen updates. While a full kitchen remodel can set you back thousands of dollars, there are smaller changes you can make to your kitchen that can add tremendous value. Update the look of the kitchen by removing dated wallpaper. Choose a neutral paint color and a fresh tile backsplash. Replace cabinet and drawer pulls and outdated light fixtures. Finally, consider replacing even just one appliance with a stainless steel model. These are inexpensive changes that can make a big difference in the eyes of a potential buyer. 

 

If you are preparing to sell your home, one of the best investments you can make is a seller’s home inspection. Here at Towne & Country, we are Milwaukee’s favorite home inspectors, providing top-quality services at a great value. Give us a call to get started today.

5 Reasons a Pre-Listing Inspection is a Great Idea

Prelisting Home Inspections MilwaukeeIf you are thinking about selling your home, you probably have a lot of things on your mind! Is scheduling a pre-listing inspection one of them? If not, add it to your list; it is a great way to ensure the entire process of selling your home goes smoothly. 

A pre-listing inspection is just what it sounds like: a home inspection conducted before you put your home on the market. You may be wondering “but doesn’t the home inspection happen after an offer is made? Do I really need to spend the money on a second home inspection?” Well, you are correct: the potential buyer of your home will likely schedule a home inspection before they sign on the dotted line, but this is one of many reasons why you will want to also schedule a pre-listing inspection. As for the cost, believe us, it will be worth every penny. 

Here are 5 reasons why YOU should schedule a pre-listing home inspection today

  • Avoid surprises in the buyer’s home inspection. No matter how long you’ve lived in your home and how many repairs you’ve made, there are likely issues that you’re not aware of. This is true of new homes and historic homes. When a buyer schedules their home inspection before signing on the dotted line, they will probably uncover these issues and it may affect their buying decision or lead to a long negotiation process. With the knowledge you gain from a pre-listing inspection, you can decide what repairs you want to make that may smooth out the negotiation process. Ultimately, a pre-listing inspection equips you with the knowledge you need to avoid added stress during the selling process. 
  • Price the home correctly. What you learn during a pre-listing inspection will help you decide how you want to price your home. A home that is priced in a way that does not accurately reflect its condition will turn away potential buyers and lead to a long selling process. Incorrect pricing can also cause a potential buyer to cancel their contract based on what is found during the buyer’s home inspection. Canceled contracts show up on online home searching sites and may cause other potential buyers to skip your home completely. 
  • Potentially sell your home faster. If you are in need of an influx of cash to put a down payment on a new home, a pre-listing inspection may help speed the selling process along. Depending on what is turned up during the pre-listing inspection, a potential buyer may choose to skip their own inspection altogether. 
  • Easier negotiating. The knowledge you gain about the strengths and weaknesses of your home through a pre-listing inspection will help you not only price the home right, but will give you more negotiating power. For instance, say your home needs a new furnace. If you factor the cost of that repair and are upfront about it during the selling process, the potential buyer is less likely to try and renegotiate a lower price based on this element. Alternatively, if your home has very little on the inspection report, you can go into negotiations from a real position of strength. 
  • Better marketing. The purpose of a home inspection is not only to tell you all the things that need to be repaired but to shine a light on the good things, too. Your pre-listing inspector can tell you positives like that your roof has a good number of years left in it or that your basement is sound and dry. These facts are great to incorporate into your home’s listings and will draw in more potential buyers. You can also make your inspection report available to potential buyers as a way to build trust. 

Now that you know all the ways a pre-listing inspection can help you sell your home, let’s get started! At Towne & Country Home Inspectors of Milwaukee, we have decades of experience inspecting residential homes, commercial properties, historic buildings, and much more. We are here to partner with you in the process of selling your home and want to equip you with all the knowledge you need. 

Looking for a reliable home inspector in Milwaukee? Give us a call to schedule your pre-listing inspection today! 

7 ways to keep pests out of your home

Pest controlEven if you’re an animal lover, I’d guess that you’re not keen on the idea of sharing your home with mice, spiders, roaches, and squirrels. They may be cute and fuzzy (or creepy and horrible), but they belong outdoors. 

From a home inspection standpoint, there are few things more immediately off-putting than seeing a mouse scurry by or encountering a spider’s nest while inspecting a home. While seeing just one of these critters may actually mean there is just one in the home, it is most likely a sign of a larger issue. Particularly in Wisconsin where many of the homes we inspect are surrounded by woods and/or prairie, it is entirely common to have mice, squirrels, spiders, and even cockroaches invade your home in droves. 

No matter the season, now is the time to take steps to protect your home against pests. 

Here are some tips for keeping the critters away: 

  • Mouse TrapsLay traps. It may seem cruel, but spring traps are actually one of the more humane and effective ways to take care of mice in the home (as opposed to glue traps or poison, which can prolong suffering). Live mouse traps do exist but, if you use them, you will find you need to drive the critters miles away to ensure they don’t come back and, even then, you may see them again. For squirrels, traps do exist, but you are probably better off calling animal control to capture the critter rather than trying to do it yourself.
  • Seal gaps. Mice can fit through cracks that seem impossibly small, so take the time to seal gaps, particularly between your home’s siding and foundation. A flashlight can be helpful in spotting these gaps, and you can use canned foam insulation to seal them up. Mending holes in screens around the perimeter of your home’s foundation (like in a window well or basement window) can be a big help in keeping spiders out.
  • Keep nature at bay. Spiders and other insects thrive in bushes, wood piles, and dirt, so consider this while you’re landscaping and keep a zone of at least 1 foot free of these things around the perimeter of your home. It’s also a good idea to sweep out window wells regularly so spiders can’t make a nest.
  • Check your crawl space. Spiders also love to nest in crawl spaces and under porches because they are dark and rarely disturbed. Use a broom to sweep out spider webs and spray these areas with an insect killer. Don’t forget to do the same for crawl space vents.
  • Stay dry. A damp crawl or under-porch space is also a perfect place for carpenter ants and termites to do their destructive thing, so keeping these areas well ventilated and dry is critical.
  • Don’t lay a buffet. Where there’s crumbs, there’s bugs (and mice). Keep food wrapped up tightly and put away rather than leaving things on the counter. You may consider investing in some long-lasting glass containers to hold food rather than keeping things in open boxes.
  • Know when to call in a pro. If you’ve tried the methods above and still have critters, or see signs of termite damage like holes in wood pieces on or around your house, small piles of what looks like sawdust, or discarded wings, its time to call in the pros. Same goes with animals trapped in your attic or under the porch – it can be potentially dangerous to try and deal with situations like these yourself. 

Pests like mice and spiders are icky but mostly harmless. Termites, however, can do lasting damage to the structure of your home. Regardless of the critter, it’s important to react right away if you notice a new friend has moved into your home. 

Are you looking to buy or sell a home and need a home inspector in Milwaukee you can trust? Give Towne & Country a call today!

First-time buyer? What to expect from a home inspection

First Time Home Buyer Home Inspection TipsThere are a lot of exciting things about buying your first home. But before you sign on the dotted line, it’s time to schedule a home inspection.
The inspection is a critical step because it helps buyers like you make an informed decision about whether this home is right for you. While you may love the look and feel of a home, if the list of things that need to be repaired and replaced before it’s livable is outside your budget or comfort zone, it’s probably not the place for you.
Here is our handy guide for what to expect from your buyer’s home inspection. If we don’t answer your questions here or if you’d just like to talk to an expert, give us a call today.
What is a home inspection and why do I need one? 

The main purpose of a home inspection is to review all accessible parts of a home and provide a detailed report on the condition and habitability of the home itself, including any necessary repairs.
Over the course of two to four hours, an experienced home inspector visually reviews the home top-to-bottom and you are welcome and encouraged to shadow them and ask questions. Once finished, the home inspector provides you with a significant amount of information that you can then use to decide how you want to move forward.
By getting an inspection before purchasing a home, you are arming yourself with a full picture of the true cost of the home (nope, it’s not just the listing price)! Having this information allows you and your team to negotiate with the seller and come to an agreement about the items they need to repair before you will sign on the dotted line. Sometimes, buyers and sellers agree to split the cost of repairs or choose the most urgent repairs to include in the purchase agreement.
What kind of things will you look at?

A home inspector reviews everything in and outside of a home that is visible and accessible. This includes the following:

Roof (weather permitting), gutters, and downspouts
Exterior siding, trim, and soffits
Garage, garage doors, and driveway
Decks and patios
Ceilings, walls, and floors
Attic and basement
Foundation
Central heating and cooling systems
Plumbing and electrical systems
Insulation (if accessible)
Built-in appliances
Please note: inspectors normally do not look inside walls unless easily accessible, move personal items or furniture, remove snow/ice/soil, or inspect swimming pools.

It may also be necessary to call in a subject-specific inspector if the general home inspector turns up issues with wells or septic tanks. You may also consider getting a radon test, particularly if it’s an older home.
What should I do once I have the report? 

After the inspection, the inspector will take a day or so to write up a very detailed report on their findings. Be aware: this report may list quite a few “issues” – a lot of times anywhere from 50 to 100 things that could be repaired or addressed. However, not all of these issues will be urgent fixes or things that are critical to the habitability of the home.
It is easy to get overwhelmed when reading the report, so feel free to give us a call to talk through the findings and ask questions. While our inspectors cannot tell you what decision to make when it comes to purchasing the home, they can provide guidance on the types of issues that are important to address quickly.
You should also talk to your real estate agent about negotiating what the seller will fix before you agree to purchase the home. They can usually also provide some perspective based on their previous experiences.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that every home has flaws. What is a dealbreaker for someone else may not be a big deal for you. So talk to trusted experts before you make any quick decisions based on your home inspection report.
Your experienced local home inspector.

When it comes to scheduling your first home inspection, you want to know that the folks you’re hiring have your best interest in mind. At Towne & Country, helping you make the right decision about the home you purchase is our #1 priority. Since 1996, we’ve been helping people just like you across southeast Wisconsin find their dream home. Give us a call today to get started.

 

Easy Cosmetic Home Updates to Make Before You Sell

Are you preparing to sell your home but wondering what you can do to ensure buyers are interested? You may be surprised to hear that you don’t need to do a major kitchen remodel or add a basement bathroom to increase your home’s selling power. In fact, the inexpensive cosmetic updates you make before selling your home will most certainly pay off, while pricier fixes probably won’t. 

Easy Home Fixes to Sell Your Home | Milwaukee

Here are our favorite quick-fix tips for getting your home ready to sell: 

 

General tips

  • Clean your house from top to bottom – including windows, baseboards, basement, and garage. 
  • Bring as much light into the home as possible. Remove curtains or pull them back, install brighter light bulbs, and trim bushes and trees that block natural light. 
  • Reduce furniture and clutter by about 30% and put it into storage. This will make your home look larger. Bonus tip: spend the money for a storage unit rather than loading up your garage with stuff – buyers will see it! 
  • Organize and limit clutter in all closets, drawers, and cabinets. Buyers are bound to open doors and drawers to get a sense of the amount of storage available. 
  • Get carpets professionally cleaned. 
  • Remove all signs of a pet, including bowls, toys, and hair on furniture. Certain buyers may be turned off if they know a pet has lived in the home. 
  • Put away personal items like photos, collectibles, and keepsakes so the buyer can visualize their own items in the home. 

 

Yard

  • The front yard of your home is likely the first thing a potential buyer will see, so make sure it looks great. 
  • Trim bushes and trees and keep the grass mowed. 
  • Consider updating your landscape by adding shrubs or perennials. 
  • Add a hanging flower basket or window boxes with colorful flowers in various heights. 
  • Put in sod to fill in gaps in your lawn. 

 

Home Exterior

  • A fresh coat of paint can dramatically update the look of a home. Choose a light neutral color to ensure you don’t turn off potential buyers. 
  • Remove old window awnings for a more up-to-date look. 
  • Re-stain wood accents. 

 

Entryway

  • Clear out all clutter including coats, keys, and junk mail. 
  • Add a vase of fresh-cut flowers and/or a plate of cookies to welcome the potential buyers into the home. 

 

Living Room

  • To make the home’s main gathering space feel larger, move furniture away from walls. 
  • Remove, clean, or update curtains or window treatments. 
  • Add crown molding for a sophisticated, high-end touch.
  • Update light switch plates.

 

Bedroom

  • This is an easy one: make sure your bed is made, dresser drawers are shut, and everything is picked up off the floor. 
  • Swap an old light fixture for a small chandelier. 
  • If your closet has sliding doors, make sure they are on track and open smoothly.  

 

Kitchen

  • Instead of completely replacing cabinets, sand and paint them for a fresh look. 
  • Change out window treatments or remove them to maximize natural light. 
  • Update the backsplash with subway tiles or tin ceiling tiles for a cheap, eye-catching detail buyers will love. 
  • If your appliances work great but aren’t stainless steel, consider applying a coat of electrostatic paint to give them a metallic look. 

 

Bathroom

  • Re-caulk around tub and make sure all signs of mold are removed. 
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint in a light, neutral color. 
  • Update fixtures. 
  • Update countertop. 
  • Fix leaky faucets. 
  • Avoid anything too trendy – you want to provide a potential buyer a clean slate so they can visualize what they would do with the space. 

 

Now that your home is looking its best, our final tip is to keep it that way. Make sure your home is always ready to show; wash dishes and put them away, keep all bathrooms clean, dust daily, and air out the home to keep the atmosphere fresh. 
If you are preparing to sell your home and hoping to get top dollar, consider scheduling a seller’s home inspection with Towne & Country. Our team of experienced home inspectors in Milwaukee can alert you to necessary repairs you may consider making to increase its value and streamline the negotiation process. With over 20 years of experience, Towne & Country is a great choice for those looking for a home inspector in Milwaukee. Give us a call with questions or to schedule your inspection today.