What a Home Inspection Should Cover

Buyers, here is a list of the major items home inspections will cover depending on the type of property you are purchasing. A large historic home, for example, will require a more specialized inspection than a small condominium. However, the following are the basic elements that a home inspector will check. You can also use this list to help you evaluate properties you might purchase.

Structure: A home’s skeleton impacts how the property stands up to weather, gravity, and the earth. Structural components, including the foundation and the framing, should be inspected.

Exterior: The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home’s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection.

  • Doors and windows
  • Siding (brick, stone, stucco, vinyl, wood, etc.)
  • Driveways/sidewalks
  • Attached porches, decks, and balconies

Roofing: A well-maintained roof protects you from rain, snow, and other forces of nature. Take note of the roof’s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems, (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys.

Plumbing: Thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate problems.

Electrical: Safe electrical siring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room.

Heating: The home’s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.

Air conditioning: Your inspector should describe your home cooling system, its energy source, and inspect the central and through-wall cooling equipment. Consider the age and energy rating of the system.

Interiors: An inspection of the inside of the home can reveal plumbing leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and other issues. An inspector should take a close look at:

  • Walls, ceilings, and floors
  • Steps, stairways, and railings
  • Countertops and cabinets
  • Garage doors and garage door systems

Ventilation/insulation: To prevent energy loss, check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces. Also look for proper, secured insulation in walls. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate. Excess moisture in the home can lead to mold and water damage.

Whether you are a first time home buyer or buying your first lake home or cabin, I’d be happy to help you find the home or cabin in NW Wisconsin that’s just right for you. Jean Hedren, Edina Realty NW Wisconsin Realtor, 218-590-6634. Email: jeanhedren@edinarealty.com

Douglas County WI homes for sale. Washburn County WI homes for sale.

Septic Systems Simplified

Septic Systems Simplified

I’d like to address a topic that may not be very glamorous. But it’s one that’s important to know about when you’re buying a home or cabin in NW Wisconsin.

If you’re living in town, then you probably have city water and sewer. All you need to worry about now is paying a small bill every month. But once you move to the country, you’re on your own. Don’t worry though. Most of the time these systems work just fine.


Still, before you buy a home or cabin, it’s important to know about its septic system. Repairs and upgrades can be expensive. Here’s a quick overview; to really understand septic systems thoroughly, you may wan to do an online search on some of these terms and read further.

The first question you should ask is what type of system a particular home or cabin has. There are three main types: conventional, mound, and holding. You may also hear about something called a “separate gray water system.” One other term I’ll explain briefly is “perc test.” You’ll want to know what it is and why it’s important.

A conventional septic system runs waste water and solids into a large concrete septic tank where bacteria digest the solids. Liquids run out the other end into a drain field that’s made of perforated pipe buried in a gravel-filled trench. Solds that don’t digest settle out into a sludge at the bottom of the septic tank. Every two or three years, you’ll need to have this sludge pumped out. It’s not expensive, and it’s no big deal. It’s just part of owning a home or cabin that’s outside the city limits.

A mound system is similar, except that the drain field is above ground level inside a large mound of gravel and dirt. It’s used in certain special conditions – most often when the soil isn’t permeable enough, there isn’t enough soil before you reach bedrock, or the water table is too close to the surface. Although the mound can be landscaped in a way that makes it less noticeable, it’s still going to be there. Another negative is that mound systems often require a pumping system in between the septic tank and the drain field. Otherwise, these systems work just like a conventional septic system.

A holding tank is just what it sounds like – a hold tank that needs to be pumped out a soon as it’s full. I see them most often at older lakeshore cabins. They’re usually only used for sites that are unsuitable for either a conventional or a mound system. Sometimes, however, they were installed because they were a less expensive alternative.

As you’d expect, a larger tank is better. But it still needs to be pumped out eventually. And when it is, a large tank will cost more to empty.

You may be able to upgrade a holding tank to conventional or mound system. But even if you can, it will be a fairly expensive undertaking. Meanwhile, pumping out the holding tank will be a regular expense. If the system serves a small cabin that’s only used on a dozen weekends every year, that’s less of an issue. But if that cabin becomes a full-time, year-round home for a family of six, then you’re going to have a monthly pumping bill.

To help with that problem, some homes and cabins have a separate “gray water system.” (You’ll also see them used on conjunction with conventional and mound systems.) Gray water, as opposed to “black water,” is all the waste water that hasn’t come from a toilet. Depending on local codes and regulations, your gray water can sometimes be released with little or no processing; you could even use it to water your lawn or garden. Just be careful about what soaps you use, and avoid pouring too many household chemicals down the drain (probably a good idea anyway).

Finally, here’s one more term you should know about. If you’re building a new home or cabin, you may hear about something called a “perch test.” That’s short of “percolation test,” and it’s a measure of how permeable your soil is. If your building site is on clay soil that’s relatively impermeable, it could mean you’ll need a mound system or holding tank. It it’s on relatively sandy soil, you can relax. You’ll probably pass your perch test with flying colors.

This was an important topic, but maybe not a very fun one. If you read all the way to here, then perhaps you are ready to start shopping for your country or lake home or cabin – www.JeanHedren.com

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Are these home interior and exterior structural and mechanical items in good condition?

The Home’s Interior Condition

Even when a home or cabin immediately feels like it might be “the one,” take time to check out the:

  • Electrical system.  Standard house current, number of circuits, outlets, and fuses or circuit breakers is sufficient for everyday needs.
  • Floors. Condition of flooring.  Whether plank or plywood. Solid bridging and joists.
  • Walls.  Condition.  Whether drywall or plaster. Absence of water marks.
  • Appliances and fixtures. Everything in working order. Bathroom and kitchen fixtures in good shape.
  • Attic. Sufficiently insulated and ventilated.

The Home’s Exterior Condition houses-1705073_640

When you’re looking over the exterior, check out the:

  • Foundation. Floors poured concrete. Walls concrete or cinder blocks. No evidence of water seepage or moisture problems. Note that minor settling cracks are not usually structurally significant.
  • Doors and windows. Easy to open and close. Easy storm and/or screen removal and installation. Newer windows are usually more insulative.
  • Roof.  Gutters and downspouts in good condition. If older home, know how long shingles have been in use.  (Metal or rubber roofs even better.)  Chimney flashing tightly caulked.
  • Garage.  Doors or opener in good working order.  Sufficient electrical, lighting, and heating for your needs.

You can always make your offer contingent on what you learn from a professional home inspection.  I tell my buyers this is one of the best investments they’ll ever make.  But then, and even on your first walk-through, keep your sense of perspective.  Most problems can be fixed—either by the seller now, or by you later.  And it’s good to have realistic expectations. No house is perfect, and even newly built homes can have their flaws.  The main thing is to keep your eyes open and make an informed decision.

As your NW Wisconsin Realtor, I’ll be glad to help you find the lake home, cabin, or waterfront property of your dreams. To get started right now, give me a call at 218-590-6634 or email me at jeanhedren@edinarealty.com.

Writing an offer on your dream home

Those weeks of searching are about to come to an end. With your Realtor’s expertise, you’ve found the home you want. Now is the time for your Realtor to help you make an offer and to start negotiations with the seller on your behalf.

keys-1317390_640The Purchase Agreement

The first step begins when you and your Realtor write a purchase agreement or offer. This is a legal agreement, which, if accepted by both you and the seller, binds the sale, and begins the closing process. Among other things, it includes:

  • The price you are willing to pay for the property.
  • The date of the closing and the date you will assume possession of the property.
  • Who is expected to pay any special assessments and property taxes.
  • The interest rate and type of financing package you have chosen.
  • A list of items to be included in the sale. In most cases, items that are permanently installed are already considered part of the property. But if there is any doubt, list them in the agreement. You can also ask for items such as drapes and appliances.

After your offer has been accepted, it’s wise to have the home inspected by a professional to find out its true condition. That inspection will help you know exactly what you are making an offer on. Offers often include a home inspection contingency which means that a buyer doesn’t have to commit to actually purchasing the home until the inspection is complete and facts are documented.

Once both parties have signed the agreement, the transaction moves onto the closing. Now you are one step closer to your dream home.

Start your home search at www.JeanHedren.com. Then give me a call to arrange a showing.

A new home buyer recently asked the question “how do I get financing?”

How do I get financing?” that’s a great question. To answer that question, the first step is to contact a mortgage loan professional in your area.
Hero-affordahomeShopping online for a mortgage can be a frustrating experience, particularly for a first-time homebuyer. Most of the online providers are national chains and not necessarily tuned in to your local area, or may not provide the advice you need.

Getting the best advice for your individual circumstances is so important. So start by talking to a professional either in person or on the phone. And, get a second opinion. Banks have different programs and services. Find one that is the best fit for your needs.

The initial consultation

Talk with your home mortgage consultant about your financing needs, current situation, and goals. Your home mortgage consultant will help you determine the next steps, including:

  • Income, assets, liabilities, and current real estate owned
  • Credit reports

Your mortgage consultant will share information on loan products based on your needs and credit profile.

Understand this one big real estate trend for the coming year

Highlights from Money Magazine 11/27/16 The One Big Real Estate Trend You Need to Understand in 2017

  • Nationally home prices are expected to rise more slowly than in 2016
  • Now is the time to trade up

The big trend – NOW is the time to pull the trigger on financing. Record low finance rates seen in 2016 are not expected to last.

halfpercentOn a $250,000 home, if interest rates increase a half percent on a 30-year fixed loan, the annual payments can increase $864.

A home inspection: the best investment you’ll make

A home inspection: The best investment you’ll make

I advise all my buyers to hire a home inspector.  I tell them it’s the best investment they’ll ever make.  If the inspection uncovers issues so serious that they decide to walk, it can feel like money wasted.  But if it helps them avoid big surprises they would have encountered later, then it’s definitely money well-spent.  That’s why I very rarely write up offers that don’t include an inspection contingency.

I even advise buyers to hire an inspector when they’re considering a foreclosure or other distressed property that’s being sold “as-is.”  More information can help them, in the words of that old song, “know when to walk away… and know when to run.”

A Home Inspection: full story here