Get the best historic home inspection

Shannon Lee

A home inspection is always a nerve-wracking few hours for homeowners and potential buyers, and this can be especially true with historic homes. Those little quirks that you find charming about an old house might be an eyesore to the typical inspector, which is a good reason to go with someone who has plenty of experience in inspecting historical structures.

How to find a good home inspector

Not sure where to begin in finding the right inspector for your historic house? Start with talking to friends, family, coworkers and neighbors about their home inspections. If those leads don't bear fruit, try out these places:

  1. Real estate agent. Your real estate agent has likely been around an historic block or two, so ask them for references to home inspectors that have proven they have the know-how to handle a historic home inspection.
  2. Insurance agent. Your insurance agent has a vested interest in the state of your potential new (old) property, so they will be quick to give you the names of inspectors who fit the bill.
  3. A reliable contractor. It's a sure bet that contractors who have worked in historic districts have heard an earful from homeowners about which inspectors knew their stuff, and just as importantly, which ones didn't.
  4. Reputable associations. Membership in the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) assures you that the inspector has met several requirements, including a certain level of experience and certification tests. The Historic Building Inspectors Association, a group formed by ASHI members, focuses on older homes and places an emphasis on continuing education for members.

Ready to hire?

Before you hire a home inspector, ask to see their licenses and credentials. In some states, licensing isn't required at all, while others expect rigorous testing and training of their home inspectors. To figure out what your state requires, look at the "State Regulations" tab on the ASHI website.

Take some time to look at the contract. Look for a home inspector who carries liability insurance in the event of a serious issue that he or she might have missed, and insist that binding arbitration be written into the contract. This protects your interests without running up serious legal fees. If they don't have a contract, or have one that is limited to the cost of the inspection, look elsewhere.

Also ask to see examples of their reports. If you are handed a report that is basically a checklist, that's not good enough. Narrative reports are much more thorough and give you a better idea of what to expect if you purchase the home. These reports can also give you more leverage when it comes to negotiating to cover the cost of necessary repairs.

Keep in mind that for an old house, the reports could be quite lengthy. Don't lose heart; any old house is bound to have a fair share of problems, but not all of those will be serious. Focus on the sections of the report that call for certain items to be fixed or systems that need to be replaced. It might be helpful to ask the inspector to highlight the points in the report that need immediate attention.

Finally, get an estimate on cost and time. A typical inspection should take between three and four hours and range in cost between $300 and $700. However, historic homes might require more time and as a result, could cost more.

About the Author
Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist who has spent over twenty years writing about home improvement, education, relationships and medical and health topics.

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