Inspection Tips for Historic Properties

Inspection Tips for Historic Properties

Inspecting a property is standard operating procedure before a purchase is made in today’s real estate market. A pre-purchase inspection helps buyers get a clear understanding of what they’re possibly getting into and investing in. When it comes to historic properties on the other hand, a pre-purchase inspection is all the more imperative.

It’s important for potential property buyers to not only know what to look for in inspecting a property but know what to look for in an inspector who will do the work for them. An inspector needs to have the specific expertise around understanding the original structure and needs to offer insights into the changes that have been made over time.

Here’s what to look for in an inspector and what to look for in a complete inspection. Together, this should help prepare potential buyers before they make a costly mistake they can’t back out of.

Finding an Inspector

When looking for an inspector who knows what to look for in a structure and who can adequately inspect a property so everything is sought out and suggestions can be made, a buyer needs to look for someone who has met rigorous technical experience requirements. Having more than 250 professional fee-paid inspections is a solid foundation to look for in an inspector.

For the inspection itself, buyers need to set the terms they want followed. An inspection should be more than just a checklist to run down. It should be a full report that details the condition of t each component of the property with recommendations for repairs and improvements. An on-site evaluation of the property should be conducted by the buyer and the inspector, which will allow deficiencies to be noticed first-hand.

Now, once an inspector is picked and a set of expectations are talked about, it’s important to know what to look for in an historic property. Here are some suggestions:

Examine the Walls

Just like the roof, a property’s walls need to be looked at thoroughly. Different exteriors, such as wood, stucco, masonry and more will have different kinds of wear and tear, the same goes for interiors. Make sure aesthetic choices aren’t covering up signs of leaks, cracks, loose plaster, and other damage.


Having historic properties insurance can help to cover losses due to accidents related to wiring malfunctions and more, but using historic properties insurance needs to be more of a safety net than a regular occurrence. This can be avoided by looking for faulty wiring.

A major liability in waiting, faulty wiring can create major risks for historic property owners every time a switch is flipped. Make sure the wiring in a property is not outdated or defective. Any unexpected wiring problems that may arise after a buyer purchases the property can create major financial issues as well as safety problems.


Asbestos is more than likely present in many parts of a historic property, especially if it was built earlier last century. Regardless of the age of the property, asbestos might have been utilized for improvements throughout the existence of the location. Any loose insulation could contain asbestos and flooring that looks like linoleum might contain it as well.

Clearances and Access

What used to be considered safe and accessible in the old days may not be the same today. It’s not unheard of to find an upper room with a window that’s too small for someone to escape if an emergency takes place, for example. What’s more, windows in older properties were not necessarily nailed shut after the counterweights inside the jam broke free.

Doors might be too narrow as well and can create safety hazards. As with other issues in older properties, buyers might face certain limitations with upgrades as historic register committees may be able to have their own say in what’s allowable.