Finding Qualified Home Inspectors for Your Historic House | Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

Finding Qualified Home Inspectors for Your Historic House

Finding Qualified Home Inspectors for Your Historic House | Wisconsin Historical Society

Before you buy a historic house, you’ll need to hire a house inspector to conduct a whole-house inspection. You should hire an inspector who is experienced with historic houses. Only a small minority of home inspectors will have the specialized set of inspection skills needed to properly inspect a historic house.

Your purchase offer on the house should clearly state that your offer is "subject to" a satisfactory whole-house home inspection. The phrase "subject to" is a real estate term that will allow you to withdraw your purchase offer if the inspection reveals significant problems with the house.

Find a Qualified Home Inspector

According to Wisconsin law, home inspectors must be registered with the State of Wisconsin. The American Home Inspectors Directory summarizes the Wisconsin law with this statement:

"Under Wisconsin's law, home inspectors must register with the State and pass an examination approved by the Department of Regulation and Licensing. The law instructs the Department to consider the use of an examination modeled after the National Home Inspector Examination. The law also requires that a home inspector perform a "reasonably competent and diligent" inspection; however, the inspection is not required to be technically exhaustive. Home inspectors are prohibited from limiting their liability from damages resulting in a failure to conduct a "reasonably competent and diligent" inspection. Also, inspectors are prohibited from performing repairs, maintenance, or improvements to a structure that they have inspected within the last two years."

A home inspector who is registered with the state does not necessarily have the training needed to inspect a historic house. Be sure your home inspector can demonstrate that he or she has experience with historic houses. Ask the inspector for references and examples of homes he or she has inspected in historic districts.

Another option you can pursue is to hire a historic preservation construction consultant (HPCC). HPCCs usually have a lifetime of experience as preservation contractors or historic property developers, yet they are often overlooked for residential inspections. An HPCC cannot legally perform a "home inspection." Instead, an HPCC creates a more comprehensive "existing conditions report."

Find the Right Home Inspector for You

Whether you choose to hire a home inspector with historic house experience or a HPCC, you need to do some homework to find the right inspector for you. The best way to find the right person is to ask friends, neighbors, family and coworkers. Once you have a referral, you should actually meet with or at least talk to that person on the phone. You need to be comfortable with the person you hire. Ask the inspector or HPCC for three references, and consult with all three of those references. Also ask a registered home inspector to show you his or her state registration.

When you have found an inspector or HPCC you would like to hire, ask that person to provide proof of insurance. If the inspector makes a costly mistake, you need to know his or her insurance will cover your loss. The inspector should be able to email an insurance binder to you or give you one at the start of the inspection.

Be sure you are clear about what your inspector will charge and how long it will take to get the written inspection report. Finally, insist you be allowed to join the inspector during his or her entire walk-through or inspection. This experience will give you firsthand knowledge about your new historic home.