We all know how important it is for all the details to come together when buying or selling a home. The last thing that any of us need is a home inspector finding something that he or she finds extremely questionable. When there is something questionable, it’s important to know exactly what’s going on.
When buying an older or historic home, the experience and expertise of the home inspector are critical. A less experienced home inspector, or one that only has experience with newer homes, might have quite a different reaction to what might be found in an older home, or may not even know what to look for; for example, how much bowing is too much? How much post-beetle damage is dangerous?
Bill Kibbel is a well-known historic home inspector, serving southeastern Pennsylvania and central New Jersey as Tri-County Inspection Company’s vice president. He is also home inspector and review editor of The Old House Web.
My Personal Experience
Bill Kibbel came recommended by real estate agent, Rick Brodie of Lisa James Otto Country Properties when I set my sites on a historic home being sold “as is” in Plumstead township, Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The oldest part of the home was built in 1741 and additional sections were added on to the house in the early 1800s, early 1900s, and in 1984. It’s important to know what’s safe. Going back that far in time, there isn’t anything in the form of records for building permits, and after visiting the local township building and the courthouse, it turned out that this house had no records on file for the well or septic system, either.
Bill Kibbel was thorough and explained everything he saw-good and bad-and identified areas of interest and concern. It was like listening to a curator in a museum. There were so many things that Bill pointed out, obviously an expert in his field.
Upon seeing the wood floor in the living room and dining room, since there is no basement and no way to see under the floor, Bill very strongly recommended hiring a contractor and engineer to cut into the wood floor to make sure that the foundation under the floor was structurally sound.
He could see and explained that the room that houses the washer, dryer, water heater, fuse box, and oil boiler used to actually be a spring house.
He identified the fireplace in the office as what had previously been a summer kitchen.
He pointed out where there had at one time been a kitchen fire.
He explained that the shape of the built-in cabinets and the closed-off chimney in the living room was indicative of the room being originally used as a kitchen.
I followed Bill around the house, asking him many questions, including the life expectancy and ballpark repair cost for things that were reaching the end of their life span, such as the boiler and the roof. I wrote down everything he said. He followed up with a prioritized list of what should be done to make the house more safe and energy efficient.
No matter how old the house is, Bill Kibbel will provide an expert review and assessment. I don’t recall if Bill Kibbel costs more than the average home inspector, but if he does he’s worth it.