Building Inspectors and Historic Commercial Properties

When considering a purchase of a Historic Property for commercial uses one of the first people that you should call should be a Building Inspector.  Why?

  • You want to be sure that your intended purpose for the building is permissible.  If you intend to lease your space to a retail tenant you will still need to be sure that there are no code violations that would proibit your tenant from conducting business. 
  • Zoning Permits – If a building has been used in the past as retail and the intended future use is retail you must still cooridinate with the Zoning Division of your town.  Historic districts have strict guidelines as to which business may locate within them.  Even a change in retail business must be reviewed.

A wise decision would be to seek out the Historic Preservation Committee or Advisory Group in your area to obtain specific guidelines before starting your new business.  Also check with your SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) as well as your City or Town Planning Board – any of which should be able to point you in the right direction.

Owning historic property, whether residential or commercial, takes quite a bit of homework, approvals for use, and reviews.  Be smart – do your homework before you take the leap!

If you have any questions or comments about owning historic properties please feel free to email or call – I will be delighted to help!

Inspectors and Architects for Historic Homes

Glen Royall Mill

Glen Royall Mill

When purchasing a historic property, whether commercial or residential, it is important to seek out those that are well versed in the nuances of Historic Properties.

For instance, when the time comes to have your Historic Property inspected you will need to find an inspector that is familiar with the all the variations and uniqueness that is present.  A historic property present a set of issues that will need specialized attentionDifferent materials were used when the property was built, different designs were present at the time, and building methods were different.  If would be confusing to have an inspector NOT acquainted with those details have a report full of issues simply because they didn’t know better.

Architects are another resource that you will most likely need to utilize.  Again, it is imperative that seek out architects that specialize in historic properties.  While there are fabulous and well-established architects out there you want to find the ones that know code specific to historic properties.  They need to know the intimate details of the materials that were used and what is available in the present day that will adhere to the guidelines set forth for restoring and altering the property.

The task is not easy to discover these specialists but there are resources that can help!  A few avenues to explore which I highly recommend are:

  • Does your city or town have a Historic Preservation Committee or Advisory Board?  Most likely they do.  I would call them and ask for recommendations.  This Committed/Advisory Board should also have Guidelines available (may or may not have a fee associated) by which you must abide.  These will be vital for the architect to ensure that they know the parameters with which they can operate within.  This could potentially avoid costly mistakes for you, the owner!  While it is the architects duty to provide you with drawings and contract out the work it is ultimately the property owners resposibility to ensure that the guidelines are being adhered to.  Likewise, you local Historic Preservation Committee/Advisory Board may have suggestions for Property Inspectors. 
  • Another great resource is your SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office).  There is a wide variety of positions within the SHPO such as Administration, Restoration Branch, Environmental Review Branch, Survey and Planning Branch.  I would suggest that you explore the Restoration Branch and seek out a professional that could possibly be titled “Restoration Specialist”.  This is their field!  They will have much information to share and should be able to provide you with ample information.
  • Speaking specifically of Architects you can visit AIA (The American Institute of Architects).  They have a fabulous feature that allows you to search specifically for architects that specialize in Historic Preservation.  Be cautious when using this tool.  While the architect may include that on their submission to the AIA it may not be a field that they do much in.  Conversely, I have found architects that do not list that as a service yet do specialize in historic preservation.

Another important element is to ASK FOR REFERENCES.  You are well within your rights to ask an inspector what other properties they have inspected that were historic and ask for references.  Ask to see an Architects portfolio.  If they are well versed in historic restoration/preservation they will have no problems with showing you their work.  Don’t forget to ask them for references!

Good luck with your project!  If you are in the Wake Forest or Raleigh area and need assistance please do not hesitate to give me a call or email me – I already have a list of contacts for both and I will be happy to help!