Under contract...property needs electrical work.

10 Replies

I'm under contract on a home in a small town where I grew up. All things have checked out on the home inspection except for the wiring. It's a 1948 home (no worries, I'm aware of the headaches that may come), but I've requested an electrician to take a deeper look. I live about three hours away so jumping up to meet the electrician isn't really an option. However, I've learned that the sellers want meet the electrician at the property later this week. Would you be concerned as a buyer? I'm somewhat wary of small town cronyism and I don't want the issues to be softened or made light of if the house, in fact, truly needs to be fully rewired. The electrician is licensed and not some random handy man, but the sellers' agent is the one who suggested him. 

Here are the items from the inspection for what it's worth:

1. Significant amounts of contaminants or foreign material such as drywall texture or paint were found in panel(s) #A. No approved method exists for cleaning contaminants from panel interiors or components such as bus or terminal bars, circuit breakers or fuses. The panel and/or components inside may need replacing. Recommend that a qualified electrician evaluate and replace components if necessary.

2. Sub-panel(s) used older style, "Edison" base fuses. This type of fuse allows anyone to install incorrectly rated fuses, possibly resulting in damage to wiring. Recommend that a qualified electrician evaluate this panel and the wiring to determine if damage has occurred, and repair or replace components and/or wiring as necessary.

3. One or more electric receptacles (outlets) at the kitchen, bathroom(s), exterior had no visible ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection, or the inspector was unable to determine if GFCI protection was present. If not GFCI-protected, receptacles in wet areas pose a shock hazard. Recommend that a qualified electrician evaluate and install GFCI protection if necessary and per standard building practices.

4. The electric service was configured so that too many hand movements were necessary to turn off all power for the service. Six or fewer circuit breakers should be required to turn off all power to a residence. This is a potential safety hazard during an emergency when the power needs to be turned off quickly. Recommend that a qualified electrician repair per standard building practices.

5. Wire splices were exposed and were not contained in a covered junction box. This is a potential shock or fire hazard. Recommend that a qualified electrician repair per standard building practices.

6. One or more modern, 3-slot electric receptacles (outlets) were found with an open ground.

7. One or more knockouts were missing from panel(s) #A. Holes in panels are a potential fire hazard if a malfunction ever occurs inside the panel. Rodents can also enter panels through holes. Recommend that a qualified person install knockout covers where missing and per standard building practices.

8. One or more cover plates for switches, receptacles (outlets) or junction boxes were missing or broken. These plates are intended to contain fire and prevent electric shock from occurring due to exposed wires. Recommend that a qualified person install cover plates where necessary.

9. 2-slot receptacles (outlets) rather than 3-slot, grounded receptacles were installed in one or more areas. These do not have an equipment ground and are considered unsafe by today's standards. Appliances that require a ground should not be used with 2-slot receptacles

**The home is part of an estate sale and the children just want to get rid of it...the price and the area are the main reasons I'm seeking it.

Am I just overthinking the sellers' wanting to be there as odd? I don't want to seem defensive to the sellers, but I suppose I am since I am not local to the property. 

I'm not an electrician, so this is simply my opinion, but it's based on some experience with older homes.  Basically, I think you're inspection report has told you everything you need to know.  You should expect that, at the very least, the house should have a new breaker box, all exposed junctions should be rewired and enclosed, GFCI should be installed in all wet areas, and every open ground in the home should be resolved.  Basically, I would rewire the entire house with 3 wire and get rid of the old fuse box.  I would expect a licensed electrician would tell you those things should be resolved at a minimum.  You're looking for confirmation on the scope of the issue, not that there is an issue.  If he comes back with anything that sounds like he's downplaying it, get a 2nd estimate with someone you picked.

Solid advice from @Hattie Dizmond  above. I can't imagine, judging from the report, that a licensed electrician wouldn't advise rewiring and upgrading the panel. Also, I'd make sure the electrician has the report to refer to, just in case...

Its a post war house with post war wiring.  If you're going to fix and flip it you should plan on doing some upgrades.  Expensive proposition to completely rewire a house.  Not really necessary, though without doing that you're going to have a lot of ungrounded receptacles.  If you're going to live there there no requirements for upgrading everything, unless there's something local.   Everything except 1, 2 and 4 are easily corrected.   Those three are bigger jobs, but still do-able.  I've done those as DIY projects (yes, with permits and inspections.)  

What are you trying to accomplish?  Just get a bid so you know what's coming?  Try to get the sellers down on the price?  Based on that list it should be straightforward to compare the estimate to the work.  If you're looking for this contractor to do a more careful inspection and either confirm or refute the previous inspection I'd say you want to be there and be in on the discussion.

Thanks @Hattie Dizmond and @Troy S. . Good advice. I guess I'm looking for that "no duh" factor as to how badly the house needs rewiring. I supposed items 1 - 9 are sufficient in saying so. My lack of electrician skills brings out the skeptic in me, however, and leaves me wanting the advice of BPers. Not to mention, my lack of not being there on site has me a little jittery. Thanks guys.

Good points @Jon Holdman . I'll be buying and holding. The price is right and the area is great. I want to know the numbers from a licensed electrician simply so that I know what should be done and whether it should be done now or later. I also want to use the information for negotiation purposes should the problems merit such. 

Plan on fixing all of that. Now that you know about it, it could be a safety hazard. Not much money to fix now and negotiate down the price vs the problems that COULD come from these issues.

If I were in your position, I would find an electrician on yelp or angies list or some reference in addition to using the sellers recommendation.

Just my two cents.

@Jacqueline Brown

Your inspection list looks just like what I received from an electrician that I had look at a property that I'd like to buy. The seller is not in reality and thinks selling at her price is sufficient to that of the area without consideration of the mass work the property needs.

Roof is one of them and a lot of other things inside but more of a big ticket item was the electrical. For the electrician to bring it up to code with breakers and switch out all the plates and install GFCI in the water areas (etc) - it was a tune of $3700. Apparently, nothing is up to code about the electrical, not the placement of the box that has to be moved nor the outlets. He did say he would not have to rewire the house so they did some work at some point in time.

I'm trying to use this to get the price reduced in addition to some other things in general but they are not budging. Meanwhile, I see other properties dropping prices so I'm looking in that direction and keeping this on the shelve.

I was wondering what happened after your purchase - what cost did you incur to have the work done.

Thank you

Like others thought, this house needs a new service, new breaker panel, and complete rewiring. Even if some of the wire is newer, you still want to budget to replace it all, since that could be easier than trying to salvage anything here. 

If the panel had circuit breakers rather than screw in fuses, you might be able to consider that some of the wire could be left in place. But you don't have that here. 

The inspector obviously is giving you his opinion about the safety hazards and code violations present and is telling you what needs to be done to accomplish the safely and clear the code violations in the system. The house does not absolutely need to be rewired. All that needs to be accomplished is to bring in a grounding wire where not present and clear the code violations. However, in order to do that now it must be done per code which in the end my mean having to pull in new wiring. The panel either needs complete cleaning or replacing and upgrading. No electrical main panel can be used as a main panel without a main disconnect where 6 or more devices need to be turn off in order to safely work on the electrical system or turn the electricity off. GFI( ground fault circuit interrupters) Are required anywhere within 6 feet of water, they are a safety issue. Receptacles having an open ground probably means there is no ground wire present, again a safety issue but not necessarily a code requirement depending on the age of the house. However it is in your best interest as the owner to have a properly grounded electrical system installed and rewiring is probably your best bet on accomplishing that. 

It is highly recommended you get a brand new and complete electrical system but not necessarily a legal requirement. However there is so much wrong you might as well have a new system installed. Its not worth it to try and keep the existing system and its components. 

I assume you want to have a completely new electrical system installed and paid for by the seller and you do not want the seller to come back with doing or offering only to do the bare minimum to make it legal and not necessary completely safe. Unfortunately you cannot force the issue of replacing the electrical system in its entirety legally but  you can simply refuse to  buy the house but the seller may decide to find another buyer. The law only requires that the house meet certain minimum safety requirements. However it does not make sense to do so much work on the electrical system and not simply install a whole brand new electrical system. I do not see any electrician not recommending an entire electrical system overhaul or replacing everything as a new code conforming installation which by the way will need both permitting and inspections. 

If you choose to split hairs with the seller you can always consult your local electrical building inspector or you can simply not accept anything other than a fully new electrical system installation. Any work on the electrical system will require a permit and an inspection no matter what. I would not bother to pay another electrician to give you his opinion as the local building inspector will decide in any case what needs to be done upon inspection. What is legally required does not necessary coincide with what is most recommended and desired. 

I have worked as a licensed electrician for many many years and I would not accept anything other than a full new electrical system installed with new wire and all new components, everything new. Buying a house is a negotiation, you can always accept or refuse, its your decision. 

Originally posted by @Jacqueline Brown:

I'm under contract on a home in a small town where I grew up. All things have checked out on the home inspection except for the wiring. It's a 1948 home (no worries, I'm aware of the headaches that may come), but I've requested an electrician to take a deeper look. I live about three hours away so jumping up to meet the electrician isn't really an option. However, I've learned that the sellers want meet the electrician at the property later this week. Would you be concerned as a buyer? I'm somewhat wary of small town cronyism and I don't want the issues to be softened or made light of if the house, in fact, truly needs to be fully rewired. The electrician is licensed and not some random handy man, but the sellers' agent is the one who suggested him. 

 The problem I see with an electrician there and you not being there. 

1) the salers agent electricians is going to use the grandfather clause to get out of some of the more important issues. 

2) as for the home owner being there this is not really a problem. They may try to get the electrician to ignore items or  get then to say these items cost less to repair then it is really going to cost. This it to take your bargaining position away by lessing the amount you are asking for in a discount.  

Here is how I would answer these items as the sellers electrician. 

1. Significant amounts of contaminants or foreign material such as drywall texture or paint were found in panel(s) #A. No approved method exists for cleaning contaminants from panel interiors or components such as bus or terminal bars, circuit breakers or fuses. The panel and/or components inside may need replacing. Recommend that a qualified electrician evaluate and replace components if necessary. 

This is not true power can be shut off to the panel and texture can be wiped off  paint can be  also be removed as long as this is over spray. Almost anything else can vacuumed out. 

2. Sub-panel(s) used older style, "Edison" base fuses. This type of fuse allows anyone to install incorrectly rated fuses, possibly resulting in damage to wiring. Recommend that a qualified electrician evaluate this panel and the wiring to determine if damage has occurred, and repair or replace components and/or wiring as necessary.

This is where the grandfather clause can be used. This was an acceptable method at the time the house was originally built. 

3. One or more electric receptacles (outlets) at the kitchen, bathroom(s), exterior had no visible ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection, or the inspector was unable to determine if GFCI protection was present. If not GFCI-protected, receptacles in wet areas pose a shock hazard. Recommend that a qualified electrician evaluate and install GFCI protection if necessary and per standard building practices. 

This is where the grandfather clause can be used. This was an acceptable method at the time the house was originally built. 

4. The electric service was configured so that too many hand movements were necessary to turn off all power for the service. Six or fewer circuit breakers should be required to turn off all power to a residence. This is a potential safety hazard during an emergency when the power needs to be turned off quickly. Recommend that a qualified electrician repair per standard building practices.

This one makes no sense because there should only be one means of disconnect to disconnect power to anything I do not understand how you can have more then one there is only one  source of power coming to the building so I don't know how you have more than one to shut off the main power and you can have as many breakers needed to shut power off to the building for individual circuits. 

5. Wire splices were exposed and were not contained in a covered junction box. This is a potential shock or fire hazard. Recommend that a qualified electrician repair per standard building practices.

So are they in junction boxes? If they are blank plates are no more then a dollar each. 

6. One or more modern, 3-slot electric receptacles (outlets) were found with an open ground.

That is because the house is ungrounded system. All that needs to be done is change them back to two prong outlets. 

7. One or more knockouts were missing from panel(s) #A. Holes in panels are a potential fire hazard if a malfunction ever occurs inside the panel. Rodents can also enter panels through holes. Recommend that a qualified person install knockout covers where missing and per standard building practices.

This is another cheap fix. KO seals are cheap. 

8. One or more cover plates for switches, receptacles (outlets) or junction boxes were missing or broken. These plates are intended to contain fire and prevent electric shock from occurring due to exposed wires. Recommend that a qualified person install cover plates where necessary.

Another cheap item to repair. Plates are no more then a couple of dollars. 

9. 2-slot receptacles (outlets) rather than 3-slot, grounded receptacles were installed in one or more areas. These do not have an equipment ground and are considered unsafe by today's standards. Appliances that require a ground should not be used with 2-slot receptacles

This is what is supposed to be installed. This is an ungrounded system. This is not an issue. 

Now that this has been said. As the buyers electrician I would start by saying that the electrical system is old and ungrounded. There are several potential fire and life saftey hazards here. In my professional opinion with so many open boxes, old panels, and incorrect devices installed that their is a potential fire and/or life saftey hazards here. Also not knowing what We can not see leads us to believe that there may be even more hazardous conditions here. We would recommend that this property needs to be rewired and brought up todays NEC electrical codes. To prevent the chances for fire or death caused by an electrical system failure. These potential issues are caused by advancements in electrical devices, code  requiments, greater demand by todays devices, or the property not being properly maintained over the years.  

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