Real Estate Guide

Do You Need to Conduct an Electrical Inspection Before Buying a Home?

Buying a house is a huge decision. Whether it’s your first starter home or a vacation property, there’s a lot of money on the line and dozens of variables to consider. The process of seeking out the perfect home is draining and time consuming, and the closing is always a stressful experience. When you do find a place you fall in love with it can be tempting to try and move the closing along as quickly as possible, both to insure that no one else puts down a bigger offer and steals the home out from under you, and to get in there and start living your new life as quickly as possible. But if you circumvent the home inspection, you are asking for trouble. You’ll need a licensed inspector to look over the place from top to bottom, and you should look at his findings carefully. But does the electrical system need to be inspected before you buy a home?

The quick answer is yes, of course it does. All inspections should address the electrical system, as part of the rest of the work that is covered. Any home inspector worth his salt will look over the full exterior of the home, the visual quality of the interior, and the plumbing, HVAC and structural systems. But if the electrical system is ignored, you could be in for a world of trouble. Electrical problems can cause serious safety issues. Old, faulty wiring has been known to catch fire, leaving you to cash in that home insurance policy and scrambling to replace all of your worldly possessions. Even if it doesn’t come to this, repairs to the electrical system can cost you many thousands of dollars. If you don’t identify these issues before you sign the contract you’ll be left holding the bill, perhaps having paid more than you should have for a property you thought was move-in ready that is really a fixer-upper project house.

So what should the electrical inspection entail? First off, the home inspector will examine the specifics of the electrical system serving the house. He must determine if your new home is up to modern standards, meaning you’re getting enough electricity to operate all of the current appliances as well as everything else in today’s homes that requires electricity. If it isn’t up to snuff, an upgrade will be required which will run in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars.

Then the specifics of the system need to be looked over. The inspector will take the cover off the electric service panel and check out all of the wiring. Here he’ll be able to note any circuits that have too many fuses, abused or damaged wiring, dangerous, unprotected openings in the panel and any wiring that was jury-rigged by the previous owner. All of these are trouble, though not as terrible as a full system overhaul.

Now the inspector will head inside to sniff out any further electrical issues. The most obvious problem would be if there aren’t enough outlets through the house. Building code stipulates a certain amount of outlets per room, and older houses may not have been updated to meet these requirements. The outlets themselves will also be tested, to make sure each one works and there aren’t any exposed wires or dead ends. Also, any home that was built roughly thirty or forty years ago may have been built using aluminum wiring. If so, a proper retrofit must take place to protect the connections between each wire. ERH power and other large electrical firms spend a great deal of time on their jobs addressing this very issue. Houses that are older than this may even have knob and tube wiring. Although it is quaint, it won’t serve your needs and must be replaced.

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