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The Louisville Gaines Real Estate Blog

onsider Cost Of Rewiring When Buying An Older Home


Louisville is a city known for its great respect for old buildings. In any of the nearly 150 recognized neighborhoods in the city, there are architectural marvels you might enjoy restoring. When you buy an older home, there are many expensive upgrades that lie ahead of you, so it's best to go into both searching for a home and closing on a deal with potential expenses in mind. One of the biggest "money suckers" that may lay ahead is replacing old wiring and the electrical panel. 

Louisville has at least 73 communities recognized by the White House's Preserve America Initiative and has the fourth highest number of total listings in the National Register of Historic Places. For many people who want to give an old property some love, there are several realities to consider about the wiring and electric panel that takes the "juice" that comes into your home and distributes it throughout your home to switches and outlets. 

Potential Electrical Panel And Wiring Problems 

Electrical panels are made to last 20 to 30 years. That means that if you look at a home built in the 1980s or before, your electrical panel could fail to pass code, show some degree of corrosion, or be insufficient to meet your needs. 

Homes built in an earlier era can contain wiring that is dangerous. For example, wiring in homes built between 1900-1940 used knob and tube (K&T), which permitted wiring connections at various points in the home rather than in a junction box. There was no ground wire, but separate wires handled supply and return. Nowadays, if the knob and tube wiring is intact, you may still be safe, but many insurance companies do not want to cover it. This type of wiring was frequently modified by amateurs. If you buy a house where there may be no rhyme or reason to how wiring was installed, updating it can be difficult. You may have to hire a licensed electrician to rewire all or part of the home to accommodate your current needs and make your home safe. 

Homes built after the 1940s have their problems too. For example, those constructed in the 1940s and 50s used multi-conductor cable and BX wiring with a coating that gets brittle and leaves the wires exposed. Aluminum wiring used between 1960 and 1980 is linked to house fires. 

The clear message here is that if you are buying a resale home where no recent updates have been made, you need to consider that what could go wrong. Fixing electrical problems can cost thousands of dollars that either the seller pays for or the buyer pays for now or later. 

Low Amperage Problems 

Many homes don't have enough power coming in to meet modern needs. Currently, Americans love their appliances and are likely to have multiple TVs, a home network, charging stations for mobile electronics, HVAC systems, hairdryers, and fancy kitchen gadgets such as juicers, ice cream machines, and grills in use at their homes, often at the same time. Having 100 amp service to the home was previously sufficient, but 200 amps is now common. Some homes with fuse boxes rather than circuit breakers may even have just 60 amps of power coming to the home - more than what is required to run the modern refrigerator. 

Aside from being a fire hazard, the problem with insufficient amperage is that the lights might flicker, while the breakers trip or the fuses blow from access demand. To increase the power to the home can average anywhere from $900 to over $4,000, depending on the size of the home, how hard it is to get to the wiring, the cost of permits, and the cost of labor itself. Rewiring the house might cost thousands more. 

Get A Home Inspection To Protect Yourself 

When you buy a home with old wiring or insufficient electrical panel, you must do the math. At some point, now or in the near future, you may have to put in several thousand dollars to upgrade the wiring. If the wiring had caused noticeable problems in the past, the seller might have upgraded in preparing the house for sale or during his time living there. In the absence of any problems, you could still be buying trouble, so to lessen the possibility that you could be buying a problem that requires immediate attention, you should have a very thorough home inspection. 

Fortunately, in Louisville, where the housing stock is older, home inspectors are attuned to what could be wrong with wiring. As a buyer, you'd be smart to make sure that a successful home inspection with someone who knows all homes is part of your contract. Even though the inspector ripped open walls to find bad wiring, he will look for other signs that indicate its condition, plus consider the age of the house. 

Buying an older home can be very rewarding, as long as you are prepared for potential expenses. Old wiring issues need not be deal breakers. Having been on the reno journey many times, I can help you if are looking to buy or sell in Louisville. Just call me Jessica Gaines Jarboe at Louisville Gaines Real Estate.

 

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