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  • Erin Hudgins

Electrical Issues that could Hinder your Home Sale


If you are planning to put your home on the market and have procrastinated on upgrading important electrical items, you may want to reconsider. It's risky to sell a home with questionable wiring and electrical systems in place: the inspector will inevitably find these issues, and they could negatively impact your home's final sale price. Read on to learn what needs to be upgraded or replaced before selling a home.



Electrical Issues Deter Home Buyers

We all know how crucial your home's curb appeal is when attracting potential buyers, but what's hidden behind the scenes (or in the utility closet or basement) can quickly send buyers shopping elsewhere for a home. Electrical concerns can be a non-negotiable item for many consumers because outdated systems create safety risks and can spell costly problems down the road. Although you don't want to spend a fortune on a home you've outgrown, it is wise to update certain elements of your home's electrical system to ensure you earn top dollar on your home sale.



Which Electrical Upgrades Will Give me the Biggest Return when Selling my Home?

The electrical upgrades listed below are key to reducing the need for endless negotiations surrounding price reductions and credits following a home inspection, and will help you net an offer at (or above!) listing price in today’s tight housing market.


Outdated Wiring Systems

Wiring systems that have been in place for a century (or more!), such as knob and tube and aluminum wiring, are a leading cause of home fires and will have both home shoppers and homeowner’s insurance companies hightailing it from your listing. For safety reasons and to manage the massive load of electronics today’s homes, your entire house should have modern solid copper wire and adequate grounding.



Old, Undersized Electrical Service

Your home should be wired to receive 200-amps, not the traditional 60- or 100-amps that equipped older homes, which will not support the sheer number of electrical fixtures, appliances, and electrical load that modern buyers require. Service cable that is exposed and not in conduit also poses a safety risk and should be replaced.



2-Prong (Ungrounded) Outlets

Today’s tech-savvy buyers will likely balk at a home filled with 2-prong outlets. In the digital age, modern home buyers want receptacles (and wiring) they can depend on: nobody wants to plug their expensive appliances and tech into unprotected power sources. All outlets must be able to accept 3-prong plugs and must be properly grounded. If you can't afford to run new grounded circuits to every room in your home, you can legally replace each 2-prong receptacle with a GFCI receptacle, which offers ground fault protection and is 3-prong friendly.



Not Enough Outlets

Multiple outlets should be found in every room, and they need to be in convenient locations: next to the nightstand, outside the front door and in every bathroom. Extension cords and power strips in every room won't cut it- buyers know that overloaded power outlets can lead to nuisance breaker tripping or worse.



Missing GFCIs

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) protect users from increased risk of electrocution in wet locations such as bathroom, kitchen, garage, or unfinished basements. These devices shut down circuits in 4 milliseconds, before current can cause a deadly shock. Codes today require GFCIs within 4 feet of any sink and on all garage, basement, and outdoor outlets. If you can't find any of these receptacles, check your main panel for GFCI breakers (these will also have reset buttons). A lack of GFCI-protection is dangerous and a commonly-cited item in inspection reports, but its also an easy fix and should be addressed.



Ancient, Recalled, or Undersized Circuit Breaker Panels

All wiring in your home should run through the circuit breaker panel, which is the central hub of your home's electrical system. These load centers must be safely and professionally wired, properly sized, and accessible. Some of the following panel issues are liable to stall your home sale, effecting not just the function and value of your home, but its insurability.


  • Those that are old or outdated: think screw-in Edison fuses

  • Recalled models: including Federal Pacific panels from the 60s and 70s

  • Improperly modified: you might see duct tape or exposed wires; "handyman" fixes

  • Undersized or Overcrowded: lights flickering or breakers always tripping, no space for new breakers


Panel upgrades can cost anywhere from $800-$1500, but they will eliminate costly and frustrating price-haggling during your home sale.



Aluminum Wiring

This wiring was used in the 1960s and '70s as a cheap substitute for copper, and is no longer considered safe. It's not technically a code violation unless you plan on renovating, but it can still pose a safety risk. Aluminum corrodes when in contact with copper, so connections loosen, which can lead to arcing and fires. If rewiring the whole house with copper is not a viable option, you can retrofit all copper/aluminum splices with dielectric wire nuts approved for aluminum wire. Replacing old devices? New switches and receptacles must be labeled AL-compatible.




About to put your home on the market? An electrical inspection can help you address sales issues before they pop up, ensuring a fast and profitable home sale. Contact Bell Electric at 540.552.5397 with any questions about your home's wiring or to schedule an inspection.


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