Homebuyers: Be Wary of Old Wiring

By: Liz Gray

Related To:

You may not be an electrician, but you can flip a switch.

During your home tours, make sure all the switches and outlets function properly. Flickering lights, circuits that don't work, and warm or hot outlets or faceplates are all symptoms of wiring problems.

Ask if the home has aluminum or knob and tube wiring. During the 1970s, aluminum wiring became popular and was widely used. But, just like avocado-colored appliances, the wiring quickly went out of style after people complained that it was a fire hazard. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, homes wired with aluminum wiring before 1972 are 55 times more likely to have fire hazard conditions (hot cover plates, sparks or charring) than houses wired with copper wire.

Knob and tube wiring was used in many homes until about 1940. Even when it's functioning properly, many insurance companies will not insure homes with knob and tube wiring, citing it as a fire hazard. If you're planning any renovations, you'll have to remove the wiring before a contractor can legally start work on your home.

Both types of wiring can cost several thousand dollars to replace, so be prepared to shell out the dough for an electrician if you choose a house with one of these.

Be especially careful when buying older and historic homes. Case in point: My sister and her husband were ready to make an offer on a historic fixer-upper that seemed like it just needed some cosmetic help. They hired a home inspector, who, low and behold, discovered the home had the original 1920 knob and tube wiring -- not exactly the "historic charm" they were looking for. To do any renovations, they would need to replace all the wiring to meet the local building code. Needless to say, they passed on the house and left the seller to deal with the problem -- and foot the bill.

Next Up

5 Types of Neighbors and How to Handle Them

You may love your house, but getting stuck with bad neighbors may have you thinking about putting up a for-sale sign. Here are some tips on dealing with rude, sloppy or nosy neighbors, and even those mean ones with spite houses.

Top 10 Red Flags for Homebuyers

Sellers don't always tell the truth about their homes to potential homebuyers. Look out for these red flags during your home tours and open houses.

4 Mistakes First-Time Homebuyers Make

Learn what mistakes to avoid after you purchase your first home.

Homebuyers: Look for Signs of Poor Maintenance

Check the home's interior and exterior, including the roof and landscaping, carefully for signs of neglected upkeep. Learn more on HGTV.com.

What's the Point? The Lowdown on Loan Fees

Confused by references to "points" on your mortgage settlement statement? Points are actually quite simple: they're fees, and they came by their name because they equal one percentage point of the loan amount.

Remodel Your Way to Tax Deductions

Make sure to do value-enhancing projects, and hold on to those receipts.

How to Protect Your Real Estate Investment

Is a flipped house an unsafe house? Not necessarily. But you want to take a careful look at renovations, especially the DIY kind, before you ante up with your down payment.

Types of Mortgages

There are two types of mortgages, government and conventional. Learn about fixed rate mortgages vs. adjustable rate mortgages, prepayment penalties and private mortgage insurance.

Annual Expenses of Homeownership

Which areas of your home need yearly maintenance? Here's the rundown.

Three Essential Inspections on Moving Day

Finally done packing? Here's what you should look for in a moving company. Plus, tips for preparing for the first night in your new house.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.