As a realtor, I learn the most about home maintenance, safety, and repairs during inspections. General inspections should be done once a contract has been negotiated during the buyer’s option period. We always recommend that a buyer get a general inspection. Based on what is found by the inspector, you can decide if a specific tradesman should come and inspect anything further. An example might be that the general inspector tells you there are some electrical issues with the home. So we decide to bring an electrician over to the home to a) confirm there is a problem, b) address how this affects the electrical system and overall safety of the home, and c) how much it will cost you to remedy the problem.
I have been in the real estate business almost 3 years. I listen to inspectors probably once a week. You would think that if I hear of a common problem in homes over and over and over, I would check to see if such a problem existed in my own home. Nope. It took me three years to discover (aka walk into my closet and take one look) that I have a certain brand of electrical panel that is now considered to be a fire hazard.
Your homework for the weekend: Walk over to your electric panel…aka breaker box…aka that thing you go to when a fuse blows and you open a little door and flip one of many black switches. If your panel says “Federal Pacific” on the outside, you have an electric panel that is not up to code and considered a fire hazard for today’s standards.
To replace an electric panel will run you about $1500 with a reputable electrician. Does it totally suck to spend $1500 on a new electric panel? Absolutely. But it would suck more for your house to burn down. If you live in a rental, I would still suggest checking out what is in place and alerting your landlord that you heard from a random friend (me!) that those panels can cause fires. There’s a good chance they won’t care. But go ahead and try!
What to do if you are purchasing a home that has a Federal Pacific electric panel? Your realtor needs to ask that it either be replaced or there be some sort of concession for you to replace it. In my opinion, this is just a given and should not be negotiable. Most importantly, your inspector and realtor should not allow you to purchase a home without alerting you of the potential hazard prior to your option period expiring. Knowledge is power, right? And you want to be as knowledgeable as possible when it comes to your home and family.
SIDE NOTE: On the subject of electrical issues…if your lights dim in certain rooms when your AC cycles on, you likely have an electric panel that doesn’t provide your home with enough power. You need a larger capacity breaker to sufficiently “power up” everything in your house (AC, TV’s, computer, 5 phone chargers, etc). When you notice things like dimming lights, have an electrician come look at your system. The lights are likely dimming because your panel is working extra hard to provide power everywhere and a short can easily occur, causing a fire.
Now to get my OWN panel updated….