If you are considering buying a house with electrical problems, you need to appreciate that this can be a risky investment because these issues can be expensive to fix.
And with two-thirds of home buyers not having the home’s electrics checked by a professional beforehand means we might soon come to regret our purchase.
One of the big issues is that home buyers who invest in a full survey may believe that this will include an electrical inspection – it doesn’t.
But with one-third of home buyers soon discovering an electrical issue, according to the charity Electrical Safety First, means they will be on the hook for an average bill of £1,700 – and some would have been facing a much more expensive full rewire.
That means it will be worth investing in an Electrical Installation Condition Report to find out exactly what is wrong with the electrics in the property you want to buy. This report must be completed by a registered electrician.
We’ve bought houses with electrical problems in the past but we’ve always made sure to get a quote for bringing things up to current regulations before we’ve committed to purchasing the property. This way, you can always use the quote as a basis for renegotiate of the purchase price if necessary.
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However, there are a few things you can do to minimise the risk when buying – as the Property Road team explains.
Buying a house with electrical problems
For anyone looking at buying a house, here’s what you should consider:
Get a professional opinion
Before you buy the property, get a professional electrician to assess the electrical system and provide a report. This will give you an idea of the scale of the problem and how much it would cost to fix – if there is a problem.
Just be aware that sometimes just getting the work checked will cost you. If it’s a small problem, perhaps not, but if you don’t know if there’s even an issue, you’ll often have to pay for a check to be carried out.
Negotiate a price
If there is a problem and you decide to go ahead with the purchase, try to negotiate a lower price based on the electrical problems. This will give you some extra money to put towards fixing the issues.
We’ve always asked the seller if we can arrange for an electrician to check the work and provide a quote. If they agree to this, you can use the quote as the basis for renegotiation.
However, we’ve found that many tradespeople aren’t keen to quote for work on properties people haven’t even bought yet. They fear it will be a waste of their time if you don’t buy the property. For this reason, we’ve found it’s often best to ask the seller to arrange for a quote with a reputable electrician.
Get a warranty
Either you or the seller should agree to fix the electric problem, but make sure you get a warranty on the work carried out.
Personally, we prefer for the seller to discount the purchase price accordingly and for us to arrange the improvement works. That way, we know it’s been done correctly.
However, not everyone will be happy with this so if the seller insists on getting the work done – make sure they send you acceptable proof well in advance of exchanging contracts.
What are the most common electrical problems in a home?
There are a few different types of electrical problems that can occur in a home. These include:
- Faulty wiring;
- Overloaded circuits;
- Outdated or damaged electrical outlets.
If you suspect that there may be an issue with the property you want to buy, it is important to have it checked out by a professional electrician as soon as possible.
Ignoring these problems can lead to serious consequences, such as fires or electrical shocks. Let’s face it, you could be putting your – and your family’s – life at risk.
Some home insurance policies may even require that the electrical work be up to a certain standard for the home insurance to be valid.
How can you tell if a house has electrical problems?
There are a few key indicators that can tell you if a house has electrical problems.
This means you shouldn’t be shy about turning on lights and appliances, and you should look for:
- Flickering or dimming lights as these are often a sign of an issue with the wiring;
- Outlets that feel warm to the touch or have sparks coming from them indicate a serious problem that should be addressed immediately;
- Any strange smells coming from the electrical system are also cause for concern.
If you notice any of these issues, it’s important to have a professional electrician come and look – and carry out a repair.
What are the consequences of not fixing electrical problems in a home?
If electrical problems are not fixed in a home, the consequences can be severe.
Electrical fires are a major hazard if electrical problems are not fixed.
Also, faulty wiring can lead to electrocution, which can be deadly.
Along with running a health risk and serious damage to your home, you also need to appreciate that when you come to sell your home, it is unlikely that a buyer will want to take on the issues – even if you offer a big discount.
How much does it typically cost to fix electrical problems in a home?
The cost of repairing electrical problems in a home can vary depending on the severity of the issue.
The bill will also depend on where you live in the UK and whether you need the electrician to ‘chase’ the wires – that is, to hide them in the walls.
- For minor repairs, such as replacing a light switch or a dimmer switch, you may only need to spend £40-£60.
- Adding a light to your loft would be £60-£160, fitting kitchen downlights – £250-£500, but fit an external electric light, and the bill could be up to £150.
- Add two double sockets to a room, and you’ll pay between £100 – £170, installing an electric shower, and that will be up to £450.
- Rewire a two-bedroom terrace house, and that could take five days and cost between £2,000 and £3,000. The three-bedroom home will cost between £3,000 and £4,500, while a four-bed detached could be up to a whopping £5,500.
When we bought our first property, the electrics weren’t up to the current standards and so we had to arrange for a rewire of the property.
Thankfully, as we were moving from a rented flat, we could overlap our lease with the purchase of the house, giving us a week or so to get things like this done before we moved in. That helped the electrician as nothing was in his way, but it also meant we didn’t have the upheaval that comes with a full rewire.
It ended up costing us around £4,000 to rewire a good-sized 3-bed property including adding new sockets and a consumer unit. That was in 2009 though, so it would probably cost more now.
That’s why it’s always worth getting things checked out as the cost to fix electrical issues can be quite high, plus there can be cosmetic repairs needed to walls, floors and ceilings afterwards too.
One thing we did learn though is that you need to make sure you get the correct certificates (and keep them safe!) for any electrical work you have done. We didn’t do this in our first home as we didn’t know.
When we came to sell, the buyer’s solicitor raised issue with it and we had to pay for a new inspection to be carried out to satisfy them everything was safe and no further work was required.
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When visiting a property – what electrical checks can I do?
We have highlighted in this article that you need to be careful when buying a home with potential electrical issues – and the property doesn’t even have to be that old.
It helps that you can carry out a visual safety check – and Electrical Safety First offers a free app called ‘Home Electrical Safety Check’ to help you. The checks include:
- Check the fuse box has RCD protection;
- Check the plug sockets are not overloaded;
- Ensure that sockets and plugs are not damaged;
- Ensure the light fittings are not damaged;
- Check that any downlighters work.
We would also recommend asking the seller for copies of any recent electric bills. This will give you an indication of how much power the home is using and whether there have been any spikes in usage that could indicate electrical problems.
What can a seller do with a house that has electrical issues?
It’s no good just giving your property a lick of paint to find buyers, you will need to be honest with them if you do know of any problems and don’t tell them. These tips are also good things for a homebuyer to look out for too! For example:
Is your wiring control panel or fuse box a modern installation?
These are now called ‘consumer units,’ and in an old home, this is a giveaway sign that the electrics might need updating. And don’t forget having a modern unit will offer peace of mind to a buyer. They will also know that there should be no need for an electrical system upgrade – and there’s no room for negotiating a discount.
Another issue that will be a ‘red flag’ for a potential buyer will be outdated two-pronged sockets. Dull light switches are also tell-tale signs that your property will need electrical work to be carried out. Home buyers today will want to use modern sockets immediately – and not wait for the electrics to be updated.
Not enough sockets
There’s also the issue of not having enough sockets in the home you are selling. Older properties had fewer sockets, and some rooms have just one socket. That’s no good for modern homeowners, and you should have multiple sockets in every room. Potential buyers will not want to use extension cables.
We are blessed in our current home as a previous owner was an electrician so, not only is everything up-to-date, we also have plenty of sockets in every room.
Poor or old wiring will be among the reasons that potential buyers tend to avoid older properties because of the inherent risk – and the expense and trouble that comes with having a property rewired. It’s worth highlighting to buyers that important wiring work has been carried out in recent years.
The issue of amperage is important. Modern homes are wired to receive a higher amperage than older properties – which used less electricity and were built to deal with a lower amp capacity. As such, older properties with old wiring will struggle to power the appliances and devices that we tend to use today.
As a home seller, you need to be aware of the electrics in wet areas. There are limitations to reduce the risk of electrocution, so shaver sockets must be placed at least 15 cm from any splash zone – including showers. And any electrical equipment in a bathroom will need to have an IP-rated signal cable, such as Cat5.
Again, if you are in doubt, invest in having a professional electrician come and check your home – for you and your family as well as boosting your chances of a sale. This will also help prevent a keen buyer from pulling out.
Buying a house with electrical problems
There’s no doubt that electrical problems can be a big expense, so it’s important to get a professional opinion before you buy a property that you either suspect or know has electrical issues.
If the professional does find a problem – or problems – you should also try to negotiate a lower price or get them to carry out the work and send you the warranty.
And if do you find electrical problems after buying the property, don’t panic. You can find experienced electricians to carry out the work and to do the job well.
As we know from our experiences, having up-to-date electrics give you peace of mind when using electrical appliances. It also means that when you come to sell the property, you’ll have all the certificates needed to satisfy the buyer’s solicitor enquiries.
One tip we would give is that once your electrics are up to date, get them checked every few years. Also, whenever you have any electrical work done, make sure you get any necessary electrical works certificates as it will save you a lot of hassle when you next sell.
But the main tip when buying a house with electrical problems is not to ignore them – whether they have been highlighted in a report or you can see an issue – because electrical faults need fixing as quickly as possible.