Imagine this. You’ve finally found the Upper Peninsula property you’ve been dreaming of. It’s in your price range, has vintage charm, a great location, and all the space you could ever need. To sweeten the deal, you notice the listing features “updated electrical.”
If you don’t have to do electrical updates on your new home, that’s a no-brainer, right? Get that offer in! But here’s the thing: many of us don’t consider who may have done updates on the property we want to buy. This is a vital thing to find out because assuming it was a professional electrician could be a big mistake.
Get the Facts Before Moving Forward With Any Real Estate Deal
While it’s not legal to do electrical work in Michigan unless you’re a qualified electrician, there is a perfectly legal way around this. A resident homeowner is allowed to work on the electrical system of their own home—no prior experience or certification required. You can imagine what some of these “electrical updates” really entail.
Ask yourself these questions when a property is listed as having “updated electrical”:
- Who completed the electrical update?
- Was it done by a licensed professional?
- Was it a complete update?
- Was it the homeowner that did the updating?
- Was the job actually completed?
If you can’t answer all these questions with confidence, this electrical update could end up being a DIY disaster.
Might this kill the deal? It absolutely doesn’t have to. But this is a great time to schedule a professional home inspection before moving forward. Knowing what you’re getting into can help you negotiate a realistic price on the house – and/or prevent you from putting your family’s health and safety at risk.
The 3 Most Common Electrical DIY Disasters
There are many ways DIY electrical updates can deviate from standard work. Here, we’d like to point out the top 3 DIY electrical disasters that a home inspection often uncovers.
1. Looks Can be Deceiving— In the photo on the left, you will see an electrical box (or junction box). Looks great, right? Shiny and new with correctly installed grounding. I give this junction box a 10/10. But the trouble lies elsewhere—and you must know how to look for it, or you’ll miss it.
Here’s where the trouble lies. The photo below shows the electric range that is attached to that shiny new junction box. The first thing I see is out-of-date aluminum wire. What does this tell me as a U.P. Home Inspector in the Marquette, MI area?
Well, first, it’s a tell-tale glimpse into local history. Aluminum wire like this was historically not used in homes, so it tells me someone somewhere along the line helped themselves to wire meant for the nearby iron mines!
But historical trivia aside, the real issue is this: the old wire running into a newly wired junction box tells me that somewhere underneath the house, this wire was spliced. That’s a dangerous problem (more on that in a minute).
2. Improperly Installed Outlets—Take a look at the photo below. At first blush, it looks rather good. You’ll notice a three-pronged plug, so you’d assume it’s grounded.
Wrong! This is actually a three-wire plug attached to only two wires. The ground isn’t being utilized. It’s all for show—and presents a real risk of shock to anyone utilizing appliances plugged in to this outlet.
3. Unseen Dangers Lurking Below—When you tour your home with a real estate agent, you typically won’t get to see the wiring underneath the house. So, even if you’re knowledgeable about electrical systems, you can easily miss dangers lurking below.
But as you can see in the picture on the right, there is old cloth-covered wiring with no ground wire attached by tape to the new wiring. Sure it’s “updated,” but it’s updated incorrectly—and unsafely at that.
What Are the Potential Dangers of Amateur Electrical Work?
Hiring a professional home inspection for your Marquette, MI, or any other U.P. Property will ensure you avoid falling victim to the potential consequences of an unprofessional electrical update:
- Electrical fires
- Accidental electrocutions
- Problems with code compliance
- Higher homeowners insurance rates
- Landlord negligence lawsuits in the case of an electrical fire in a rental property
Schedule Your Electrical Inspection Today
Shoddy DIY electrical work is a common fact of life with an aging housing stock. If issues like these show up in a house you’ve fallen in love with, it doesn’t have to kill the sale. But you do need to know what you’re buying – and either request that the seller fix the issues, or budget the cost of repairs into your offer. The National Electrical Code (NEC) is a good resource if you want to check out up-to-date electrical codes and standards.
Ready to avoid the pitfalls of unsafe “electrical updates”?
Schedule your home inspection today with certified home inspector Rich Beasley of UP Home Inspection LLC by calling (906) 360-3879. Or click HERE to save your time slot 24 hours a day, seven days a week.