We bought our home several months ago and hired a home inspector to check it out. He reported a list of routine defects but said nothing about the adequacy of the electric service. Last week we called an electrician to do some minor electrical work, and he said our electrical panel does not meet code and must be upgraded. According to the electrician, our home inspector should have mentioned this in his report. The cost for a new panel is over $1200. Do we have any recourse in this situation? – Ray

Dear Ray,

Older homes often have electrical systems and service panels of lesser capacity than would be required for newer homes. In houses built since the mid-to late-1950s, service capacities typically range from 100 to 200 amps, depending upon the overall electrical demand of the system. Older homes had systems designed to accommodate lesser electrical demands because there were far fewer electrical fixtures and appliances in use in those times. This, however, does not mean that an electrical upgrade is warranted in every vintage home.

If the main panel in a home is an old 30-amp fuse box, that would be seriously substandard, and a home inspector would be remiss in not recommending an upgrade. If, on the other hand, the system is a 70-amp breaker panel of the kind commonly installed through the mid-1950s, a home inspector would need to point out that it is marginally adequate, but upgrading that kind of system would not be necessary in every case. In a small home with few built-in appliances the old panel might be reasonably acceptable. On the other hand, if an old house with a 70-amp panel had been enlarged or if the kitchen had been remodeled and a host of modern appliances had been installed, then a recommendation for a larger electrical service would certainly be in order.

Ask the electrician to perform a written-load calculation. This is a mathematical computation whereby electricians determine the service size necessary to meet the electrical demands of a home, based upon the overall number and size of circuits and fixtures in the building. Once you have this in hand, contact your home inspector. Ask that he come to your home to re-inspect the panel and comment on these considerations.

Dear Barry,

I found my dream home and had it inspected this week. The only item of concern involved some roof repairs. The seller offered me a choice: he can repair the roof or he can credit the cost of repair against the purchase price of the home. What do your recommend? – Eli

Dear Eli,

If a seller offers to make roof repairs, this is acceptable as long as a licensed roofing contractor performs the work, not the seller him or herself. If the seller gives you cash or a credit through escrow, the amount should be according to a bid submitted by a licensed roofing contractor. This will insure that the credit you receive will not be less than what you eventually pay when the work is done.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

***

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