DEAR BARRY: Our home was built in the early 1950s and has a low-voltage relay system for lighting. We’re selling the home now, and our buyers have questions that we are unable to answer. All we know is that the lights have always worked. How can we adequately disclose the nature of this unusual electrical system to the buyers? –Sally
DEAR SALLY: Low-voltage lighting systems are unusual in residential construction. Their essential purpose is to provide light with reduced energy and increased fire safety. Most of these systems date back to the 1950s. Some were installed by qualified electricians, but many were the works of "inventive geniuses," whose creative imaginations outweighed their electrical experience.
The results, in some cases, were systems that were functional but could not be serviced or comprehended by many electricians.
To provide adequate disclosure to your buyers, have your system evaluated by a licensed electrician who is familiar with this type of wiring and equipment. You may have to make several calls to find an electrician with this kind of expertise.
DEAR BARRY: I am presently under contract to purchase a home, but I’m worried about the neighborhood. I went to the local law enforcement Web site to see if there are any sexual predators in the area, and there are 12 within a 2-mile radius. Can I back out of the deal without losing my deposit? –Angella
DEAR ANGELLA: If the contingency period in your purchase contract has not expired, you can probably cancel the deal without losing your deposit. But you should check with your agent or attorney to be sure. However, canceling the deal may not solve your problem because you may find the same search results nearly everywhere.
It doesn’t speak well for our society, but registered sex offenders seem to pop up on every search. You might say the purpose of the search is not to find a neighborhood free of sex offenders, but merely to be aware of who the sex offenders are and where they live.
Whether you buy this home or another, just be sure to lock your doors at night. It’s a grave new world.
DEAR BARRY: Our home is located on a sloped lot and built on a raised foundation. During heavy rains, we get some dampness in the crawlspace. We have plenty of vents and the soil seems to dry out after the rainy season. A contractor is trying to sell me a vapor barrier for about $8,000. My father-in-law says his home has the same ground moisture condition, but with no adverse effects. What do you suggest? –Steve
DEAR STEVE: Many homes have wet soil in crawlspaces, but this is not always a cause for concern. The primary consideration is whether the moisture is adversely affecting the condition of the building. If there is standing water, condensation, dry rot, mold, settlement or soil erosion, then drainage improvements or a vapor barrier might be the answer. But wet soil that is not causing a problem is not a sufficient cause to spend thousands of dollars.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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