Hiller Know-How: What to Look for When Buying a Home


When building a new home, you’re often left with the added peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re getting the newest technology around. From appliances, to HVAC, and yes, to electrical, you can take comfort in the fact that you’re probably getting the latest and greatest in home technology.

But of course, not everyone wants or needs to build a new home. Old homes have charm, are usually less expensive, and often come with other amenities you may not get when buying new. In some cases, however, they also have outdated electrical systems.

Most homes built within the last few decades should have electrical systems that are up to spec. Even so, here are a few things to look out for when buying a home:

  • Fuse or breaker panel: Does the house have a fuse panel or breaker panel? A breaker panel isn’t necessarily always better than a fuse panel, but a fuse panel may be a sign of older wiring or a system that needs to be upgraded.
  • Three- vs. two-prong outlets: Does the house have three- or two-prong outlets? Two-prong outlets lack grounding. Three-prong outlets aren’t guaranteed to be grounded (they should be if installed properly), but two-prong outlets are usually a sign of an outdated electrical system.
  • GFCIs: Do you see GFCIs where they should be? You should have GFCI outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, unfinished basements, garages, outdoors, and anywhere that electricity is required and water is present. If you don’t have GFCI outlets, check to see if you have GFCI breakers. If neither, it’s time to contact an electrician.
  • Service panel amperage: Does the service panel have sufficient amperage for your needs? Most modern homes have 100-, 150-, or 200-amp units. Some older homes have 60-amp units, which may not be sufficient for your power needs.
  • New or old wiring: Does the house have new, or old wiring? This can be more difficult to spot for folks who aren’t electricians, but here are a few warning signs to look out for.
  • Professional installation: Finally, do you see anything in the house which points to electrical work not performed by a professional, licensed electrician? DIY electrical work can be dangerous. Again, this is harder to spot unless you’re an electrician, but any licensed electrician should be able to spot work not performed by a professional.

Most of these things to look out for, while inconvenient, aren’t necessarily deal-breakers. If you love the home, it may still be worth paying to update the electrical system as needed. That said, being educated about your home’s electrical system is always a good idea, so it doesn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with potential warning signs.

A home inspector or electrician will be able to help you find anything electrical related in your home that may be cause for concern (and an electrician will be able to help you fix it). If you have any questions about the electrical system of a home you’re interested, feel free to contact us for assistance.

photo credit: j l t via photopin cc