Confused about home inspection report

Hello. I'm in the process of buying a home for the first time and would appreciate some help in intepreting my inspection report. The house appears to be very solid, however there are some electrical comments that I don't know how to intepret and have no idea how important or expensive they may be. Can someone help clarify which items I should have the seller repair before I buy the house? Some of the inspector's comments include: 1. The home has a mixture of 2 wire non-grounded outlets & 3 wire grounded outlets. The wall plugs are not spaced to current building standards. 2. The main electric service wires are less than 10 ft. for the yard at the home and less than 12 ft. from the yard surfaces. 3. The breakers at the interior electric panel in the hall area have been painted over. No paint should be on the breakers because it affects the performance and may allow the breakers to overheat. 4. The romex wire at the rear deck ceiling should be encased in conduit. 5. The breakers that appear to power the exterior a/c condensing unit are too large for the unit. 6. The flexible conduits at the exterior a/c condensing unit power supply lines are not strapped to the walls. 7. There is no electric disconnect in the attic space near the a/c unit. 8. There is no plug (outlet) in the attic space near the a/c unit. 9. The GFCI wall plugs in the home were painted over. No paint should be on the plugs. 10. The GFCI plug to the left of the kitchen sink is not grounded and would not test. 11. The bath GFCI plug tripped but would not reset. The plug needs to be replaced. 12. There is a double lugged breaker in the interior hall panel via a wire nut. 13. The front bedroom light switch is damaged. 14. There is an extension cord being used as a permanent circuit wire in the laundry room. There is no wall plug at the dryer side of the room. 15. There are plugs in the converted room that have the hot and neutral wires reversed. 16. The refrigerator wall plug is damaged and is missing the plug cover plate. Thank you!!!! - Ti
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Getting the home owner to pay depends on your agreement of sale, which is a legal contract. Talk to your realtor. You may want to pay a licensed electrician for a 2nd opinion.

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First off, Bob's right - get a professional opinion on these things. Home inspectors, I've found after hiring two for two separate purchases, are great at nit-picking little things and looking as though they've done a thorough job... all while missing major problems that might have changed the buyer's mind about buying the property (I have a theory about whether this was intentional or not, so as to not scare off the buyer -me - and thus loose the realtor's recommendations to future buyers... but I digress). There may be honest and good inspectors out there, but it still doesn't hurt to have more than one opinion.
As for your list, here's my opinion as a home owner who's seen many of the same things, take it with a grain of salt, I'm not a professional:

This isn't as big a deal as it seems. As long as there are grounded outlets where it's important. Consider, how many three-prong appliance cords do you really have? The wall plug spacing isn't something that's going to be fixed unless you or the seller wants to tear into the wall and start adding boxes. I wouldn't sweat either of these.

Your electrical feed comes overhead and is fairly low to the ground. Unless you're planning on driving a lawn tractor around that sits higher than 12 feet, don't worry too much.

I have to admit, this is one I haven't seen. It's true that it shouldn't be done. I guess I would talk to an electrician and see how much it would cost to replace all of the breakers. Rather than asking the seller to do it, just deduct the amount from the purchase offer.

This isn't up to electrical code, which is written to protect the safety of the home. Unless it's a special type of Romex, it should be in a conduit if it's outdoors. However, doing this will require pulling one end of the wire out, feeding it into conduit and re-running it. If you're nervous about it, lower the purchase price appropriately and have it fixed after you purchase.

This just means that the unit isn't protected. A too large breaker may not trip quickly enough if the unit overloads the circuit. It can be replaced with the appropriate size. HOWEVER - if this breaker was intentionally oversized by the owner because the proper size breaker kept tripping, there may be larger problems with this circuit. Best to have this looked at carefully.

To me, this is nit-picking. A couple of conduit straps and nails or screws should take care of this.

Means that there isn't a switch to turn off the AC unit right at hand near the AC unit. This is a good thing to have, and shouldn't be hard to add by a competent electrician.

Same idea as #7. There should be a service outlet next to the AC unit so the repair guy can have electricity for his work light or any power tools he may need.

GFCI outlets shouldn't be painted, they should test and reset properly. I would price up replacing all of them and deduct that from the purchase offer.

wire nut
Not sure about this one. Is he saying that the breaker is servicing two circuits by having them wire-nutted together in the panel with a jumper going to the breaker?

So price a new switch, this is pretty minor. not that it shouldn't be fixed, but it's a 5 minute job for a reasonably handy DIY'er

in the laundry room. There is no wall plug at the dryer side of the room.
There is no quick fix for this. Adding an outlet usually involves a lot of work.

wires reversed.
This is an easy fix.

plate.
Another easy fix, new outlet.
Overall, my thoughts would be, rather than trying to ask the seller to fix any of these things, try to get a rough estimate - add a few thousand to the estimate - then deduct that amount from the purchase price. If you have your contract written to give you the option of revising or voiding the contract after the inspection, this should be possible. It does two things for you:
#1 - the seller will not be looking to hire the most competent people to do the work you want done, he will be looking for the CHEAPEST
#2 - the seller will most likely balk at fixing most of these things.
I would also recommend, again, having another person inspect the house, preferably one who isn't linked to the real-estate industry. Even if it's an unofficial inspection. I would also do it before you amend the contract, so if this second opinion finds some real skeletons in this house, you can at least use the chance to walk away.
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"1. The home has a mixture of 2 wire non-grounded outlets & 3 wire grounded outlets. The wall plugs are not spaced to current building standards. "
So what? The home only has to meet the code from when it was built. Remodeled areas have to meet newer code requirements for when they are remodeled. That's is probably one fo the reasons why you have a mixture of different type of electrical stuff.
I think anyone who paints over light switches, outlets, or breakers should be drawn and quartered.
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Some local laws require that all electric be brought up to code before selling.

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@comcast.net says...

Can you be specific? ... Which country, state, city ....
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U.S.A., PA, Philadelphia
says...

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Since when? I moved from Philly a while back, but having bought and sold a number of houses there I've never heard of that in any code, nor was it brought up in any transaction.
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I know two people who moved to my area from Philly who said this. One said it cost them $5K and the other said $7K to have an electrician upgrade everything that wasn't up to code.

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estimate - add >> a few thousand to the estimate - then deduct that amount from the purchase

I don't think I would settle for lowering the purchase price. That only slightly decreases your mortgage payment, though you would break even after 10 or 15 years on principle, and interest saved. But since the repairs need to be done in the near term, which requries $$$ now, figure out another way. To hire a competent electrician to address all or most of these findings would probably run you anywhere from $1500 to $2500. Any less and it will probably find it hard to get anyone to touch the job for a home sale.
You can buy as is and plan on being out some dough. Lowering the purchase price takes dough out of the sellers pocket now, but also leaves you dry, unless you can figure out a way to get cash out of the financing, which will probably cost you much more over 15 or 30 years financed. Not worth it imo.
Getting the seller to part with the cash to fix the problems is the best bet. They may try to go cheap but they are in the same boat as you, gonna be hard to find anyone to touch just parts of the job for $500. Also they have more incentive to sell the house since they are paying the mortgage on it, so repairing to your satisfaction is in their best interest.
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While it's true that the up-front costs will be higher, I still think lowering the purchase price accordingly and hiring your own contractors is the way to go. I have been burned by seller-fixes a couple of times now. I wasn't careful enough, the seller and his contractors weren't honest enough, so I got burned. Also, don't forget, a lower purchase price also lowers the closing costs and down payment of the transaction so the buyer should have a little more money in hand after this. It won't be equal to the reduction of purchase price, but it WILL be money in hand unless the closing costs are being financed as well. Most of these fixes, while important, are also pretty minor as far as being hazardous is concerned (broken light switches and outlets are pretty easy and relatively inexpensive to fix). It would be my thought that most of these repairs could be done after some money has been saved up. Of course, I guess I'm used to being able to change outlets and switches myself, so maybe if a person had to hire someone to do these things for them... I can see where it would strain the budget. All in all, the OP may be better finding a different property.
This may be a moot point anyway, since most purchase contracts have a clause that the seller has to be given the option to fix items found during an inspection.
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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

rough estimate - add >> a few thousand to the estimate - then deduct that amount from the purchase

Depends on how you finance the home. Let's say $100k house, $20k down, you are borrowing $80k.
You get the seller to reduce the cost of the house by $2k. Now you only put 18k down with the same 80k mortgage. You just saved $2k that goes right into your pocket.
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Now your paying PMI (18K is < 20% of 100K). Might not be an option for the buyer. But would work with a $22k downpayment. That is, if the downpayment was not calculated to produce a required monthly mortgage payment.
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Normal for an older home which has been renovated. Depending on where they are .. not really a problem.

These are the lines which bring power from the pole into your home. There is risk of hitting them accidentally (say, with a rake). This should be brought up to code.

Not a biggie -- a breaker costs from 25 to 40 bucks, that much again to install..

Again, not a biggie.

Double check this before doing anything about it... but again, breakers are cheap.

Cheap.
Huh?.
To plug in a light for repairs? I assume your a/c is hard-wired in.

Safety issues which should be addressed.

IA comprehensive list. The most serious are the power lines and entry ... and the CFCI plugs.
My suggestion would be to hire an electrician to deal with all (except the two wire plugs which could be a real hassle to change) ... I'd guess the cost at something between two and three thousand dollars.
How you deal with it --- lower the purchase price, vendor pay, whatever -- they should be dealt with.
Ken
.

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snipped-for-privacy@nospam.tnx says...

Both are for repairs -- make sure nobody can turn it on while it's being worked on, and make sure there's an outlet near it for working on it. Had to add both when we had new HVAC installed last year, no big deal, and it is more convenient when working on it.
--
snipped-for-privacy@phred.org is Joshua Putnam
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snipped-for-privacy@nospam.tnx says...

Easy to upgrade a bit, replace with ungrounded GFCI outlets properly labeled "no equipment ground". (Assuming local code allows, of course.) Sounds like someone already did that with one of them but left off the label, thus the complaint of an ungrounded GFCI.
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snipped-for-privacy@phred.org is Joshua Putnam
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My replies are in line.
Ti wrote: > Hello. I'm in the process of buying a home for the first time and > would appreciate some help in interpreting my inspection report. The > house appears to be very solid, however there are some electrical > comments that I don't know how to interpret and have no idea how > important or expensive they may be. Can someone help clarify which > items I should have the seller repair before I buy the house? Some of > the inspector's comments include: > 1. The home has a mixture of 2 wire non-grounded outlets & 3 wire > grounded outlets. The wall plugs are not spaced to current building > standards. There is no requirement in the building safety codes, including the electrical codes, that existing conditions must be brought into compliance with modern codes. > 2. The main electric service wires are less than 10 ft. for the yard at > the home and less than 12 ft. from the yard surfaces. This should be corrected in order to lessen the likelihood of an electric injury. With less than twelve feet of clearance a teenager swinging an aluminum baseball bat over head could come in contact with the service drop. Metal handled tools in the hands of ordinary workers could be a hazard to them. This lack of clearance was never code compliant bu the utility may be willing to correct it at no cost to you. > 3. The breakers at the interior electric panel in the hall area have > been painted over. No paint should be on the breakers because it > affects the performance and may allow the breakers to overheat. That needs fixing. Who pays for it is part of your negotiations with the seller. > 4. The romex wire at the rear deck ceiling should be encased in > conduit. A picture of this would be very helpful. If the romex is not exposed to rain it may be perfectly exceptable there. > 5. The breakers that appear to power the exterior a/c condensing unit > are too large for the unit. The size of the overcurrent protective device that is needed to protect the AC unit is shown on the name plate of the unit. Some home inspectors will right this up as a problem based on the size of the wires that supply the unit. Motor loads often have breakers that are too large to protect the supply conductors from overload because that is done by the overload protection at the motor itself. In that case the breaker may have been sized to allow the motor to start in accordance with the manufacturers instructions as shown on the units name plate. The breaker then provides only short circuit and ground fault protection to those conductors with the overload protection provided at the motor. > 6. The flexible conduits at the exterior a/c condensing unit power > supply lines are not strapped to the walls. The flexible conduit should not be supported only by its connectors. There should be at least one support strap at each end of the flex. > 7. There is no electric disconnect in the attic space near the a/c > unit. Disconnects have always been a requirement of the NEC. Who fixes it is negotiable. > 8. There is no plug (outlet) in the attic space near the a/c unit. This is a recent requirement that may not have been in place when that air conditioner was installed. It is desirable to have an outlet there to facilitate servicing the equipment but it won't kill the tech to run an extension cord. > 9. The GFCI wall plugs in the home were painted over. No paint should > be on the plugs. The painted devices should be replaced. > 10. The GFCI plug to the left of the kitchen sink is not grounded and > would not test. This should be corrected but see my end comment. > 11. The bath GFCI plug tripped but would not reset. The plug needs to > be replaced. Needs replacement. > 12. There is a double lugged breaker in the interior hall panel via a > wire nut. This is not a code violation it is merely poor practice to make splices in the panel cabinet if it can be avoided. > 13. The front bedroom light switch is damaged. Needs replacing. > 14. There is an extension cord being used as a permanent circuit wire > in the laundry room. There is no wall plug at the dryer side of the > room. There should be an receptacle outlet within six feet of the dryer. The code does forbid the use of extension cords in place of permanent wiring. > 15. There are plugs in the converted room that have the hot and neutral > wires reversed. The seller should have that fixed. > 16. The refrigerator wall plug is damaged and is missing the plug cover > plate. The seller should have that fixed. > Thank you!!!! - Ti The broken and painted devices should be repaired at once but it is a matter of negotiation as to whether the buyer or the seller undertakes to get it done. If it were me I would insist that the reversed polarity, broken, and painted over devices be repaired by the seller prior to closing. If the breaker that is supplying the AC unit is equal or less than the max listed on the unit name plate then the inspector is wrong. If it is more that is a defect that the present owners should be expected to correct.
--
Tom Horne

"This alternating current stuff is just a fad. It is much too dangerous
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I would suggest asking the inspector your questions, since he/she is most familiar with the particulars. In general, you might reasonably ask the seller either to fix or make a $$ allowance for items that are broken or are safety issues. Of course, everything is negotiable. What are the regulations in your area? In some areas, the seller is required to fix code violations or you must agree to fix them upon taking ownership. See comments mixed in below.

This would be expected on an older home (more than 50 yo or so). It is not a serious safety issue unless one improperly uses an adaptor to connect a three prong appliance to a 2 prong outlet. I personally would not buy a home that did not have 3 prong outlets in the kitchen, baths, laundry area, and exterior unless I planned to have them upgraded. Other areas are less important, although you are going to want 3 prong outlets to connect electronic gear such as home theater or computers. This can be expensive to upgrade, and it is an inconvenience.

I'm guessing this means your electric wires from the pole are too close to the ground. How much and how important to fix is very dependent on the particulars; ask the inspector.

I doubt this is a serious problem unless they are so crusted with paint that it could interfere with the breaker tripping. Depending on how many breakers there are in the panel, it could cost a few hundred to replace them all.

Probably not a major issue nor that expensive to fix.

This is a safety issue. This they should fix.

Simple to fix.

This is to allow a serviceman to turn off the power when working on the unit. Not a safety issue for you (although it may encourage the service person to work on the unit hot rather than find the breaker). Should not be expensive to add a disconnect.

This is for the convenience of the service person. Not critical.

Not critical as long as they operate correctly.

Safety issue. They should fix.

Ditto.
I think this means a single breaker feeding two circuits connected together. Probably not critical, but ask the inspector for details.

Cheap to fix.

Plan on having an outlet added. Cost depends on particulars.

Cheap to fix, but a sign of a hack. Plan to have them fixed and inspected by an electrician.

Cheap to fix.

As I said, you really need to ask the inspector to explain these items because the cost to fix them is going to depend very much on the type of construction and other details. If you are really concerned, get an electrician in to give you a quick estimate.
No's 5, 10, and 11 should either be fixed by the seller or by you immediately upon taking possession.
HTH,
Paul
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I'm not going to reply to everyone, as there are too many. So, you're the lucky one. Thanks to everyone for the detailed responses and suggestions. Turns out the seller has agreed to fix a few of the items before our closing date. They're going to repair the breaker panel box, upgrade the extension cord in the laundry room to the appropriate wiring, & fix a couple repairs that weren't electrical in nature. Everyone who responded to my posting was very helpul and now I know what I need to take care of asap! It's also good to learn that nothing on the list is too major. Thanks everyone!!! Joining this group & submitting this posting was well worth it. Cheers, Ti
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a further note from my recent and sour experience with some promised seller fixes - get in writing, some sort of documentation from the electrician that these repairs/upgrades have been done and meet local codes. Do this before closing the sale. It IS possible to do it after the sale, but sellers have a way of not returning phone calls once they have your money and it becomes much more difficult to accomplish anything. Not all people selling property are dishonest, but there are JUST enough of them to make it necessary for any buyers to beware and protect themselves.
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