dangerous electrical wiring in older homes.

There’s an article in the sun about the large number of houses in the lower mainland with sub-par or dangerous electrical wiring that often requires work to be insurable.

Dangerous electrical wiring exists in the majority of pre-1950 homes in B.C., especially those with secondary suites, according to preliminary findings by a Vancouver company.

Of 104 older homes inspected by last year by PowerSafe Inc., 60 per cent had electrical problems requiring immediate attention.

Hazards that could lead to a fire zoomed to 84 per cent in 30 homes with secondary suites, said Brian Cook, co-founder of the firm.

I know a couple of people who bought houses in the last year that required re-wiring before they could be insured – depending on the size of the house this can run from around $15,000 and up – a good thing to be aware of and budget for when shopping for an older house.

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OJs Parent

dosh:I did say that purchase price + repairs > value of repaired home. And specu-sitting works OK when the market is rising spectacularly, but it really really doesn't when it isn't. I know about what the "investor" paid, and can guess what the place rents for, and it ain't even within a country mile of being revenue neutral. My guess is the investor is subsidizing somebody's accomodation to the tune of a few grand a month. And if that scares away buyers, then GOOD. For the wrong buyer, this type of thing is a major, major trap.


patiently waiting:I feel for ya mate. Another strategy to get on the "property ladder" is to wait for lower prices. Believe me, they're coming and buy in a rural environment. Its super easy to find good tenants the further out of town you go and become a landlord for a few years. Sell in the next boom and then buy for yourself. Expect real estate to take off again in 2012-2014. Sounds like forever but time flys. In the meantime rent where you want to live and enjoy.

patiently waiting

I'm starting to come to terms with the possibility that we may never buy if we stay in Vancouver. The "affordable" housing stock that isn't tiny or way out in the Fraser Valley consists of leaky condos, old condos near the end of their lifespan, deathtrap "heritage" houses in 'hoods, ugly 80s-90s townhouses, and former grow-ops. Even after a crash, this housing will be hard to buy.


dosh:You're kidding right?You never, ever recoup what you put into renos and repairs on resale. 50% at best.Last time I checked as of today Vancouver Westside houses have fallen in price-all the way back to June 2006 prices. We are talking a lifetime commitment. It needs to be taken far more seriously than:"every dollar you put into renovating or repairing an older house is going to come back to you when you go to sell".


I think you guys are making this out to be a bigger problem than it really is and you could scare off some potential buyers. Do older houses often need work? yes. But every dollar you put into renovating or repairing an older house is going to come back to you when you go to sell.And as oj's parent points out, you don't even need to do a lot of the work. You can just sit and let your investment go up in value.

OJs Parent

We nearly bought a character house, but for the inspection.The inspection was the best 400 bucks I ever spent. (It was less, actually, because the inspector stopped half way and said "don't do this")As much as I would have loved the house, the deficiencies were well into the 6 figures, before even getting to the "nice to haves" like kitchen or bathroom renos, decorative upgrades, new siding/shingles, painting etc.The electrical had been partially redone, but there was still a lot of live knob n tube, and the newer electrical had been overloaded to the point of being not up to code — 15 grand easy. The inspector got behind the basement suite walls to discover that one wall of the foundaiton was slumping away. The house had settled so much that the flashing of the house was now settled into… Read more »


In the go go market the last few years it was typical to make "no subject" offers. No subject to financing, no subject to inspection.Already vendors are open to subject offers. So for sure, either have it inspected, or bring your inspector to the showing, and spend a couple hours with him looking at it. Mold is the most insidious and hardest to find with a visual inspection. You can test the air quality with the appropriate equipment or bring an expert. I can usually spot it with a sniff. If you have young children or are asthmatic it will make you ill regularly.If the house has been renovated ask to see reciepts and permits. A good inspection will last 4 hours and cost $400.00. If you don't buy the house because of the inspection-it will be the best $400.00… Read more »


Yikes. Thats a lot of things to look out for. My family will be most likely looking at character homes for a couple of reasons: we like the 'character' of them and they're often cheaper (particularly the run down ones). I consider myself moderately handy – I don't think I could tackle foundation repair, but drywalling painting, etc I think would be ok. Would general home inspectors be able to find things like bad wiring and mold in the walls?What can you do if there's mold growing in the walls?


Cracked foundations hidden behind drywall.Disconenected or plugged weeping tiles. New roofs put over old roofs that should have been stripped."Temporary" exterior paint for staging purposes. Bait and switch major appliances. Shitty hardwood under area rugs.Settling foundations. Mold behind walls-very,very dangerous. Buried oil tanks.Leaking gas furnaces-slow leaks can be un smell-able.I could go on and on and on. Don't buy a character home unless you are very handy, or know exactly what the risks are.

the pope

Thanks for the info jim – Friends of mine recently paid around 15k to change over from knob and tube on a smallish house (the best price they could find), so I'm suprised to hear that work could be done on some houses for as low as 4k.In your experience what are some of the other common issues that come as a suprise to buyers of older houses?


Pope:Excellent post. As a serial renovator-I can tell you I always, always upgrade the electrical. I can range from $4 to $20k.The biggest issue is nob an tube, or aluminum wiring and insuffucient amperage to power all the new millenium toys.The even bigger issue is niave homebuyers that think a "character home" is suitable for a first time buyer. You really, really have to know a about home maiantainance and repair, to buy a SFH that's more than 10 years old.