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Selling Your Home: 5 Deal Killers That Are Lurking In Older Homes


You've listed your home for sale, you have a Buyer and now their Inspector is performing an inspection. You think you have a pretty good home, but do you really know for sure? What is he finding? Why is it taking so long? Here are 5 deal killers to watch out for when selling your home.

Deal Killer #1: FPE Breaker Boxes. These breakers and breaker boxes are known to have performance issues. They are no longer made, however they were very popular between the 1950's and 1980's. Many homes still have them.

Some of the problems were that the breakers would trip but still allow electricity to pass through the breaker. Another issue was that the breaker would not trip at all causing an over current condition which could lead to fires.

Just because the home is 30 years old and you've had no problems, don't expect any Professional Real Estate Inspector to look past a FPE breaker box. The time theory does not hold water with electrical components. In my market, the cost to replace the box with a new 150 amp breaker box is anywhere from $1000 to $2500 depending upon the company and the extent of the work.

Deal Killer #2: Aluminum Wiring: The problem with aluminum wiring is that it expands and contracts more than copper wiring. So the components meant to be used with Copper wiring did not work well with Aluminum. The Aluminum would work its way loose over time and cause arcing, which lead to excessive heat, which leads to fires.

Even after the alloy was changed in Aluminum wiring, problems still persisted with the wiring.

Special outlets have to be used. These are marked CO/ALR. This means that the outlet is designed to work with either Copper or Aluminum.

"Pigtailing" the Aluminum wiring with Copper so that the Copper wiring can be attached to the outlets (remember, less expansion and contraction" is allowed by the National Electrical Code. No one is sure why. The Consumer Product Safety Commission does not see 'pigtailing' as a safe alternative.

Rewiring the home can be costly. The total price depends on to many variables to give you a price range here.

Deal Killer #3: Asbestos: Asbestos was used in many building materials and is still used in a very few even today.

Areas a Seller or Buyer will have to worry about it are in a few places. Pipe insulation on older heating pipes, vermiculite insulation, some paints and to a lesser extent, on roof and siding shakes.

Asbestos causes the most problem when it is in a loose state (friable) where particles can float around. We're all aware of the health problems concerning Asbestos, so I'm not going to go into them here.

If you have Asbestos siding or roofing shakes/shingles, then there is a lesser worry because these are not friable unless broken.

Asbestos removal can be very, very costly and not likely a cost a new buyer will want to tackle shortly after moving into their new home.

Deal Killer #4: Composition Wood Siding: Some of this type of siding is known by it's generic terms like Masonite and LP siding (there are other brands). This type of siding was (and some are still) involved in class action lawsuits.

This type of siding is basically constructed from pressed and glued wood particles, some as small as sawdust.

Some of the problems arise from poor installation techniques that allowed this siding to get wet. It would then start rotting and letting more water into the structure.

There have been many homeowners who joined the class action lawsuits, received money to replace the siding, but instead pocketed it and put their homes up for sale.

Composition wood siding companies only pay once for siding on a home. If a claim has been filed and paid out on a home, there'll be no more money coming down the pipe for siding replacement on that particular home!

Deal Killer #5: Polybutylene (PB) plumbing lines: These are water supply lines that are grayish in color.

The problem was that this type of piping is known to burst, especially at the seams. Many of the class action lawsuits have been closed and it may be difficult, if not impossible, to receive any money for replacement if the home you are buying has PB plumbing.

Replacement cost can be in the thousands of dollars. Any good home inspector will call this out on their inspection report and likely recommend a licensed plumber to investigate. I don't know of one reputable plumber who will recommend keeping the pipes in your home.

Granted, many of these Deal Killers only exist on older homes. However, especially in rural areas, we've seen these components show up on newer homes. How, I don't know unless someone had a stockpile of these materials.

A pre-listing inspection by a reputable and qualified home inspector will bring these Deal Killers and other potential deal killing threats to you attention before listing your home. Playing ignorant about what is in your home (like some real estate agents recommend) will not save you from having to fork over some greenbacks before you home will sell.

Donald Lawson is a Professional Real Estate Inspector licensed in Oklahoma (#454) and Texas (#5824). He currently owns and operates a multi inspector firm in Houston Texas, V.I.P. Home Inspections. You can learn more about homes and home inspections by visiting his site at http://www.best2inspect.com. There are also pages about the local real estate market at Houston Real Estate


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