Homes Built before Building Codes

Real Estate Agent with Frank Rubi Real Estate

Recently I took some clients to view a home they were interested in buying.  The home was built in the mid 1970's.  In many parts of St. Tammany Parish there were no building codes at that time.  I remember my father and grandfather building a camp by themselves.  There were no such thing as inspectors to approve whatever you were doing.

Well everything was going pretty well with the showing until we looked into the electrical panel.  Turns out my client is an old retired electrician.  He unscrewed the electrical panel to get a look at the wires and guess what?  They were aluminum not copper.  In the mid 1970's copper was either in short supply or too expensive.  Aluminum was a cheaper alternative.

I am not an electrician and really don't know a lot about wiring in homes.  I do know that copper is a better conductor of electricity, and therefore safer.  Upon seeing this my client was no longer interested in buying this house any longer.  He also wondered what else may have been used in building this house.

The disclosure documents do not ask as to what kind of wiring was used in construction of the home.  So the seller isn't bound to reveal this.  As an agent I feel a strong responsibility to point this out to any of my clients.  I urge all to consider this when trying to sell homes.  I think your client will have a lot more respect for you in the long run.

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Martin Kalisker
Greater Boston Association of REALTORS - Boston, MA
Professional Standards & Legal Assistant

While it's true that building codes are something to be respected, buyers should be fully aware of code issues with older homes.  I was recently involved with a transaction where the buyer backed out because the home inspector got her so worked up about the electrical outlets being above base board heaters "not being in accordance with current code".  Well, truth is the house was over 30 years old and that was a permitted use and application back then.

The buyer did not get their deposit back.  The sellers justification was that the home was built to code and the passage of time and new code requirements did not relieve her of her contractual obligations to purchase the house.

Lesson learned for all buyers - - homes, all homes, not just foreclosures, are always offered "as is".

Mar 26, 2009 08:26 AM #1
SarahGray Lamm
Allen Tate Realtors Chapel Hill, NC 919-819-8199 - Chapel Hill, NC
Realtor - 100K Hours of NC Real Estate Experience

You can cover alot of issues by firmly recommending your buyer client hire a qualified home inspector! Wiring is addressed on our inspections as are many things some agents know nothing about. While I'm at it, agent and your buyer should attend the inspection if at all possible. A good inspector can teach agents AND homebuyers alot about homeownership and maintenance!

Mar 26, 2009 08:41 AM #2
Sandy Shores FL Realtor®, Melbourne Real Estate
M & M Realty of Brevard Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Brevard County Real Estate, Florida's Space Coast

Hi John, We still have some of those homes around here with that old aluminum wiring. Have to be cautious.  Thanks for the reminder.

Mar 28, 2009 04:30 AM #3
John Walters
Frank Rubi Real Estate - Slidell, LA
Licensed in Louisiana

Thanks for your comments.  I personnaly prefer not to buy one of these homes either unless it is such a good deal I couldn't pass it up.

Mar 29, 2009 04:46 AM #4
Todd Clark
eXp Realty LLC - Tigard, OR
Principle Broker Oregon

I've been running into homes that have had recalled electrical boxes, but the owners have been living with these for 30 years and never knew they were recalled.


Mar 30, 2009 09:22 PM #5
Lisa Heindel
Crescent City Living LLC - New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Real Estate Broker

John, my understanding is that there is a fix for outlets with aluminum wiring (a piggy back or something like that).  Check with your home inspector to see if he knows about it.

Apr 28, 2009 02:49 PM #6
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John Walters

Licensed in Louisiana
Whats my home worth?

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