Is electrical grounding usually a dealbreaker?

Asked by Newtonite, Boston, MA Wed Oct 8, 2008

We are looking to buy an older house that has been generally renovated, but lacks electrical grounding. To bring it up to code, every outlet in the small house (2 stories) would have to be redone. Is this generally worth doing this for resale value? I recognize that all new appliances use 3-prongs and require grounding. Is this often a deal-breaker for folks? How important is it usually? How reasonable are sellers typically in this situation?

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Louis Wolfs…, Agent, Needham, MA
Yesterday at 1:55pm
Code isn't as important as safety. I would bring it up. The same way GFCI may not be in place or have been code when the home was built, but you would want to improve that as well. In Newton very little is a deal breaker as its hard to find a good home at a "fair" price and there is a lot of competition with buyers who make offers without inspections and or finance contingencies.

Good luck
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Kory Elliott, Renter, 77510
Fri Oct 28, 2016
Emergent Protection Solutions can help.
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Century21 Co…, Agent, Newton, MA
Tue May 12, 2015
I won't consider this as a deal breaker any time. You can change the electrical grounding with very little cost and I have helped clients with that. In fact, I had to to for my own house when I was moving to Solar panel. It's not costly at all compare to what you are shopping for.
Nevertheless, It is important. I always recommend clients to ensure electrical are well done, well grounded and distributed. Wiring is important too, which usually overlooked.
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Jackson Will…, Home Buyer, Provo, UT
Wed Mar 11, 2015
In order to be up to code and to actually be usable by people, this work would need to be done. Resale value and personal opinions really aren't the issues here. The simple way to put it is that right now the outlets are essentially useless. The sellers are definitely going to have to swallow this one and get this problem resolved as quickly as possible.
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I agree with Jackson, it is usually the building code these days. There are a lot of electronics that you won't be able to use without grounding. It could cost quite a bit to put it in though. I would probably talk to your realtor about this issue.
Flag Mon Apr 13, 2015
The Graveline…, Agent, Longmeadow, MA
Sun Jan 11, 2015
It's not a deal breaker by any means, but it will be an expense at some point. To change them out to grounded outlets isn't going to cost a ton, but you'll want to get an electrician to come in and do it, for sure, as most fatal electrocutions occur from 120v, which is what feeds your outlets.
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Gerald Vonbe…, Home Buyer, Jackson Springs, NC
Fri Jan 2, 2015
If you're looking at a house like that, I would make sure that the price of the house is significantly less since you'll have to have some electrical work done. You should also make sure you get an electrician to come out and give you an idea of what it would cost to ground the entire house. I'd imagine that two stories would be a bit pricey. I don't think it's a deal-breaker though. It just depends on how much you want you fix up before you move in.
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I agree, you're going to want to make sure that they take a lot off of the price. You can still survive in a home without grounding, but you'll have to be more careful. Like Tony said, almost any electrician will be able to fix that up for you. If it makes you feel safer and better, that's what I would recommend.
Flag Fri Feb 20, 2015
I agree with Gerald, you're going to want to lower the price for this situation. I don't think that it would necessarily be a ground breaker on the house. You just have to hire an electrician who has the right supplies to fix it up. It might be a little bit expensive, but it is possible to ground all of the electricity in your home.
Flag Thu Jan 22, 2015
Gary Birtles, , Scottsdale, AZ
Thu Dec 11, 2014
I know that in a lot of cases, electrical issues are a deal breaker. I don't know about this situation specifically though. You may want to talk to an electrician about it. They will know better than me if this is a critical repair or not.
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Jackson Will…, Home Buyer, Provo, UT
Wed Dec 10, 2014
You should probably talk to an electrician about this. They are experts when it comes to electricity and the different ways it can effect a home. It is important to be up to code if at all possible. At the same time value should be assessed. If it's going to be too much of an issue you should find out what you can do to make things easier on you.
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I think electrical problems like that are going to be tough and expensive to fix. Maybe have an electrician look at it and give you an estimate before you buy the house. You don't want to blow right over your budget.
Flag Tue Jan 27, 2015
Kiara Jane T…, Home Buyer, Kansas City, MO
Tue Nov 4, 2014
There are so many things that require a three prong outlet. Even the everyday things like a vacuum and a fridge. If you could, I would get it renovated as soon as possible.
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I agree, it's going to be pretty tough to not have grounding in your house. It shouldn't be tough however, to get an electrician in to fix it for you. Just make sure that they do the project right. It can be really dangerous if you try to mess with your electricity by yourself.
Flag Thu Nov 20, 2014
Steve Quinta…, Agent, Albuquerque, NM
Fri Sep 26, 2014
Getting a bid to do the work is the first order of business. When you know the actual cost you will be in position to decide how to approach the sellers or if you will pay for the upgrade yourself. Be sure to factor in cost of cosmetic repairs.
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I would just have an electrician come out and take a look at it. I have been having problems with the electricity at my cabin. I need to find an electrician that can come check things out and hopefully fix the problem.
Flag Tue Oct 28, 2014
I agree, getting a contractor to check it out should be your first priority. After that, you can decide if the cost is worth paying for. You could work some kind of deal out with the seller in order to lower the cost.
Flag Tue Oct 28, 2014
Bart Foster, Agent, Boston, MA
Wed Apr 1, 2009
Interesting reply coming from the inspector. Granted I would not disagree with his opinion that replacing a 2 pronged plug with 3-pronged receptacles unless a 3rd wire that ran to an earth ground were ran. But keep in mind that the majority of appliances have KEYed 2-prong plugs... Japanese imported rice maker has one as does my older hair dryer. My recently purchased Honeywell dehumidifier has one as well as my DVD, Sony amp, my Comcast cable box, pc speakers, the cable internet modem, every light table or floor lamp, two pronged plugs. As I look around gosh, the only things that I can think of that have a 3rd ground plug are is my flat panel TV and my older desktop PC. So what is all the hoop la regarding rewiring to 3-pronged... well it is now the code Also, it is possible that the home does not have circuit breakers which is where the risk really is as it is too easy to put the wrong fuse in place and could result in an over loaded circuit.

But if you were considering updating, it could be done in phases. Say all of the kitchen should be 3-pronged as well as any bathroom, garage or outdoor plugs. As a prior electrical engineer, think common sense. If there is any chance that a device or you might come in contact with something that is grounded when handling an ungrounded devise, by all means, get those plugs rewired.

It should not be a deal breaker unless you wish it to be. But as a Boston area buyer as I am guessing you are, do expect that you will run into this often. As for running a new line from the pole, unless you are planning on converting your heating, hot water and kitchen to run electric, personally I think it is a waste of money to run a 200 Amp service. If all you are running is lighting and a few appliances, 60 to 100 amps is a crap load of power. In my home it is all updated electrical, 100 amps, natural gas for cooking and heating/hot water, and I have two wall mounted split AC's (1 @ 9K BTU and another at 15K BTU). Other than those two systems, the only other heavy hitter for load is the vented microwave. Is my home under powered? Not by a long shot!

As for how reasonable are the sellers likely to be. Ask yourself this, has it worked for them. The answer is likely to be yes! So why should they expect to pay for you to upgrade to be a energy hog. Granted they might have been an older couple living with little means and thus were very careful leaving every light on in the home.
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My dad is a home inspector and I am looking to buy a home. I was told under no circumstances should I buy a home unless all the plugs are grounded. It is a deal breaker for us. However, we are willing to make an offer asking the seller to fix the grounding. A price reduction doesn't help us since that would be more of an upfront cost for us to get the electrical fixed and if there is a similar house that doesn't have the grounding with less of an upfront cost, I want the lower upfront cost.
Flag Thu Jan 28, 2016
Florida Home…, , Saint Augustine, FL
Tue Mar 31, 2009
Dear Newtonite

As a Home Inspector this is what I would have in my report if I have found that.
One or more open ground, 3-pronged receptacles were found. This is a safety hazard and poses a risk of electric shock. Recommend that a qualified, licensed electrician evaluate and make repairs as necessary.

Grounded receptacles began being required in residential structures during the 1960s. Based on the age of this structure and/or the absence of 2-pronged receptacles, recommend that a qualified, licensed electrician make repairs by correcting wiring circuits as necessary so all receptacles are grounded as per standard building practices. Replacement of 3-pronged receptacles with 2-pronged receptacles is not an acceptable solution.
When It is mentioned here in Florida it scares alot of buyers away.
For Your Own Safety and For Good Resell Value and Insurance You Have It upgraded or buy already upgraded.

Best Of Luck
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Bart Foster, Agent, Boston, MA
Wed Oct 8, 2008
Generally speaking, wiring in modern homes has an extra lead known as a ground. This is that round part of the socket where the longer post of the plug makes contact before any other part of the plug enters the socket. This terminal is tied back to the electrical panel which is then tied into a ground post or water main. Now is it really needed? On a quick survey around my living, dining and kitchen I find the following appliances and indicate which has a three prong plug or not: Rice cooker (nope), coffee maker (nope), electric iron (nope), laptop adapter (nope), cell phone charger qty 2 (nope), table lamp (nope), microwave oven (YUP), toaster / oven (nope) {not doing too good on the yups}, Comcast TV box (nope), multi-media tuner/amp (nope), Flat Panel TV (YUP)…. Must not be looking hard enough….. ok, Refrigerator (YUP). Vacuum (darn. NOPE) Gee looks like a lot of NOPEs. But wait: turns out every device with a nope, has a special plug where one pin is wider than the other and in fact most devices like my electric drill are double insulated. So bottom line, do not worry about it. Chances are you will also have few appliances that required the ground in the first place. Just update those that should be. Kitchen, Bath, and a few key plugs like that which will be used for the TV or desktop computer. But do upgrade the panel if it has fuzes.
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Michael Lefe…, Agent, Westborough, MA
Wed Oct 8, 2008
No, doesn't have to be a deal breaker. Very typical in older homes in the area. I agree, it should be updated throughout. Sellers are usually reasonable in this situation, in my experience. Get an estimate and work it into your offer. Sellers should be willing to work with qualified buyers like yourself in this market.

Good luck!

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Maria Morton, Agent, Kansas City, MO
Wed Oct 8, 2008
It is important from a safety standpoint to have your electrical up to code. Many older homes have 2 prong plugs. Some have really old knob wiring. Probably the inspector was wanting the home to have a new panel. Ususally they will want GFCI outlets around water such as bathrooms and kitchens. Whether or not the whole house has to be rewired is an important cost factor.
No, it is not usually a deal breaker but someone is going to have to pay for it.
Get an estimate from an electrician (maybe more than one) on the cost for each upgrade. Ask what is absolutely required, what is recommended and what is not really necessary unless the occupants want specific performance in certain areas. Then figure out who can pay how much.
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Scott Godzyk, Agent, Manchester, NH
Wed Oct 8, 2008
It is not usually a deal breaker if you know what you are getting into before yuou put in an offer. You can take it into consideration when making an offer or ask the seller to credit you $4000 to get the electric replaced. usually they will replace the panel and run new lines up to the outlets. On average it is $4000 but can be more if the house poses a greater challenge. You can always use the home inspection to ask for time to get an estimate then ask teh seller to credit you that amount or reduce the price by it. Good luck with your purchase.
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Cynthia Flem…, Agent, Laguna Niguel, CA
Wed Oct 8, 2008
Sometimes this can break a deal, sometimes not. The home inspector will most certainly bring this up as it is a safety hazard. I grew up in Mass and recently moved out to CA from New Hampshire so I've seen many homes with even knob and tube still in the old historic homes. For your own safety however, it should be brought up to code.
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