Found Your Dream Home Already? Get Familiar With This Electrical Inspection Checklist Before Buying

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated October 14, 2021
A female electrician checking a central heating
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What to expect when you're inspecting

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It’s normal to feel a little nervous about what an electrical inspection could reveal about the home you want to buy. The regulations for electrical systems are complicated, to say the least, making it tough to know the right questions to ask a licensed electrician during an inspection. Reading over a pre-inspection checklist can help you feel more in control and knowledgeable about the process. Here’s what you can expect from an electrical inspection. 

What Is an Electrical Inspection and Why Do I Need One?

An electrical inspection is a detailed review of your home’s electrical components, including wires, systems, and appliances. It goes above and beyond what a traditional home inspection covers. Along the way, inspectors also ensure the home meets all legal standards and the National Electrical Code (NEC). Here’s who often hires out for extra electrical expertise. 

Electric Meter

Your electrician will closely examine your outside electrical meter to ensure everyday weathering or curious rodents haven’t done significant damage. Your inspector will look for problems such as: 

  • An unstable attachment

  • Broken seals

  • Signs of water intrusion and rust

  • Damage from chewing creatures like squirrels and mice

Electrical Wires

An informed electrician will also examine the overall condition of the service cables to ensure they’re not damaged or deteriorating. Inside, the electrician will look for other common yet expensive problems like:

Other Wiring Hazards

Your inspection should also cover the outside wires leading into the house and other outdoor electrical systems like porch lighting. A breakdown of overloaded power strips or extension cords, as well as any unprotected or exposed wiring in lesser-visited places like the attic, basement, and crawl space, will also appear on your inspection report. 

The Electrical Panel and Circuit Breakers

The electrical panel (aka the circuit breaker panel) houses all circuit breakers, which prevents electrical currents from exceeding safe levels. Your electrician might recommend upgrading the circuit breaker panel if you’re buying an older property, especially if the main panel is missing a surge protector.

They will also test your electrical panel against a number of issues, including:

  • Insufficient clearance

  • Improperly sized circuit breakers

  • Oxidation or corrosion

  • Aluminum branch wiring

  • Overheated components

  • Evidence of moisture

Inspecting these panels can be dangerous; you should never remove an electrical panel yourself. 

Electrical Outlets and Switches

Close up of electrician checking a domestic light switch
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An electrician tests all electrical outlets in your home for safety and functionality. They also inspect the outlet plates’ condition, paying close attention to: 

  • Reversed polarity

  • Ungrounded circuits

  • Unsafe wiring

  • Discoloring

  • Damage

  • Looseness

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) and Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) Outlets

If you’re like most people, you probably don't know about the difference between a GFCI outlet and an AFCI outlet. Both outlets are crucial to your home’s safety, but they each serve a different purpose. Ask your electrician to show you where they are in your home after inspecting their functionality. 

  • GFCI: A GFCI outlet prevents electrocution. These outlets contain small circuit breakers that shut off when overloaded or if there is a short circuit. Look for these in your basement, garage, kitchen, and bathrooms.

  • AFCI: An AFCI device helps prevent fires caused by loose or damaged electrical connections and wiring. They are required in most rooms, including the kitchen, family, dining, and living rooms, bedrooms, and laundry rooms.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector Testing and Placement

The electrician will verify whether the house has enough protection and that each unit works properly. Proper placement for each detector is also important. Your inspector will confirm that:

  • The carbon monoxide detectors are between knee and chest height

  • Combo carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, or stand-alone smoke detectors are placed at ceiling height

  • Each bedroom and every floor is covered under adequate protection to detect trouble as early as possible

What Should I Do if the Electrical Inspection Uncovers Problems?

After recording their findings, your electrician will put together a report itemizing each issue they’ve uncovered, plus their recommendations for fixing the problems. Usually, your electrician will rank them by priority. Then, as the potential buyer, you’ll have options for how to use the information. 

  • Request the homeowners fix the issues before the sale

  • Talk with your real estate agent about negotiating a lower sale price to fix the repairs on your own

  • Walk away from the deal, depending on the language in your contract

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