House Won’t Sell Because of Knob and Tube Wiring

Knob & Tube. Quite possibly the last words you want to hear from a home inspector. These are the words of utter disappointment and absolute frustration. All it took was some knob and tube wiring to completely derail the plans to sell your house in Philadelphia. You were all set. Great buyer, nice family and you had already made your plans to move out of town or into another house. And now this. An electrical nightmare! And as a result, your house won’t sell because of knob and tube wiring.

Even worst yet – if this deal falls through, your agent must now disclose that the house has knob & tube wiring for the next buyer. How will you ever fix this? How much is it going to cost? Is it possible to salvage the deal you have now and just offer more money off the agreed upon price? You need some answers and we’re going to help you get them.

First, some introductions. I’m Doug. I’m not a licensed electrician. I’m not a real estate agent. And most importantly, I am not a lawyer or attorney.

The advice I am going to share with you in this post is purely my opinion. Have I ever bought a house full of knob and tube wiring? Yes, I have. So I can surely tell you some things to look out for.

I’m not going to leave you and your buyers hanging without all the details, facts, opinions, perspectives and thoughts from my team and I. We don’t want your deal to fall apart over some knob and tube wiring – although many sales do. And furthermore, we don’t want your house to sit on the market, going in and out of contract with buyers, and ultimately never selling. We know you’re house won’t sell because of knob and tube wiring and we can help you fix that problem. Knob and tube wiring is dangerous, it’s fixable and it’s nothing to take lightly.

*What we won’t cover in this piece is all of the technical details and science behind electrical wiring. While that is important, we want to instead focus the pending sale of your home and how dated wiring, such as knob and tube, can really hinder that. Because at the end of the day, you want to sell your house and this wiring headache is only getting in the way!


MAIN TAKEAWAYS:

  • You didn’t know it, but your house has knob and tube wiring. Now you’re trying to sell it and it’s wreaking havoc on you and your agent’s lives. What is knob and tube wiring and why is it dangerous? How common is knob and tube wiring?
  • Are you now wondering if your old house still has some knob and tube wires supplying you and your loved ones with power? Let’s walk through some more examples to help you out!
  • Can you sell a house that has knob and tube wiring? There are many options to consider: you can rewire the house with newer and safer wiring, you can offer the buyer a concession to pay for an electrician or you can sell it as-is to an investor.

Selling a Home With Knob & Tube Wiring

It’s one thing to finally decide you want to sell your house. It’s another emotional rollercoaster to get it under contract and then find out that the inspector found knob and tube electrical wires. If you’re house is old, like many are in Philadelphia, then the chances are high that dangerous electrical wiring is currently powering the building.

Selling a House With Knob & Tube Wiring

If a picture like this shows up on your buyer’s inspection report, then it’s safe to say you have knob and tube wiring. The knobs and tubes are the white porcelain components and the wire is the black single copper wire. As mentioned above, we won’t get into the technical details of this but knob and tube wiring is dangerous because the system includes no grounding conductor. It also allows for splicing inside of walls without junction boxes and is very problematic for three way switching.

The better question to now ask, is why is the home inspector, appraiser and buyer are all in a kerfuffle over this. Don’t homes sell all the time that are wired like this? They sure did in the past and to some extent still do so today. Why is it now, all of the sudden, dangerous and becoming a deal breaker? Why is it that MY HOUSE won’t sell because of knob and tube wiring while some of my other neighbors will? The big issue is going to be ungrounded electrical wires. Knob and tube poses risk because it is not grounded.

Grounded (ˈɡroundid) – an electrical device or wire connected to the ground.

Electricity is safer when it’s grounded because it provides excess power the most efficient and safest route from an appliance back to the ground by way of an electrical panel. Grounded electricity, which is not possible through knob and tube, is a pathway that is used if there is a fault in the wiring system. It prevents electrocution, damages and fire in homes all around the world.

Wait a second…”not possible through knob and tube”? Do you mean I can’t fix my knob and tube to be grounded…and therefore safe…and then my house will finally sell?

The fix to this issue is going to be a rewire. Essentially, this requires a licensed, insured and bonded electrician to rewire the appliances, switches and outlets currently using knob and tube with newer, better and safer means. Today’s wires are all grounded and much safer. So while it’s not possible to “fix” existing knob and tube wiring systems, it’s very possible to replace them with new romex or other grounded wires.

If your house is under contract and the buyer wants you to replace the knob and tube wiring before closing, then this could be a very expensive update. If the whole house is wired that way, it could cost thousands to replace – not to mention the wall repairs and other impacted cosmetics.

Knob and Tube Wiring In Homes

Knob and tube wires are very common in older homes.

And it’s not “illegal” to have it, use it and sell your house with it. In fact, there’s no law that prohibits the sale of the home that is powered by knob and tube wires. The reasons it becomes such an issue during a transaction is because:

  • Buyers expect new and safe wiring – especially first time home buyers.
  • Lenders want to lend on homes that do not pose risk or potential loss. If it’s wired with knob and tube, the appraiser might raise that as a concern and the lender could back out. This is not an ideal situation if the financing falls through.
  • Insurers are going to want to see new and grounded electrical systems. If the house has knob and tube it is prone to fire damage and other costly repairs. Insurance companies will hike rates on these older homes for this reason alone! Expect higher premiums.
  • Home inspectors have a fiduciary duty to make sure their client, the buyer, is getting a safe and efficient home. Knob and tube wiring is a big red flag for home inspections. It’s just more money the prospective buyer is going to have invest to get the home into safe condition.

BONUS CONTENT:

A quick and easy way to tell if your home currently uses knob and tube wiring is to check in your basement or crawl space. You’re looking for an accessible way to look at the wiring that powers your home. It’s very typical for panels to be located in the bottom of the building. Get down to that bottom level, look up and check the joist bays for knob and tube wires. Go a step further and buy a voltage tester to make sure it’s active and live. Sometimes it gets replaced without being ripped out.

If you’re thinking about selling your house in Philadelphia then this might be a good thing to do before you list it with an agent or approach a buyer that’s interested. This way it won’t stall the process or require price concessions in the future.


Examples of Homes For Sale With Knob and Tube Wiring

Let’s take a look at some homes with knob and tube wiring that had trouble selling. These are homes that my team and I ended up working on. Nobody wanted to deal with the headache and hassle and there were no lenders willing to finance a house that had knob and tube.

We stepped into these deals and offered to purchase the home from the seller to help them gid rid of their knob and tube nightmares and leave the rest to us!

Example 1:

Live knob and tube wiring in a rowhouse in Philadelphia. The homeowner did not know that the ceiling fans and overhead lighting was being powered by an ungrounded and fault-prone wire.

Example 2:

Evidence of knob and tube wiring in exposed walls. These wires produced live signals and presented elevated risk – even the one that was plastered shut! Yikes!

Example 3:

Surprise! Look what we found behind the drop ceiling. More knob and tube. You can see that the last guy took a shortcut 🙂

How To Sell A House With Knob and Tube Wiring

Are you ready for the secret? I bet by now you’re just sick and tired of seeing and hearing about knob and tube wires.

You found out that your house won’t sell because of knob and tube wiring, but you still want to sell. Are you just out of luck? What’s the trick?

The trick is this: SELL IT TO THE RIGHT BUYER.

You need to forget about focusing on selling the house and showing it to everyone and their mother. There’s an old adage in real estate that basically says you only need one person to buy your house. And although agents and others will try to tell you it’s all about getting it marketed and maximum exposure, the truth is that if you find the right one person to buy your house then you don’t have to do all of that.

So who is the right person to buy your house? The person who knows that it’s full of knob and tube and still wants to purchase. Who is that?

Investors Can Fix Knob and Tube Wiring

That’s right. An investor. And remember, all you need is one.

Why is an investor a better choice than other buyers?

  • No Contingencies – An investor will offer to purchase your house, including all the knob and tube wiring, without any contingencies. This is in total contrast to what you can expect from a regular home buyer. Investors will waive their inspection contingencies knowing that the electrical needs work. Expect to get a lower offer, but you already knew that. And if it means you don’t need to go out and hire an electrician then that’s more money back in your pocket right there!
  • Expert Renovators – Investors aren’t waivered by old homes and their deficiencies. In fact, they thrive on taking dated building and bringing life back into them. Fixing the knob and tube wiring is likely going to just one of the many projects they take on while purchasing your home.
  • No Lenders – Don’t expect an investor to include an appraisal contingency in their offer. Why? Because they likely are either going to pay all cash or leverage a hard money lender for the transaction. This means no red-tape from the conventional lenders and no additional eyes on all the knob and tube wiring.

Now you know. Get yourself an investor who wants your home regardless of the dated wiring. What’s even more wonderful about dealing with an investor is that you can typically find them without hiring an agent.

If you live in Philadelphia and your house is filled with dangerous knob and tube wiring then call my team at Signature Properties. We are a local investor and we’d love to purchase your house and inherit your wiring headache. We work with licensed electricians all around the city to fix knob and tube wiring.

So instead of having everyone rummage through your house and make a big deal over your ungrounded wires, just work with us instead. We aren’t realtors so you’ll save another 6% right there. Oh yeah, we also cover all the closing costs. Heck, you might even make more money by going with us!

You Just Found Out Your House Has Knob and Tube – What Do You Do Next?

Well, if you are trying to sell the house then take a pause and think about your options.

One thing you probably want to avoid is listing the house with an agent and having it go in and out contract for months on end. Remember, once the first buyer finds knob and tube then that now needs to be disclosed to future buyers before they offer. You can see how this unravels rather quickly!

One option, if you have the time and money, is to hire and electrician to fix it. That can be a long and arduous process though. Tradesmen (and women) are in very high demand at the time of writing this. Many people have trouble just getting someone to call them back, let alone give them a quote. And then what happens if you pay them and they don’t finish the job? Talk about a headache.

If you don’t want to take on that kind of administrative nightmare yourself, then think about finding an investor to purchase your home. As mentioned above, it will save you time, money and a whole lot of frustration!

Final Takeaways – What To Do About Knob and Tube Wiring?

Well…it depends. This article may have helped you think differently about knob and tube wiring. No doubt, it’s dangerous and very serious.

If you’re house won’t sell because of knob and tube wiring then you’re going to want to make sure you have a plan.

I would recommend taking some time to think through the pros and cons. Ask yourself what is a realistic and optimal way for you to walk away from that feeling resolved and confident that you got a fair deal. Usually it means just selling the place to an investor, but it doesn’t always have to be that way.

If you’re interested in having a professional electrician come out to take a look at your knob and tube wiring in Philadelphia, then call my team at Signature Properties and we can put you in touch with our electrician who will take great care of you and show you some options for getting your house in better and safer condition.

Doug Greene

Doug Greene is a creative real estate investor, master content curator and evangelist for easier, better and more enjoyable real estate experiences for all. He owns Signature Properties, a Philadelphia real estate company that solves unique problems for homeowners and investors. His work has been featured on Yahoo Finance, AOL, Family Handyman and many more authoritative publications.

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