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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 for buyers, sellers, agents, and lenders. All it took was some knob and tube wiring to completely derail the plans to sell your house.
You were all set. Great buyer, a nice family, and you had already planned to move out of town or into another house. And now this. An electrical nightmare!
And as a result, you might be wondering how to sell a house with 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 an option that many homeowners don’t know exists to solve this conundrum. 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 me. 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 your 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 on 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!
- 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.
Can A House Be Sold With Knob And 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 your house is old, like many are in America, then the chances are high that dangerous electrical wiring is currently powering the building.
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 white porcelain components and the wire is a black single copper wire. As mentioned above, we won’t get into the technical details of how it works, 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 which is problematic for three-way switching.
The better question to now ask, is why the home inspector, appraiser, home insurance company, 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 a 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 wiring 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, damage, 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?
To fix this issue, you’re going to need a wiring replacement. Essentially, this requires a licensed, insured, and bonded electrician to replace knob and tube that is powering appliances, switches, and outlets currently using knob and tube with newer, better, and safer wiring. 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 of dollars to replace – not to mention the wall repairs and other cosmetic impacts. However, there might be non-invasive approaches to this if the old house has good access from the attic.
Are you mistaking k&t wiring with aluminum wiring? Both are dangerous old wiring systems and require professional attention.
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 or even sell your house with it. In fact, there’s no law that prohibits the sale of a 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 mortgage a home that may pose risk or potential loss. If it’s wired with knob and tube, the appraiser might flag that as a concern, and the lender could back out. Homeowner insurance companies may also shy away from covering homes wired with knob and tube systems.
- Insurers are going to want to see new and grounded electrical systems on all of the real estate they cover. 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 to invest to get the home into a safe condition.
A quick and easy way to identify knob and tube wiring is to check in your basement, attic, 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 and junction points to be located at the bottom or top of the building. Get to that level, and look around in the joist bays for knob and tube wires. Go a step further and buy a voltage tester to check if it’s active and live. Sometimes it gets replaced without being ripped out.
If you’re thinking about selling your house 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. No one likes a surprise.
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!
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.
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!
Surprise! Look what we found behind the drop ceiling. More knob and tube. You can see that the last guy took a shortcut 🙂
Selling A Home 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 has K&T wiring and you’re worried about that impacting the sale of the property. 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!
Can You Get A Mortgage With Knob And Tube Wiring?
Absolutely! It’s just not an easy thing to do. If you have the time, money, and patience to do it then more power to ya!
Here’s my succinct advice for closing on a home loan against a piece of real estate with knob and tube wiring:
- Get in front of all the people that are going to be impacted and involved in this issue. This includes: Insurance companies, electricians, and any other home insurance stakeholders (appraisers, inspectors, etc.)
- Do your own due diligence! Dig through the insulation to see if you have Romex or knob and tube electrical in your house. Be careful with this step as touching live circuit breakers, electrical wires or outlets could lead to electrocution!
- Ask your electrician for a wiring diagram when they walk the premise. You’re interested in all of the locations that may be powered by K&T wiring.
Does Knob and Tube Have To Be Disclosed?
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 of 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 an 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!
My House Won’t Sell Because of Knob and Tube Wiring
It’s quite possible that you have already marketed your home for sale and run into some issues with knob and tube electrical.
You already know how to identify knob and tube, and what it would cost to replace knob and tube and now you have a big decision to make.
Option 1 – Fix It
If you decide to fix it, then you’ll need a top-rated electrician to help you out. Ask someone who will be thorough in replacing all of your knob and tube. Here are some fantastic qualifying questions to ask as you interview professionals:
- What kind of ground wire are you going to install?
- Will you replace the attic insulation when the job is finished?
- What size circuit breakers are you going to use?
- Will you share a wiring diagram with me when the job is done?
If your electrician has trouble answering any of those questions then move on to the next person!
Option 2 – Sell It
K&T wiring is a problem you can sell to the next person. If this is the option you choose then it will be easier and quicker if you work with the right buyer. Dealing with mortgage and insurance companies on a financed offer is going to create more problems for you so steer clear and look for a professional home buyer.
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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 your 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, 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 a better and safer condition.
Best Way To Sell My House Pennsylvania
Signature Properties provides the easiest and simplest way to sell your house in Pennsylvania. We buy houses through fair and honest cash offers.🙂 Whether you are avoiding the bank from foreclosure, coming into an inheritance, going through divorce or any other situation – we have real estate solutions to get you the outcomes you desire when you sell your house to us. We help homeowners with costly home repairs, mounting liens, code enforcement violations and even vacant homes. Are you trying to sell your house in surrounding areas or other counties and states near Pennsylvania? We buy properties in New Jersey and Delaware as well as many other towns! In fact, we buy homes all over Pennsylvania. Come find out why selling to an investor is becoming the newest and best way to sell your house in Philadelphia in 2023 and beyond!