Real Estate Investors looking at foreclosures may need to be warier than before when it comes to checking out a home’s electrical system.
I do not know if this is a growing trend among those winterizing foreclosures, or if I am just connecting the dots in a wrong way, but I am finding a trend among some foreclosures that is quite disturbing. The trend is disconnecting the wires from receptacles and switches by one method or another in foreclosures, but whoever is disconnecting these wires has done it in such a way that the house could burn down from an electrical fire.
I noticed this practice in a specific type of foreclosure. These were homes that had been in the process of being remodeled, but the homes were not completed. In the first case, the wires had been cut behind the walls. Inside the outlet, you would see wires connected to the proper screws. In the next two, the wires had been pulled into the junction box, stripped so they were ready to be attached, and then pushed back into the box. When I had flipped one circuit breaker on, I produced a nice little bang. I noticed a few fixtures came on. Most appeared to have no power though. Using a tester to see if there was power in the wires, I discovered that they were energized. No tape or wire nut had been placed over the exposed ends. This could electrocute someone who was not paying attention. This set up also allowed wires to come in contact, which can cause a fire. I did smell an electrical burning odor at one point.
This practice is not a proper way to winterize a home. No electrician or home inspector is going to check to see if the outlets are wired properly before turning on the power. We look for obvious signs of concern, then we go to the service panel. If everything looks alright in the panel, we turn on the power. I imagine that real estate investors would probably check if lights are working. If they have some knowledge, they might check out the panel before turning on the power. If you are getting pops from the circuit breaker or you are smelling an electrical fire while fixtures are not coming on, you may have this problem.
I realize that many real estate investors may not use home inspectors, but these cases may be a precautionary tale to either have a home inspector on hand or to be more careful when dealing with a foreclosure.