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Electrical Dangers: What You Need To Know Before Buying An Abandoned House

If you are interested in buying a house that has been abandoned and vacant for a long time, it's important to understand the risks that are involved. Most abandoned homes are sold in a tax sale, which means you may not be able to walk through the house before you buy it. You may need to make electrical repairs before you move in to make the house safe and habitable. Here is a mini-guide of steps you may need to take.  

Secure the home from squatters

Squatters are people who move in to abandoned and vacant homes and live in them as if they own the properties. Unfortunately, many squatters do not take care of the property and, often, leave a huge mess. Abandoned houses that are being sold as-is are not cleaned up and prepared for sale as you would see when realtors show typical houses. However, even if the house has been staged for sale and the squatters have left, they could try to return.

Of course, you'll want to change the locks on all of the doors, but it may be a good idea to install a security system. Hire an electrician to install a security system, complete with audible alarms and motion detection flood lights to alert you and your family members when your home's security is breached. The electrician can also install an electronic alarm system that alerts the local police. Make sure all windows can be locked. Reprogram the garage door opener so all remote controls will be disabled, just in case a squatter has a remote.

Look for missing copper that may have been stolen

Typically, abandoned houses are empty, but that doesn't mean thieves haven't stolen from the property. Copper piping, tubing and wiring are hot commodities. Thieves cash in these items by taking them to scrap metal recyclers. Do not turn any appliances or equipment on before you have it inspected. Copper electrical wiring may have been stripped, which could result in a fire hazard with open wires.

Repairs and/or replacement of all missing copper materials may not be covered by homeowners insurance. However, they may be covered if those materials are required to bring the home up to code. Your local building code authority will be able to tell you what you will need to do to bring the house up to code. Speak with an insurance broker who can determine which policy would best suit your particular circumstance.

Do not turn utilities on until the house is checked for fire hazards

An open electrical wire, such as one that has been cut, can cause a spark when the electricity is turned on. This can cause a fire hazard. However, if there is also a gas leak present, turning on the electricity and allowing the open wire to spark could cause an explosion. It's a good idea to have homeowner's insurance coverage before anything gets turned on, just in case something goes wrong.

Hire an electrician to make sure there are no problems with the electrical wiring to reduce the risks of an electrical fire. But first, you'll need to be absolutely sure there is no gas leak inside the house. A spark from an open electrical wire could ignite a gas leak. Call the gas company or a plumber who specializes in gas-fittings to check for a gas leak before the electricity is turned on in the house.  

Buying an abandoned house can be a great way to invest in real estate property, but it can also be the beginning of a long string of headaches. It's important to understand what the hazards are before you begin working on getting the house in habitable conditions. Working with experienced contractors from companies like Advantage Electric is the best way to make sure than any wiring or other elements of the house are safe to use.