QDEAR BARRY: We bought our home several months ago and hired a home inspector to check it out. He reported a list of routine defects but said nothing about the adequacy of the electric service. Last week we called an electrician to do some minor electrical work, and he said our electrical panel does not meet code and must be upgraded. According to the electrician, our home inspector should have mentioned this in his report. The cost for a new panel is more than $1,200. Do we have any recourse? -- Ray

ADEAR RAY: Older homes often have electrical systems and service panels of lesser capacity than would be required for newer homes. In houses built since the mid-1950s, service capacities typically range from 100 to 200 amps, depending upon the overall electrical demand of the system. Older homes had systems designed to accommodate lesser electrical demands. This, however, does not mean that an electrical upgrade is warranted in every vintage home.

If the main panel in a home is an old 30-amp fuse box, that would be seriously substandard, and a home inspector would be remiss in not recommending an upgrade.

If, on the other hand, the system is a 70-amp breaker panel of the kind commonly installed through the mid-1950s, an inspector would need to point out that it is marginally adequate, but upgrading that kind of system would not be necessary in every case. For instance, in a small home with few built-in appliances, the old panel might be reasonably acceptable.

However, if an old house with a 70-amp panel had been enlarged or if the kitchen had been remodeled and a host of modern appliances had been installed, then a recommendation for a larger electrical service would certainly be in order.

Ask the electrician to perform a written load calculation. This is a computation to determine the service size needed to meet the electrical demands of a home, based upon the number and size of circuits and fixtures in the home. Once you have this in hand, contact your inspector. Ask that he come to your home to re-inspect the panel.

DEAR BARRY: I found my dream home and had it inspected. The only item of concern involved some roof repairs. The seller offered me a choice: He can repair the roof or he can credit the cost of repair against the purchase price of the home. What do your recommend? -- Eli

DEAR ELI: If a seller offers to make roof repairs, this is acceptable as long as the work is performed by a licensed roofing contractor, not by the seller himself. If he gives you cash or a credit through escrow, the amount should be set based on a bid submitted by a licensed roofing contractor.

This will insure that the credit you receive will not be a less than you eventually pay when the work is done.

Barry Stone is a professional home inspector. If you have questions or comments, contact him through his Web site, www.housedetective.com, or send mail to 1776 Jami Lee Ct., Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.

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