As a real estate agent have you had to deal with a home inspector who called out an electrical panel box called "Federal Pacific Stab-Lok" ? No. Well be prepared if you haven't because you soon will.
Due to the fact that these electrical panel boxes have a high rate of failure, many inspection companies to include Hancock Home Inspections will recommend these panel boxes to be upgraded. Some insurance companies will not insure a property with one of these panel boxes present. Some that do will require an electricians certification before writing a homeowners policy. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet a reputable electrical contractor willing to stick their neck out on these panels and certify one.
So what is the problem with these panels? Without getting overly technical they fail to trip under overload circumstances and create a fire hazard. While there are varying opinions on repair, the general and overwhelming consensus is that it is best to replace these panels in their entirety. The FPE Stab-Lok Technical Report describes independent research explaining the hazards involved with FPE Stab-Lok panels and includes a link to the most current and easily printable .pdf version of that document.
So why do you as a realtor need to know about this situation? Because as part of an inspection it is likely this panel box will be called out, and the buyer of the home may ask the seller of the home to replace it. Or, if it gets beyond this point, the buyer at the time of obtaining their insurance binder and right before closing, may be hit with a last minute situation for you to deal with in order to keep the deal together. The insurance company may deem the home uninsurable as a result of having this panel present. This could delay the closing. Knowing this situation ahead of time is your best defense.
So what do these panels look like? You need not be an expert in the electrical field to identify one of these panel boxes. They are easily identified. The outside of the panel box with have a tag on it that reads " Federal Pacific". This is the manufacturer. When you open the cover you will see red tips on the breakers. This is the easiest way to identify these panel boxes. You may also see if not worn off, another tag on the inside that reads " Stab-Lok" This is the model.
For additional information: Google search Federal Pacific Stab-Lok Panel box or visit www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/FPESummary.htm