When purchasing a home built in the late 50's, what are some of the concerns to look out for when it comes to the electrical system?
Have a great Memorial Day weekend!
It may not have any grounding outlets installed (or grounds run to the junction boxes).
It depends on the exact code that was in affect at the time of construction in the jurisdiction.
Not having grounding available at outlets is not as big a deal as some make it out to be.
Many devices do not use the ground anyway (2-prong plugs).
It also invites illegal use if 3-prong plugs and 'bootleg' ground, or simply not hooking any ground up to the receptacle.
The only correct way to install a 3-prong plug in place of a 2-prong is to use a GFCI receptacle (or breaker) or run a ground wire with the other wires in the circuit (you cannot just pick any handy ground nearby and connect to it).
Hopefully you have an inspection clause, since most common cheats (like bootleg grounds or no grounds on a 3-prong receptacle) are easily found with a plug in tester.
The larger issue may be the size of the service.
We use a lot more electricity than anyone thought of back in the 1950s.
You may find there are not very many receptacles in some rooms.
If you have an unfinished basement or adequate crawlspace (at least 2 feet of clearance, and more is better) it is not that hard to add new circuits and receptacles.
In a one story house attic access allows new circuits to be installed.
Brickeye is right about the grounded outlets, but you can't always tell by looking at them. I lived in a 1959 house that had grounded cable run to every outlet box, but no grounded outlets were originally installed.
In my current house, there are some grounded outlet boxes that do not have have grounded outlets. In one case, there was an outlet box that had a cable with ground running to it and a two-prong outlet, but it was not a good ground. At least there was not a grounded outlet installed! I abandoned the whole circuit and ran new cable to all the boxes because I needed some of outlets grounded.
Some insurance companies don't like fuse panels either. If there are additions to the house, the main service and panel may not be of adequate capacity. If you have any doubts, get a specific electrical inspection.
Kitchens in the 50s were not wired for the type or number of electrical appliances that you find in today's homes.
Two 20 amp convienence outlet circuits are now required there, and are a good idea, too.
No device that is normally left plugged in should need or use an extension cord to reach an outlet.