I had a call last week from a woman who wondered where she could find out if certain homes for sale were approved for FHA financing. As I talked to her about the fact that, for the most part, it takes an appraiser to determine whether or not a home qualifies, I tried to explain what she would need to look for so she could avoid paying for appraisals on property that may not qualify. It occurred to me that there was a good blog post in that explanation so here it goes!
FHA appraisers do a different type of appraisal than appraisers for conventional loans. They are more concerned with the health and safety of the borrowers. They look at the standard things that all appraisers look at, and they take it a little further. FHA is not only concerned with the property value but is also concerned with things like handrails on steps, broken windows, lack of screens, evidence of rodent infestation and other issues that don’t affect a normal appraisal to the same degree. If the house was built before 1978 and may have the potential for lead based paint, the FHA appraiser looks for peeling paint. The FHA appraiser needs to see that the bedrooms have egress in case of a fire, the windows have to work and if there are burglar bars they need to have the code approved methods of opening them from the inside in case of a fire. They want to see smoke detectors. The FHA appraiser needs to see window screens if there isn’t central air conditioning. They look at the remaining life of the roof and the furnace and hot water heaters and want to see a stove in the kitchen. The utilities have to be on during the appraisal and they check that the various components are working. The appraiser looks for evidence of environmental contaminants like asbestos and mold. The FHA appraiser looks for earth to wood contact and other evidence of termites.
So for the most part, the home has to be livable. If the carpet can be cleaned or the house needs paint to make it clean and fresh, this will not generally be enough to cause the appraiser to require that the work be done before closing (or after). If you want to read the actual FHA appraisal guidelines you can see an article from HUD here. The basic HUD website can be found here and the FHA Appraisal page has an overview of the entire process.