If you use an FHA loan to buy a house, the property will have to be appraised and inspected by a HUD-approved home appraiser. This individual will determine the current market value of the property, and will also inspect it to ensure it meets HUD's minimum property standards. Here is an overview of FHA appraisal guidelines in 2017, based on current policy handbooks.
What Is an Appraisal?
Let's start with a quick definition. An appraisal is an expert assessment of a particular product or asset (in this case a house) to determine its value. Within the context of FHA loans, the purpose of the appraisal is to determine the market value of the home that is being purchased.
During this process, the appraiser will look at comparable properties that have sold recently, in the same area as the one being purchased. He will also visit the "subject house" and evaluate it both inside and out. After this review process, the appraiser will write a report to detail his findings. The report will include an estimated value of the home, as well as any required repairs. The report will then be sent to the mortgage lender for review and further action.
How the FHA Process Is Different from a 'Regular' Transaction
Home buyers and homeowners are often surprised to find that FHA appraisal guidelines include detailed instructions for inspecting the property. This is different from a standard appraisal, where the appraiser mainly wants to know what the house is worth. When a Federal Housing Administration home loan is being used, the appraiser basically must perform double duty.
Here are the primary differences:
Conventional: In a typical real estate transaction, where a conventional (non-government-insured) home loan is being used, the appraiser is mostly concerned with the current market value of the property in question. That is his primary objective when visiting the house. He is only concerned with the condition of the property as it relates to the value.
FHA: When an FHA loan is being used, the appraiser has two objectives. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires him to determine the current market value, as with any appraisal. But they also require a property inspection to make sure the home meets HUD's minimum standards for health and safety. This is the "double duty" mentioned earlier. It's what makes the FHA appraisal process unique.
So, the primary difference between FHA and regular appraisals is the level of inspection that is required by HUD. If the HUD-approved appraiser flags certain issues -- such as peeling paint, loose handrails, or other safety issues -- those issues must be corrected before the loan will be funded. In other words, the transaction will be put on "hold" until the discrepancies are resolved. That is not the case with a regular appraisal used for a conventional home loan.
Home buyers would be wise to have a complete "regular" home inspection separate from the "health-and-safety" inspection conducted by the FHA appraiser. HUD actually encourages this. All borrowers who use this program have to sign a disclosure that says, "I understand the importance of getting an independent home inspection. I have thought about this before I signed a contract with the seller for a home."
To clarify: HUD requires an appraisal (with a built-in health-and-safety inspection). They do not require a regular home inspection -- but they strongly encourage it. This is a source of common confusion among buyers and sellers alike.