FHA/USDA Guidelines

What Is a Home Appraisal?

When using an FHA loan to purchase a house, an appraisal will need to be done before the loan can close.

A home appraisal is an estimate of the current market value of a property. When a property is purchased or refinanced a home appraisal is almost always required.

FHA Lenders use the appraisal to calculate the loan-to-value ratio of the loan. And to make sure the borrower is not paying more than the fair market value of the home.

This not only protects the borrower, but the lender as well.

If you’re a first-time buyer, or seller it’s important you know about the different factors that a home appraiser looks at.

Who Pays for the Appraisal and How Much are they

The FHA buyer will pay for the appraisal upfront before closing. The average FHA appraisal costs is between $350-$500 according to the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report (URAR). If you’re applying for an FHA streamline refinance the FHA guidelines do not require a home appraisal.

Main factors that affect the cost of an FHA appraisal

  • Square footage of the home
  • Property type
  • Location of the subject property
  • How much land is included in the property
  • Homes with extensive damage or repairs
  • The individual or company doing the appraisal

What FHA Appraisers look at

When buying a home using an FHA loan, you will be required to get an FHA appraisal. First, the home appraisal  is ordered by the mortgage lender. Next, the appraiser will perform a basic inspection on the property to make sure it meets the HUD property standards for FHA loans. In order for real estate to be classified as FHA approved it must pass the FHA property guidelines set by HUD.

The FHA Appraisal Process

  • Inspect the property’s interior and exterior structure and quality
  • Ensure lead-based paint is not present
  • Check for cracks, leaks, and damage to the exterior
  • Walls and ceilings in good condition without cracks or holes
  • Check quality of fixtures, plumbing, and appliances
  • Make note of any upgrades that may increase the value
  • Ensure the Landscape is in good condition
  • Check central heating and cooling systems
  • Take photos of the front, sides and back of the home. Along with photos of any upgrades that increase the homes value
  • Photos showing the condition of the lot
  • Include a copy of the location map showing the comparable sales

HUD minimum property standards 2017

The Housing and Urban Development, or HUD requires the appraiser to check for various health and safety items as well as quality construction items to ensure the property meets HUD’s minimum property requirements and meets the HUD Handbook 4000.1 for hazards and adverse conditions such as:

FHA appraisal checklist

  • Must be a complete marketable property
  • Adequate heating system
  • Clear of any lead based paints
  • No exposed electric wiring
  • Full exterior walls that are undamaged
  • No hazards in the home
  • Quality construction
  • Proper drainage
  • Quality roof not in need of repair
  • Safe and public access to the home
  • Safe drinking water
  • Crawl spaces must have natural ventilation
  • Gas, water, sewage, and electric utilities available

FHA Appraisal Changes for 2017

The FHA 4000.1 Handbook has made new revisions in the past few years to make sure FHA home appraisals are more accurate. Regrettably, in the early 2000’s there were numerous inaccurate FHA appraisals done that inflated homes values to allow FHA lenders to close a loan more easily.

As a result, HUD has cracked down on this practice and has made some revisions to the appraisal process and minimum property standards (MPS) in the FHA 4000.1 HUD Handbook that went into affect on September 14th, 2015. These revisions must be meet to qualify for FHA financing. These include many health and safety inspections.

FHA appraisers are now required to:

  • Ensure all appliances are operational
  • Fully access the attic space if able to do so
  • Check water heater functionality
  • “Inspection” portion is not referred to as “observation”
  • A roof that needs to be replaced within 2 years must be reported
  • Analyze and report marketability of homes in Airport zones
  • Income appraisal approach must be considered. (High priced homes in low income areas may have a lower market value)

How is the apprised value of a home determined?

An appraiser will determine the market value of a home by looking at comparable home sales in your area over the past 6 months. Next, they will compare the homes square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, condition of the home, and any special features. This information is included in the appraisal report and sent to the FHA-Approved lender.

How to increase home value for an appraisal 

  • Clean and touch up interior walls and repair any damage
  • Landscape should be mowed. bushes and trees trimmed
  • Exterior paint should be in good condition without cracks
  • Clean the home top to bottom and remove all clutter
  • Touch up paint on moldings and doors
  • Open all the windows and blinds to allow more light in
  • Steam clean the carpets and polish tile or wood floors
  • Repair any damaged fixtures, door handles, fans and lights


Check the HUD website for more information on home appraisals

You can find more information on HUD guidelines for appraisals and minimum property requirements for FHA on the HUD website. You can also view the HUD minimum property standards for housing handbook on the official HUD website.