What is the minimum height a crawl space must have for an FHA loan?

What do buying cigarettes, joining the military and crawl space height for FHA loans have in common? The number 18. If you’ve ever wondered what the minimum requirement for crawl space height is according to FHA standards, it’s 18 inches. Well, technically our FHA Home Ownership Center (Santa Ana) says that 18 inches is considered a reasonable level or starting place, so there is room for interpretation on height to a certain extent. Basically though, the point is that there needs to be enough room to access the entire crawl space (not just part of it). This means if a property has 8, 10, 12, or 14 inches, it’s pretty hard to access a space that tight. That’s why 18 is a good number in the eyes of FHA.

crawl space for FHA - by Sacramento Real Estate Appraiser

Not Enough Space = Problem: If you didn’t know, FHA appraisers do a “head and shoulders” inspection of the crawl space to look around, so that’s how these issues are discovered. Appraisers are not required to look through the entire crawl space, but it’s easy to get the gist of what’s happening under the house by using a flashlight. Recently I was in the middle of an FHA appraisal inspection and noticed the crawl space was really uneven throughout. Some portions of the crawl space were 18 inches, but quite a bit of the crawl space was 12 inches or less (due to crazy additions, but that’s another story). I decided to contact my client to let them know what was going on because the expense for digging out the crawl space was most definitely not on the radar of the buyer. Sure enough, the buyer ended up backing out of the deal and the owner has decided to market the property to conventional buyers instead of FHA buyers.

Don’t Worry: Most houses do not have this issue, so if you’re a buyer or agent, this isn’t something to worry about. However, it’s simply something to keep in the back of your mind. If you see a crawl space, give a quick peek because it might help you determine if the house is eligible for an FHA loan in the first place. Lastly, the rules for crawl space height may be different in other parts of the country, so refer to your respective FHA Homeownership Resource Center.

I hope this was helpful to answer some of your questions. You can check out other FHA appraisal articles I’ve written, and definitely comment below if you’d like. Email or call with any questions.

If you have any questions or Sacramento area real estate appraisal or property tax appeal needs, contact me by phone 916-595-3735, email, Twitter, subscribe to posts by email or “like” my page on Facebook


  1. Courtney says

    Hello! I live in Ohio and am going FHA. The appraisal came back 3 days before closing and is claiming that 18″ is required. I’m getting different answers all over the Web and everyone I call has a different answer. Can you recommend the most reliable resource to find our if this is a guideline or a strict rule? Is this left to the underwriter to decide? Thank you.

    • says

      Hi Courtney. It can be frustrating to get different answers. The reason for that is because there is no definite number (as I wrote about in the post). The most authoritative answer you can get though is from the HUD Resource Center. You might consider calling them at 800-CALL-FHA. I wish you the best.

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