Some important things to know about water heaters and FHA

After reading this post, you will hopefully be more prepared to play the “FHA water heater” category on Jeopardy. This means you could win lots of money. Okay, maybe not, but let’s do some thinking together anyway.

gas or electric water heater - sacramento appraisal blog

Is it gas or electric? First off, how do you know if a water heater is gas or electric? Both water heaters look very similar to the untrained eye, but there are some noticeable differences when you really compare the two. As you can see in the image above, there is a gas line going into the gas water heater, but no such line going into the electric water heater. Additionally, there is a vent on top of the gas water heater, but no vent on the electric. You might notice too the gas water heater has a space for a pilot light, but there is no pilot light on the electric water heater. I know this is elementary, but it’s good to rehearse since not everyone is a water heater Jedi.

FHA water heater requirements - Sacramento Appraisal Blog

What does FHA say about water heaters? It’s important to realize FHA does not create or enforce code. FHA simply defers to local code for water heater requirements. This means if local code mandates particular types of water heater straps, requirements for a pressure release valve or whether a water heater is on or off the ground, that’s what the home owner, real estate agent and appraiser should be paying attention to during an FHA transaction (or any transaction).

In the case of the photo above, the gas water heater (do you see the gas line?) was originally directly on the ground when it should have been raised 18 inches off the ground per Sacramento County code. Gas water heaters are required to be elevated so the pilot light is removed from any gas fumes lurking just above the floor. If the water heater had been electric though, it could have been on the garage floor per county code since electric water heaters do not have a pilot light (which means there is not a gas and flame danger). Lastly, regardless of whether the water heater is gas or electric, earthquake straps are required in California on standard water heaters.

Ultimately since the gas water heater was on the ground during an FHA appraisal inspection, it had to be raised to meet current code. This is always what needs to happen during an FHA loan due to local standards. Keep in mind some conventional lenders have strict guidelines about water heaters, but many do not. It is a case by case basis whether a conventional lender would require the water heater to be raised or strapped.

Action Step: If you are wondering what your city or county says about water heater installation for your specific situation, you ought to give the building department a call. There are honestly so many different water heater scenarios depending on size and location, so it is important to ask these questions to your city or county so you can get the definitive answer. I know a thing or two about water heaters, but I won’t know the answers to all of your questions. Please note also that specific water heater requirements in one area of the country may be different from other states (this is again one reason why you should call your city or county).

FHA Article Library: I hope this was helpful. If you’re looking for more information on FHA property or appraisal standards, you can check out other FHA appraisal articles I’ve written.

Any thoughts, questions or stories to share? Comment below.

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A sign of quick appreciation in Sacramento?

Is this the market or is it too aggressive? I appraised a few newly constructed units recently in a development in Sacramento’s 95829 zip code. It was interesting to go into the sales office two times over 45 days only to find that prices had increased by nearly 4-6% over this short time period. Is this the story you’re seeing in the real estate trenches or is it too quick? Whatever the case, it’s definitely not sustainable over the long haul to have values increase exponentially like this.

appreciation new construction Sacramento County

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Some things I’ve seen lately in real estate

Today I wanted to share some of the small but interesting things I’ve seen lately while out in the field during appraisal inspections. All of these images help illustrate something about real estate.

1) Iron Bars & New Construction:

white iron bars on a newly construced house

Does anything catch your eye about this house? When driving through a two-year old neighborhood in Elk Grove, this property caught my attention because it’s literally the only house with iron bars on the front. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with bars or even that they adversely affect value, but they are definitely not typical for this neighborhood. It’s always important to consider that the type of fence or front yard presentation can impact value. Is this a positive, negative or neutral feature? Would it be a big deal if every house on the street had bars?

2) A fireplace chopped in half:

No fireplace

What’s the story here with this house on 12th Avenue? Maybe a recent attic conversion along with other additions? Or maybe a fireplace relocation? By the way, I asked a handful of real estate agents recently if they would ever recommend removing a fireplace and their response was overwhelmingly no. What do you say?

3) Loose straps

FHA water heater straps

Appraisers aren’t code enforcement officers, but they do know something about code for water heaters. While many conventional lenders do not require the appraiser to verify if the water heater is double-strapped (some do), FHA appraisers do need to ensure the water heater complies with local standards. In the instance above, the water heater was clearly not properly strapped since I shouldn’t have been able to easily fit my entire hand between the strap and the heater. And no, I’m not a hand model.  🙂

4) A “shocking” light switch location:

light swich inside shower

I was surprised to find this light switch literally inside of the shower. Do you think this might be a safety issue?

5) An appraisal in 1996:


This is a California Market Data Cooperative book from the 1990s. These books are full of charts of real estate sales information, and they used to be published almost monthly before sales data went online in 1998 through Metrolist in Sacramento. I have a stack of these books in my office right now since I’m doing a “Date of Death” appraisal based on a date in 1996. I’ll use these CMDC books to find comps, verify sales data and analyze market trends. It’s definitely a tedious process to establish a value this way, but I’m grateful these books are at my disposal thanks to my membership with the Real Estate Appraiser’s Association of Sacramento (REAA). Otherwise I was going to need to contact some long-time brokers to find someone willing to lend or rent me these books.

6) My backyard garden

Before and after of our garden

Lastly, this is personal real estate for me. I mentioned in the beginning of the year one of my goals was to finish the backyard garden that was supposed to be done last year. I’m pleased to announce that after ripping out 30% or so of my rear lawn last year, and then putting the project on hold for about nine months, I finally finished the job last week. I’ll be honest, it feels really good to check this goal off my list.

Have you seen anything interesting lately relating to real estate?

If you have any questions or Sacramento home appraisal or property tax appeal needs, let’s connect by phone 916-595-3735, email, Twitter, subscribe to posts by email (or RSS) or “like” my page on Facebook

Why are there bottles full of urine in this house?

Let’s touch on a darker side of real estate today. I’m really not trying to gross you out, but things like this are sometimes a reality for agents and appraisers when inspecting dank and filthy distressed properties. This house had bottles full of urine throughout the front room. Why is that?

Win a $5 Starbucks Gift Card: Put on your thinking cap and let me know your thoughts. There is an answer that may be obvious to some, but the most creative response below or on Facebook wins the gift card.

bottles of pee in house

Thank you to Realtor Anne Graviet for letting me share this photo. This certainly illustrates the less-than-clean side of real estate, doesn’t it? For reference foreclosures only represent about 12% of the market right now in Sacramento County compared with 73% of the market four years ago. I always take a shower immediately after inspecting houses like this.

If you have any questions or Sacramento home appraisal or property tax appeal needs, let’s connect by phone 916-595-3735, email, Twitter, subscribe to posts by email (or RSS) or “like” my page on Facebook