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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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

FHA Appraiser Tip: Strapped water heaters & garage doors in Sacramento

There are many requirements for a property to qualify for an FHA loan. It’s important to understand all the little things if you are considering getting an FHA loan, selling your Sacramento area house or listing a property for a client. If you didn’t know, FHA loans comprised 28% of the market in 2010 in the Sacramento area, so details like this are very important.

In this video I take one minute to discuss the importance of water heater straps and self-closing garage doors. You can view other videos and FHA content here. Keep me posted if you have any questions.

If you have any real estate appraisal, valuation consulting, or property tax appeal needs, contact me at 916.595.3735, or via Facebook.