Does a fence need to be painted to meet FHA standards?

Does a fence need to be painted or stained to meet FHA minimum property standards? During an FHA refinance an appraiser recently told a home owner that his fence needed paint or stain for the loan to work. Is that really true though? Let’s dig into this issue. I’d love to hear your take in the comments.

FHA appraisal standards for wood fence - sacramento appraisal blog

The Quick Gist: FHA requires appraisers to identify defective paint surfaces on a home’s exterior (which also includes the fence). However, this doesn’t mean a fence actually needs to be painted. Being that most fences such as cedar, cypress, and redwood are already considered a sustainable wood (or sealed or treated), they don’t actually need to be painted. Think about it practically in that new home builders don’t paint their fences and neither do the vast bulk of property owners. But if a fence has been painted in the past and now has defective paint (peeling, chipping, flaking), then the defective portion should be scraped and sealed according to FHA standards (see p 497 in FHA Manual 4000.1 for a paragraph on defective paint).

FHA-photo-by-Ryan-LundquistThe Reality: Appraisers are not trained to identify whether wood is sealed or not. Maybe some appraisers have that skill set, but most probably don’t. While on the phone with HUD yesterday I even asked them how an appraiser would specifically identify a fence that was not sealed. Crickets. The person on the phone did not have an answer other than to say FHA requires a fence to be sealed from the elements. This means a reasonable focus for appraisers would be to call out defective paint on fences, but otherwise assume the wood is sealed unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise. Does that seem like good common sense? One further point to consider is something my friend Realtor Dean Rinker said in a conversation recently. Even if the standard was the fence needed to be painted, would that also include the neighbor’s portion of the fence too? Imagine that.

14727880 - 3d illustration: a group of cans of paint and roller

Yeah, but the house was built in 1968: I’ve seen people quote the following section from the old FHA manual (or a recent FAQ) in support that fences need to be painted. The idea is that if a fence was built before 1978 when lead-based paint was used, then the home’s fence should be painted to curb any safety issue. First off, if the fence has never been painted, there is NO safety issue with lead-based paint. Thus the age of the house is not the driving issue in this conversation on fences. Most of all, this section states an appraiser should be looking for defective paint on the fence, but it does NOT state the fence needs paint. It is true FHA does not want bare wood on the house, but it is entirely normal for fences to be “bare” (keep in mind wood on fences is sealed or treated though, so it is technically not bare).

If the home was built before 1978, the appraiser should note the condition and location of all defective paint in the home. Inspect all interior and exterior surfaces – wars [sic], stairs, deck porch, railing, windows and doors – for defective paint (chipping, flaking or peeling). Exterior surfaces include those surfaces on fences, detached garages, storage sheds and other outbuildings and appurtenant structures (FHA’S 4150.2 Old Manual).

When it comes to FHA the standards aren’t always as clear as we’d like them to be. This is why it’s critical to know what the FHA manual actually says, consider the spirit of the FHA manual, be in tune with how the bulk of appraisers deal with issues, and of course use common sense.

Questions: Any stories, insight, or examples to share? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your take.

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Does a property with a flat roof require a roof inspection for an FHA loan?

It depends. A roof really only requires an inspection during an FHA loan if the appraiser or underwriter calls for an inspection. This goes for both flat and pitch roofs. Let’s read a bit more below.

flat roof inspection for an fha loan - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Straight from HUD on whether an appraiser will automatically require a roof inspection on a flat roof (Mortgagee Letter 05-48):

FHA-photo-by-Ryan-LundquistFHA no longer mandates automatic inspections for flat or unobservable roofs. In the appraisal report the appraiser will note any evidence of deterioration of roofing materials (missing tiles, shingles, flashing). Deteriorated roofing materials include those that are worn, cupped, or curled. If the roof is not observable, the appraiser will look for and include in the appraisal report any telltale signs of roof problems on the interior, such as damage or water stains to the ceiling area of a room or closet. The appraiser must note in the appraisal report that he/she could not adequately observe the entire roof area (state which area(s) were unobservable). Based on the information reported by the appraiser, the lender’s underwriter will determine whether or not a roofing inspection is required.

Summary & Attics: All things considered, a flat roof on any portion of a house won’t necessarily trigger a roof inspection, but an inspection may be required if there are signs on the interior or exterior that point toward roof failure. Remember, a roof has to have at least two years of remaining economic life for an FHA loan. On a related note, the appraiser is required to do a “head and shoulders” inspection of the attic, but when the roof is flat and there is no attic, this requirement obviously doesn’t apply.

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.

Anything you’d like to add or ask?

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Is a wobbly ceiling fan an FHA appraisal issue?

Might this ceiling fan be a safety issue for an FHA loan? What do you say? No biggie or an issue that’ll require repair before the loan can close? Have a look at the brief video below (or here) and let me know what you think.

If you said yes for being a safety issue called out in an FHA appraisal report, you are correct. FHA is primarily concerned that everything in a house works properly, there are no health and safety issues and there is a sense of economic longevity for the house too. Had I continued the video for a bit longer, you would’ve seen the fan shake even harder. If you don’t think it’s a safety issue, would you put your child’s bed underneath a fan like this? Probably not.

While an issue like this needs to be corrected before an FHA loan can be guaranteed, it’s really not a big-ticket item. Either the fan needs to be repaired or replaced or a cheap light fixture can be purchased and installed in its place. This is an older property and ceiling fans didn’t even exist when the property was built, so a simple light fixture is entirely reasonable in this case. This is not just my opinion either, but the Santa Ana FHA Home Ownership Center said the same thing during a recent phone conversation.

NOTE: This does not mean all wobbly ceiling fans will need to be repaired or replaced. This is where the FHA appraiser is subjective and has to use good judgment according to FHA guidelines and/or the spirit of FHA.

Let me know if you have any questions or insight. I hope this was helpful. You can see more FHA appraisal articles here.

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

Breach of firewall in garage = issue for FHA loan

What is a firewall? Defined by Wikipedia, it’s “a fireproof barrier used to prevent the spread of fire between or through buildings, structures, electrical substation transformers, or within an aircraft or vehicle.” The firewall shown below is a standard one found between a garage and a house as this wall serves to help stop the spread of fire. Do you see a problem with this firewall though?

The cost to repair the large hole is very minimal, but it’s still a safety issue for occupants, which means it is something that needs to be repaired for an FHA loan. I’ve actually seen this issue twice in the past month on investor flips in the Sacramento area, so clearly it’s not something that is being cured every time by sellers before the appraiser heads out.

Here is a photo of a “before” and “after” of a firewall breach. Have you seen a hole as such cause problems before in a house? Might rodents be able to get into the house this way too? Can you think of any other issues this might pose?

Image of breech of firewall for FHA real estate appraisal

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