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 $20,000 solar system really add $20,000 in value?

Would you pay $20,000 for a solar system if you knew it added $20,000 of instant home value? That’s exactly what a solar salesman told the client of a real estate friend. Is that legit though? What advice would you give someone talking to this salesman? This is a timely scenario, so I wanted to share my friend’s question and my response. I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.

solar panels in real estate - sacramento appraisal blog - image purchased and used with permission from 123rf - 2

Real Estate Friend: I have a client that wants to add solar to his 1989 house and was quoted a price of $20,000. The solar guy told my client that it would add value dollar for dollar…doubt that. Let me know your thoughts.

My Thoughts: Where is this SALESMAN getting “dollar for dollar” from? Is he a real estate value expert? Could he prove the value actually? Would the system add $20,000 in value regardless of the neighborhood, state, or price range? What if the system cost $40,000 or $80,000? Would that add $40,000 and $80,000 respectively? It’s a great sales claim, but achieving dollar for dollar is not something that happens in real estate in every case. For example, a kitchen remodel might cost $50K, but that doesn’t automatically mean buyers are going to line up to pay $50,000 more for the house. Or a built-in pool could run $35,000, but we all know buyers don’t expect to pay full price in the resale market (sometimes they’ll go for $10-15K or so, right). Thus the cost of something doesn’t necessarily translate dollar for dollar to the value. When it comes to solar, it’s more of a marathon of value so to speak because there will be value recognized over time as savings happen (as opposed to an instant rush of full value at the present time). I am not saying the house could not be worth $20,000 more, but my BS alarm is beeping I am skeptical. Appraisers and the real estate community have to consider what buyers are actually presently willing to pay for the system. Granted, we have limited data, and solar is still an emerging field, but we have to study homes with and without solar. What sort of price difference is there? Also, how much money will the system actually save the owner each month? Moreover, when considering monthly energy savings, how much more home could a buyer effectively afford because of the savings? If I were your contact, I would read this solar Q&A I did, but I would also do the math. Will the savings from solar far outweigh the cost of the system? If not, what energy conservation steps might your client’s household make instead? Lastly, if the solar system is leased, it won’t actually add anything to the value because it’s more or less considered personal property.

Questions: What do you think of the solar salesman’s claim? How would you respond? Any thoughts, stories, or further insight? I’d love to hear your take as an agent, appraiser, or home owner.

Home Office Update: By the way, I’ve been building a new home office these past few weeks, and it’s been fun to make progress. Shoutout to Keith Klassen for helping me with the framing. If all goes well, crown moulding will be up this weekend.

home office

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My last blog post of the year…

It’s been an incredible year. I hope it’s been a great one for you too. I wanted to thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read my blog. I hope it’s added some value to your life or somehow helped you better navigate the road of real estate. For me this is never just about words or slick graphs, but building a relationship with readers (you). As a result of this blog, I’ve met some amazing people, and my career has taken some fun directions too. I’m grateful.

Two Weeks Off: After a few more days of crushing deadlines, I’ll be laying low for some much needed time off. This means I won’t be posting again until the first full week of January. I’ll be recharging, riding the new bike I bought last weekend, fitting in some woodworking hopefully, thinking about appraisals, spending time at the ocean, drinking as much French Press coffee as I can, enjoying family and friends, and getting ready for an even better coming year. I will be posting some of what I do on Instagram, so let’s connect there if we haven’t already.

Our book tree

By the way, in addition to our normal tree, we stacked some books in our Living Room to form a book “tree”. Can you tell I’m married to an author?

From my family to yours, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!!

Question: What are you going to be doing for these next two weeks? Any plans with family or friends?

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Convincing sellers to NOT overprice their homes by making graphs

The market is overpriced. So if you are a real estate agent trying to communicate with sellers, how do you get someone who wants to test the market at $500K to realize a more reasonable price is $375K? There are surely many strategies, but today I want to mention the power of graphing neighborhood sales. I don’t mean to beat the dead horse by bringing this up again, but knowing how to graph will help you communicate effectively, stand out from other industry professionals, and seize your role as a market trend expert instead of letting Zillow have all the glory. Sure, you can show your client a graph of city or zip code trends by using Trendvision, but it’s hard to argue with neighborhood-specific data.

making graphs - image purchased by sacramento appraisal blog

A letterhead to give your sellers: Before we dig in, here is a letter I wrote for sellers about things to consider when pricing in this market. This letterhead is based on a post I wrote recently, but I tweaked a few things. See the image below and DOWNLOAD here (PDF). Feel free to email or use as you see fit. Obviously the letter does not address a specific property. If you need a letterhead for your specific property, let’s talk about some consulting.

letterhead

Excel Tutorial: I know, you don’t use Excel because it’s only for nerds. But let me break it down for you below so you can join the club. Previously I shared a tutorial on how to graph with Gnumeric, but I had a few requests for using Excel instead since that’s what most people already have on their computers.

land park two-bedroom graph example by sacramento appraisal blog

This graph shows the range of similar-sized neighborhood sales is between $300-375K for the most part (instead of $500K). This can be a very powerful visual, especially when you begin to show the sales at $375K have been remodeled.

A tutorial on how to show the market: I recommend watching the tutorial below and then pulling up some MLS data for a neighborhood you are working in so you can create a graph by following the steps I took. This is perfect for Sacramento MLS, but as long as you can export data from your MLS system, you should be okay too. You may need to pause my video several times or rewind at moments. Whenever we do something new, it takes a while to catch on. If you don’t have Microsoft Paint to paste the graph like I did, you can use a different photo editing program, or maybe use a snipping tool on your computer. Additionally, you can open up Paint and simply start a new file, and then paste your graph (as opposed to opening an existing photo like I did). Watch below (or here if it’s too small below).

Please let me know if you have any questions. I hope this was helpful. Perhaps this will spur on a new skill set for you that can make a difference in your business.

Questions: Was the tutorial helpful? Anything you need clarity on?

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