Let’s have a quick conversation about water heaters. During a real estate transaction does the water heater need to be raised or not? What are lenders asking appraisers to look for? Does it matter if it’s gas or electric, or if it’s located in the garage or house? Here’s some things to know. Anything to add?
1) Gas water heater in the garage: A gas water heater inside the garage needs to be elevated at least 18 inches off the ground.
The letter of the law and an exception: There is state code, local code, Uniform Plumbing Code, International Residential Code (IRC), etc… I’ll let you decide what code to go by, but if you need a source for stating water heaters in garages need to be raised, check out IRC P2801.6. However, keep in mind there are FVIR (Flammable Vapor Ignition Resistant) water heaters that are gas, but these water heaters can technically be installed without being elevated because of how they are designed. Some say not all jurisdictions in the country allow for this technicality, so do your homework in knowing what local code says.
2) Gas water heater inside the house: A gas water heater inside the house does NOT need to be elevated. We see gas water heaters in laundry rooms or closets like this all the time, don’t we?
3) Electric water heater in the garage: An electric water heater inside the garage does not need to be elevated. There is no pilot light on an electric water heater, so the rules are different.
4) Electric water heater inside: An electric water heater inside the house does not need to be elevated.
Tips for identifying if it’s gas or electric: If you’re wondering if it’s a gas or electric water heater, then look for a few things. A gas water heater is likely going to have a vent as you can see in the image below. You’ll also be able to identify a gas line and a pilot light (because the flame is what heats the water). In contrast, an electric water heater tends to look more flat on the top since there is no vent. There is also not a pilot light because an electric water heater is heated by electricity instead of a flame. Scroll up to the photos to see if you can identify a vent, pilot light, or gas line.
Why this matters: There are safety implications for water heaters being installed correctly, and from a loan perspective appraisers are asked to mention anything that might be a safety issue. Appraisers are not code enforcement officers or building inspectors of course, but they are still expected to know a few general things about water heaters. These days lenders are very strict about water heaters being double-strapped, but if you have a water heater that is also not elevated when it should be, then you’re probably going to have to correct that for the loan to close. It may be called out by the appraiser too if there is no pressure release valve (safety issue). During private appraisals for divorce or estate planning, water heater issues are not going to be mandated repair items.
Disclaimer: I am not a water heater expert. This post is really just designed to be a quick reference for the real estate community. Please check with your local zoning code for the definitive word on anything related to water heaters in your area. Remember, rules may vary from place to place, and that’s why I did not link to specific code for each issue above. If you have specific code, feel free to link in the comments. There may be different rules too when it comes to water heaters being installed in basements, outside or in atypical locations.
Facebook video with Lucy: By the way, I had a quick 5-minute video conversion with Lucy at The Righini Realty Show on Facebook. I’m really starting to like how prominent video is becoming on Facebook. Anyway, check it out if you’d like. If you want to do something similar, hit me up.
I hope that was interesting or helpful.
Questions: Anything else to add to the conversation? Did I miss something? I’d love to hear your take.