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The VA Appraisal and Electrical Systems: What Is Required?

Are you wondering how your VA appraiser will feel about exposed wires, a sparking fuse box or knob-and-tube wiring?

Ponder no more. Let’s talk about the electrical portion of the VA appraisal.

Appraisal of electrical conditions and codes

All homes must meet local electrical codes and appear safe to the VA appraiser.

MPRs and Electrical Systems

The VA issues a list of Minimum Property Requirements (MPRs) to every VA appraiser. Appraisers must ensure that properties meet or exceed MPR standards to qualify for VA financing.

MPRs are fairly vague when it comes to electrical requirements. The VA simply states that “each unit must have electricity for lighting and for necessary equipment,” and that mechanical systems “be safe to operate.”

So what the heck does that mean?

The 2 Key Factors: Local Codes and Safety

The electrical portion of the VA appraisal comes down to two key factors: local building codes and safety. As long as the home’s electrical system is acceptable to the local building authority, it’s acceptable to the VA.

In rural spots or other areas without building codes, the VA asks its appraisers to defer to the National Fire Protection Association’s Electrical Code Requirements.

The VA understands that appraisers are not skilled electricians. And that’s okay. VA appraisers are asked to evaluate a home’s electrical system as well as they can, with a special focus on safety issues.

So a smoking fuse or exposed wire will definitely cause a problem. Less obvious issues will probably prompt the appraiser to call for a professional electrical inspection.

Old Fuse Boxes Meeting Electric Code

If an old fuse box meets local electric code, it’s probably acceptable to a VA appraiser.

Electrical Issues to Consider

In our work with VA appraisers, we see several commonly-mentioned electrical problems. But remember, these issues may not be contrary to code in your area. Grab a copy of your local building code, and keep these factors in mind:

  • GFCI outlets: GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets are equipped with “test” and “reset” buttons. Some areas require GFCI outlets to be installed near water sources (for example, near your kitchen sink). Other areas don’t. Check with your local building authority for more info.
  • Fuse boxes: Many older homes are equipped with fuse boxes instead of circuit breaker boxes. The VA won’t require that a home upgrade to a breaker box, unless the fuse box is in violation of local code. The VA makes this obvious on their website: “If a fused electrical system is acceptable to the local authority it is acceptable to VA.”
  • Improper fuses/circuits/outlets: Some appraisers will immediately recognize an improper outlet or overloaded breaker. If that happens, the appraiser can either order a repair or ask for a professional electrician’s assessment.

Appraisers are fond of saying, “We’re appraisers, not electricians.” Appraisers aren’t required to identify every potential problem. Rather, appraisers keep a watchful eye over the general safety of the property. If something isn’t an obvious safety threat, it’s probably not going to require repair.

Get a Home Inspection

Just because your VA appraiser won’t order a repair, that doesn’t mean a repair isn’t necessary. A plethora of electrical dangers could be lurking just below the surface. That’s why a professional home inspection is absolutely critical. Professional home inspectors will take a thorough look at the home’s electrical system, and alert potential buyers to the perils ahead.

Always, always get a professional home inspection before buying a home!

Photos courtesy of  Rennett Stowe and jma.work


Posted by Jessi Hall
| jhall@veteransunited.com


7 Comments

  1. ScottRobinett
    Posted October 25, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    “As long as the home’s electrical system is acceptable to the local building authority, it’s acceptable to the VA.”
    This has not been my experience, though it has been a few years. FHA, VA and others have in some cases been very “picky”, to the point of aggravation.
    I do suggest the Home Inspection.

    • Posted October 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing, Scott. What kinds of electrical issues have come up during VA and FHA appraisals?

      • scott
        Posted October 1, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        FHA picked me apart about the wire I was using. Fully UL approved from my local supplier, but they wanted the writing on the Romex to be in red (really).

  2. Irritated
    Posted May 19, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    The VA home we just purchased lacked electrical outlets REQUIRED BY STATE CODE throughout the ENTIRE basement. When it is all said and done, we must pay to have this done because it must be brought up to code. Neither the VA appraiser or our OWN home inspector caught these open and obvious code violations during their “visual” inspections … BOTH must have been blind. Now, we find out that in order to bring it up to code and have the correct electrical installed, there will be addition costs for drywall repairs as well…all to the tune of $3000.

    • Posted May 20, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Hi there – Code rules and disclosure laws vary by state, so I highly advise you to contact a local real estate attorney. Best of luck to you!

  3. Arthur Stevens
    Posted July 6, 2014 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Because of health reasons in a higher altitude, Colorado, my wife and I are looking at houses to buy in a lower altitude, Kansas, where we previously lived. I am a Viet Nam veteran and will be using my VA loan benefits to purchase a home there. Starting the process looking at homes on line, we have found out if not the best way. House No. 1 looked good and we put a $1,000 earnest money check on it. However we were present at the inspection and there were areas that were found to need repairs. Part of the electrical was aluminum instead of copper. As far as we can remember we were never told what options we had if we were not satisfied with the inspection results. In addition to the wiring, there were issues with the fireplace chimmenys and outside electrical outlets there were in addition to what was disclosed by the sellers. I stated that I would not want to purchase this home and when I later asked about the earnest money was told that she? did not want to give it back to us. Talking to other people I was told that we should have received all of the earnest money back. After asking our realtor again he stated that he would check into it and we have finally received a $500 check. We have not cashed the check yet and still question if were treated correctly in this matter.

    • Samantha Reeves
      Posted July 7, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Hi Arthur,
      It will depend on the timeline and the clauses in your contract. I’d suggest talking with an attorney if you are uncertain of specific contract clauses.
      Samantha

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Samantha Reeves

Samantha Reeves maintains the Veterans United Realty blog for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation's leading VA-approved lender. As a prior loan officer, Samantha brings her vast experience dealing with the VA home loan all the way from initial application, to loan funding. She knows how the system works and brings you information and tips on how to make your VA home loan transaction go as smoothly as possible.


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