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