Military using a VA inspector? Obtaining an FHA home loan? This is a definite read!

VA Inspection and FHA Appraisal is Not a Home Inspection
by Jason Weart

Dear Jason,

We bought our home several months ago. During the escrow, the property was inspected by a VA inspector, and everything was approved. But two months ago, the heat pump began to malfunction. When our contractor came to repair it, he said the unit had been installed incorrectly, resulting in damage to the heat element. Now we have to replace the system at considerable cost. Shouldn’t this have been discovered by the VA inspector? — Barbara

Dear Barbara,

Discovery of defects in a heating system is something to expect from a professional home inspector, not from a VA inspector/appraiser. If you looked for a VA appraiser to conduct the same level of inspection as a home inspector, you made a fatal, but common, error.

VA and FHA appraisers are often thought to perform detailed and comprehensive property inspections, when in fact, their task is to determine the market value of property, while checking for obvious physical defects. VA inspections are general overviews and do not begin to approach home inspections in scope, depth or detail. But don’t fault yourself to harshly for this misunderstanding: The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently made the same error, when they required FHA appraisers to begin performing the equivalent of a home inspection, as part of their appraisals.

To clarify the essential difference between a home inspection and a VA or FHA inspection, consider the relative backgrounds of these two unrelated professions. Home inspectors typically derive from the construction, architecture, or engineering professions. The physical aspects of real estate constitute their primary area of knowledge. Although some appraisers may also possess this type of experience, most draw their expertise from business, banking, accounting or other finance-related professions.

As examples of conditions inspected by home inspectors but not by VA appraisers: A home inspector evaluates the electrical wiring in the various breaker or fuse panels and tests the outlets for safe and proper wiring. A home inspector checks the operational condition of the various plumbing and heating components throughout the property. A home inspection includes a full roof evaluation, not from the ground, but on the roof itself (not to mention inside the attic). A home inspector crawls under the house and checks beneath the sinks, inside the fireplace, and down the chimney. The specific details checked by a home inspector number in the hundreds, and most of these exceed the scope of a VA inspection.

If a home inspection was not performed during your escrow, it is strongly advised that you have one done now. Regardless of who is liable for nondisclosure, you owe it to yourself to learn as much as possible about the safety and operability of your newly acquired home.

Following are excerpts taken directly from a HUD press release. Note what they have to say about home inspections. Especially in regards to the comparison of a true professional home inspection versus a HUD or FHA type “Inspection” or appraisal. I hope this helps. The entire article can be accessed at www.hud.gov/library/bookshelf18/pressrel/pr99-99.html .

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