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Understanding VA loan appraisals

When you purchase a home using a VA loan, the property will have to go through an appraisal by a VA-certified appraiser before the loan will go forward. If you are planning on getting a VA loan, here’s what you’ll need to know.

It’s not a complete inspection
An appraisal is a quick review of the property. It ensures the home is worth what you’re paying and it meets MPR (minimum property requirements) for the loan and lender guideline. The appraisal isn’t as stringent as a full inspection. It won’t go through mechanical system and equipment checks that a home inspector would do. Because of that, it’s a good idea to get a full inspection as well.

What the appraisal looks for
Generally, the appraiser makes sure the home is safe, structurally secure, and healthy to live in. You can read the full guidelines, but they cover areas such as:

  • Does the property have safe and adequate pedestrian or vehicular access from the road?
  • Does the property comply with all applicable zoning ordinances?
  • Does the property have an adequate sewage disposal system of sufficient size?
  • Is the property free of lead-based paint?
  • Is the residential structure located outside of high voltage electric transmission line easements?
  • Is the property free of wood destroying insects, fungus, and dry rot?

VA appraisal timeline
The VA sets loose requirements for how long the appraisal should take. It varies per area. But, in general, they’re done in 10 days.

The cost
Depending on where you’re buying and the number of units in the building, appraisals range from $450 to $1,200. The cost per area is noted on the VA loan fee schedule.

If the home needs repairs
This is where VA loans become a little tricky and it’s why there’s been hesitancy among some sellers in accepting offers financed through a VA loan. If the home needs repairs, as a buyer you can’t negotiate the price or get a seller’s credit at closing. The repairs must be completed by the seller for the transaction to go through. And, depending on the type of repair or the location of the home, it might take a long time to complete. So, as a seller, they know if any repairs are needed they will have to complete them and it gives the buyer a chance to walk away from the purchase.

If the home you’re interested in needs repairs, here are your options:

  1. Ask the seller to complete repairs
    If your seller agrees to do the repairs, once they’re done another appraisal will need to be completed. Just be aware that some repairs may take a long time to complete.
  2. Ask for another appraisal
    You could either challenge the report or petition the VA for another appraisal if you feel there was an error.
  3. Walk away from the purchase
    If your appraisal unearths repairs, you have the ability to walk away from the purchase. You’ll still have to pay the cost of the appraisal, but that’s all.

If the home appraises too low
Asking the seller to lower the price is the most common, but it’s not the only option you have.

  1. Ask for another appraisal
    If you think there’s an error on the appraisal you can challenge the report by ask for a ROV (reconsideration of value) or additional sales data from comparable homes in your area.
  2. Pay the difference in cash
    If you’re able to, you can get the VA loan for the appraised value and pay the additional cost in cash. Just be cautious because you may be overpaying for the home.
  3. Ask the seller to lower the home’s price
    The seller may be willing to lower the price to match what it appraised at.

Start with a VA loan expert
When you’re considering a VA loan (they are a great option for some veterans!), be sure to start by going over the pros and cons with a local home lender and VA loan expert. They will guide you through the loan process and make sure you’re getting the best loan for your financial goals.

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