February 19, 2021
What are VA loan minimum property requirements?
Minimum property requirements (MPRs) are standards created by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that a property must pass before a veteran can purchase it using a VA loan. These requirements were created to ensure that veterans’ homes are safe, sound, and sanitary so they aren’t burdened with expensive or dangerous repairs in the future.
The MPRs are assessed through a home appraisal performed by a VA-backed appraiser, which must be successfully completed before a lender can approve your mortgage application. The appraisal is different from a home inspection, which is an optional step in the homebuying process, in which a third party checks the home for damage or flaws. In the case of a VA-assigned home appraisal, the appraiser has specific criteria to check including space requirements, roof stability, and the presence of a heating and cooling system.
What makes a property VA-approved?
If you’re wondering what these requirements actually look like, there’s a full chapter of the Lenders Handbook (VA Pamphlet 26-7) dedicated to appraiser criteria. In general, though, the MPRs fall into the following categories.
- Residential Property. The number one requirement is that the home you’re planning to purchase is a residential property. This is because the VA home loan program was created to provide veterans with a primary residence.
- Space. The MPRs for space dictate that there must be enough room for everyone in the home to live, sleep, cook, dine, and use sanitary facilities. There isn’t a minimum square footage per person, so it will be up to the appraiser to decide whether there is enough space to live comfortably. This isn’t to say that small houses won’t be approved, but rather that the VA wants to ensure the home is large enough to reasonably inhabit.
- Pests and Rot. Termites are a nuisance for homeowners. The appraiser will check to make sure there isn’t any evidence of termite damage, specifically in regions where they are known to be prevalent. They’ll also look for any signs of fungus or dry rot.
- Stable Roof. An often-cited issue for homeowners is a weak or leaky roof. In this case, the roof must be reasonably durable for the foreseeable future, and it must not have any leaks where moisture can enter the home. Also, if there are three or more layers of shingles and the roof needs to be redone, the MPRs require that the old shingles be taken off before another layer is added.
- Home Access. The appraiser will check that you and your family have safe access to your home without necessitating entrance through anyone else’s property. They’ll also want to ensure that any road to your home is accessible in all kinds of weather, and that if you share that road with a neighbor, you have a plan set up to split the costs of maintenance to keep it clean and free of obstacles.
- Clean Water and Sanitation. Your appraisal will need to show that your home has ongoing access to clean, healthy, potable water that you can use for drinking, bathing, cooking, and sanitation. You’ll also need to have hot water, and an approved sewage system — whether it’s public or private — and sanitary restrooms.
- Heating System. In most areas, the home needs to be able to keep plumbing systems at 50° F or higher and have some form of heating. The heating system can take the form of a wood fireplace or an electric system, but in the case of a wood-based heating system, you may need to have a fallback system just in case.
- Mechanical Systems. Any mechanical systems you have in your new home must be in working order, and the property must have functioning electricity. These systems will need to be safe, as determined by the appraiser, and well protected from the elements to prevent any accidents.
- Lead-Based Paint. It’s important that your home not contain any lead-based paint. Your appraiser will check this based on the year your home was built or renovated. If it was built before 1978, they’ll assume that lead-based paint was used, and will need to check all parts of the home for its presence. Any lead-based paint found will need to be removed and repainted. If the home was built during or after 1978, they will still check the home for the presence of lead-based paint, but they won’t assume it was used.
While this list covers the main requirements, there are additional requirements based on your region. For example, termite damage is a larger concern in the wet Northwest. It’s a good idea to look through the full list of MPRs before you begin your home search, so you’ll be able to choose properties accordingly and ask the right questions of the seller.
To learn more about PenFed loans or determine which loan is right for you:the Mortgage Center