Deciphering the VA Lender’s Handbook Chapter 10 Part 1
Chances are you’ve heard of the VA appraisal, and you may have heard some horror stories associated with it. Truth be told, the appraisal is one of the toughest things about the VA loan program. With any loan type, the home is going to need to be inspected and appraised prior to the sale just to determine the reasonable value of the home. The VA appraisal is much like that inspection, in that its primary purpose is to determine the fair value of the home, but the appraisal must also determine that the property being purchased meets the VA’s minimum property standards and will meet the needs of the veteran purchasing the home. A home purchase can be shot down by the VA appraisal if it doesn’t appraise for at least as much as the sale price, or if the property does not meet the minimum property requirements. Most of the horror stories out there have to do with one of those situations.
With a VA appraisal, the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ are intermarried. In other words, it’s fairly easy to understand why the VA appraisal is required just by learning what the VA appraisal is. The VA wants to make sure that the property has a value as high as the loan amount, and that the property is in acceptable condition. On a deeper level, the purpose of the VA loan program is to help veterans obtain suitable housing at better terms than they could otherwise find, and to raise the veteran’s quality of life above what it could have been without it. Much like those in the medical profession will recognize the rule: “first do no harm”, the VA doesn’t want their VA loan program to enable a veteran to get an unaffordable or unfair loan or to purchase a home that they’ll be stuck in even though it’s not meeting their needs.
Now to the ‘who’. First, who is allowed to request an official VA appraisal? The VA prefers that the lender be the one to request the appraisal, though it can be requested by any other party involved in the transaction. However, whoever requests the VA appraisal must be aware of the requirements that the VA has for the appraisal request and how to submit one. As for who can perform the appraisal, only a licensed VA appraiser can perform the appraisal. Other home inspectors are welcome to perform an inspection on the home if desired, but their inspection will not be accepted in lieu of the official VA appraisal.
TAS (The Appraisal System) is the online portal that those requesting VA appraisals can use any time of the day or night to immediately get a case number and appraiser assigned. If you would like to be the one to request the appraisal, get the web address for TAS from your lender. There are on-screen instructions that will walk you through the process, and the following article will also have specific instructions for the entire process of requesting an appraisal from start to finish. If you have User ID or password problems, you can contact the regional VA office over the property, and if you have any technical issues, you can contact the VA Help Desk. Your lender can provide you this number if it comes up. If you don’t have access to the internet or are unable to resolve a problem you’re having with TAS, you can also request the appraisal via telephone, fax, or in writing. The VA prefers to use the online portal, however, so if you can use it, you should.
By and large, it’s usually best to have the lender request the appraisal. They have the most experience working with the VA and requesting appraisals, know what is expected of them, and are generally able to make the process go more smoothly than a first-time requester. However, if you are in a situation where it will be better for someone other than the lender to request the appraisal, you do have the ability to do so. Work directly with your loan officer on any situation-specific circumstances.