This is the way Rural Development handles it in North Alabama:
Up til March 2002, USDA, Rural Development, required a home inspection on every FmHA sale. The inspector (registered with the State) prepared the Certificate of Existing Dwelling and the Thermal Certification. In March, the local office sent a memo to lenders stating that they have 2 choices: require a home inspection and certifications as before or have the appraiser prepare the VC sheets (in lieu of the Cert of Existing Dwelling) and complete the Thermal Certification. Apparently, this is a local thing so you need to check with your local office as to what they require.
Lenders here are generally opting for the first choice; however, I have appraised a few where I completed the VC's as if it were FHA. No homebuyer summary involved, tho.
Ron, were you around in the "old" days when Rural Development (Farm Home Administration) required that the appraiser inspect the interiors of the comps? I didn't do work for them then, because of that. I couldn't imagine knocking on doors and asking if I could come in to look around!