How to Prepare for a Home Valuation Before Listing Your House For Sale

Home appraisal tips: what to do before an appraisal

First impressions matter, and going the extra mile to learn what to do before an appraisal gives you the opportunity to do the up-front work to showcase your home at its best. While there are certain factors outside of your control, here are simple steps you can take to make the appraisal process go smoothly and improve your chances of a higher appraisal value.

1) Begin with your home’s curb appeal

Curb appeal is your chance to make a good first impression on the home appraiser as well as potential buyers, so you’ll want to put your best foot forward. There are many budget-friendly curb appeal ideas to jazz up your home’s exterior appearance and it often takes less than a few hours to complete. Before your appraiser arrives, some easy ideas to improve your home’s exterior include laying new mulch, planting fresh flowers, mowing your lawn, raking the leaves, trimming overgrown bushes, and clearing sidewalks and driveways to create a safe and clean appearance. From there, you can move on to more extensive curb appeal projects, such as touching up the outside paint to make your home’s exterior features stand out. The goal is to convey to the appraiser that your home is as well maintained on the exterior as it is on the interior. 

2) Declutter your home

While appraisers will overlook the “lived-in look” of a home, decluttering can make their job more accessible since the appraiser will take pictures and measurements during the appraisal process. Household items left in the way will detract from the appraiser’s ability to do their job. A bright and clean home appears more spacious and can help the appraiser get an accurate feel for the home’s condition. Some key areas that should be decluttered are the bedroom, kitchen, and living room since these areas are the most used in the home.

  • The kitchen: Keep the sink clear of dishes and ensure they’re put away the day of your appraisal. You can also move seldom-used appliances off the countertops to give your kitchen the appearance of a larger space. 
  • The living room: Keep surfaces clear of stacks of magazines, books, or newspapers. Paring down extra pillows and blankets can also give your space a minimal and streamlined appearance.
  • The bedroom: Make sure clothing is off the floor and properly stored away in closets or drawers. Consider donating any unused or old clothing items to a local thrift store or shelter.

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6. Ask for a Local Appraiser

The bank chooses the appraiser, not you. Still, you can request a local appraiser. Ideally, the appraiser should live within a 10 to 15-mile radius of your home. If the appraiser isn’t too familiar with the area, there’s a chance the appraisal might come in for less than your property’s actual worth.

A low appraisal may make the mortgage lender come to the conclusion that you don’t have enough equity to qualify for refinancing. If that happens, you might have to pay the difference out-of-pocket to close the deal. 

3. Create A File Detailing Your List Of Upgrades And Improvements

Upgrades and home improvements increase the overall value of your home. Make things a bit easier for your appraiser by compiling a file with proof of all the work you’ve done on the house since you moved in. Did you add a central cooling system? Replace the windows? Add a privacy fence to your backyard? Include sales receipts, paid contractor invoices and zoning permits if applicable. This helps your appraiser know where to look when they consider your renovations and upgrades.

Keep in mind that only permanent upgrades you’ve made to your home will count toward your appraised value. Generally, if you can take something you’ve added along with you when you move out, it won’t count toward your appraisal. Purely aesthetic choices – like painting your living room walls – won’t add to your value, but making your home look nice and feel larger can subconsciously impact your appraiser’s assessment.

Check that everything is working properly

A home inspector noting a broken fixture may result in a request from the buyer to fix it. A home appraiser noting a broken fixture may result in an under-appraised home. Go through your property and ensure that everything is working how it’s supposed to. Replace burned out bulbs, turn on any pilot lights that you have switched off, make sure your smoke alarms are showing they’re on, and take care of anything else that suggests something might not be quite right. While an appraiser won’t go quite into as much detail as the inspector will, it’s still in your best interest to show off that everything is in working order.

3. Research the Neighborhood

Do some research to learn about comparables in your neighborhood, known as comps. This will help you find out what similar houses on the street are selling for

For example, a neighbor’s record-breaking sale could have lifted the value of your property by a significant amount, causing a ripple effect throughout the neighborhood. 

If you take the comps and couple them with any improvements you’ve made to the home, you could receive a high appraisal for the refinance. To get an idea of just how much you can save when refinancing, check out Total Mortgage’s refinance calculator.

Make sure you use relevant comps. Other homes in your comps universe have similar features to yours. In other words, if your home is about 2,300 square feet and has three bedrooms, line it up with a similar property. 

How Much Does A Home Appraisal Cost And Who Pays For It?

A home appraisal costs between $300 and $600. The

A home appraisal costs between $300 and $600. The average cost of a home appraisal is likely to close to $450. As an Indiana Realtor®, I can tell you this is how much I routinely see charged for home appraisals in Indiana. Homebuyers using an FHA, VA, or USDA loan are likely to pay a higher rate. This is because the appraiser must have more experience and additional credentials to complete these.

And, this leads to the next topic of who pays for the appraisal when buying a home. Buyers almost always pay for the appraisal. Additionally, this is almost always paid outside of closing.

Closing Thoughts on Steps To Get Your Home Ready For An Appraisal

It is much easier for the seller to prepare for the appraisal when they know what to expect.  The appraiser will be looking at the following items when they put together their report.

  • The exterior condition of your home and property
  • The interior condition of your home, including the attic, basement, or crawl space
  • The total square footage of the home
  • The type of construction, such as stick-built or a modular design
  • The local school district for your home
  • The specific neighborhood for your home
  • Value of the lot where your home is located
  • Value of any recent improvements made to the home
  • Distinguishing features that can either add to or take away from the value of your home.

This information, along with the comparable sales mentioned earlier, will form the bulk of the appraiser’s report.

What If I Don’t Agree with My Home Appraisal?

Sometimes the appraiser’s value is not only lower than you would like it to be but also lower than you think your home is worth. “An appraisal is just one person’s opinion,” Ailion says. “While this is a trained and educated opinion, as with all professions, there are good and bad practitioners.”

Given the strict federal regulations governing the process, can you do anything about a low appraisal? “If the homeowner does not like the value of the appraisal, they can write a letter of appeal to the lender or AMC, but the chance of an appraiser changing their opinion is very slim unless the homeowner has overwhelming evidence that the value is off,” says Benton.

Your appeal will only succeed if you can show that the appraiser made a significant error, such as listing the square footage or room count incorrectly; disregarding an important amenity such as a pool or spa; or disregarding a comparable sale that might support a higher value while “cherry-picking” a less suitable comparable that would indicate a lower value, says Parsons.

You might also make a case, says Ailion, by pointing out that the comparables used were in an inferior school district or an inferior subdivision that did not have a homeowners association with swimming pools and tennis courts, that all the comparables were distressed or real estate-owned sales, or that they have other negative externalities influencing value, such as being on a busy street.

“Explain why they are different and not equal to yours,” says Ailion. “You must prove something is in error with the comparables selected.”

Talk up your home

You’ll likely be around when the appraiser comes through, which means you’ve got a great opportunity to sell the finer features of your home, including unique assets and recent improvements. Don’t be shy about pointing out that the living room carpet is new or the trees on the side of the house bloom stunning flowers every spring. Give the appraiser space to look around (sticking too close may suggest you’re worried they’re going to find something that you need to explain), but take some time before they leave to point out the things that make your home special and worthy of its asking price.

5. Make Sure Everything Works

Your appraiser won’t walk around your home testing light switches and outlets, but you should make sure that all your home’s major systems – including plumbing and HVAC – are functional. Go through your home with this checklist and make sure that everything is working.

  • Run your heating and cooling systems. Time how long it takes for your home to reach the requested temperature.
  • Engage your home’s security system. Make sure that only the correct code arms and disarms the system.
  • Open and close all of your home’s windows. Look for cracks and warping near your window bases. Lock and unlock each window.
  • Test your kitchen appliances. Run your dishwasher with dirty dishes and make sure they come out clean. Heat up your oven and use the burners.
  • Run your ceiling fans. Turn them on and off and pay attention to how long it takes for your fan to start and stop.
  • Check your water and drains. Make sure that hot water flows from appropriate faucets, that kitchen sinks and bathtubs drain efficiently and that toilets flush completely.

Schedule a repair before your appraisal if you notice that something doesn’t work.

Inspect Your Property

Inspect your home with an unbiased eye before the Appraiser’s visit. Look for anything alarming and address it immediately.

Appraisal inspections are not home inspections. Appraisers do not assess the home’s functionality and working condition; however, they are the lender’s eyes and ears. Appraisers are obligated to report any concerns that may warrant further inspection.

For example, an Appraiser may take pictures of cracks in the walls, notate that doors stick, and ultimately recommend a foundation inspection. This could be a significant inconvenience if those are benign and due to long-term settlement. Address alarming items before they become issues.

Let’s be very clear: we are not suggesting anyone mask known defects. We’re simply recommending that sellers address non-issues to remove the possibility of misinterpretation.

Be Accommodating to the Appraiser

Appraisers are professionals that have a job to do. They have schedules for their work and deadlines to meet. Making their job easier could make the appraisal lean more in your favor.

Answer the appraiser’s call, or at least return the message as quickly as you can. Try to meet the appraiser at the home based on the appraiser’s first suggested date if at all possible. Make sure the appraiser has an easy way to access all parts of the home such as attics, basements, and crawl spaces.

This does not mean that an appraiser will overlook or neglect any obvious repair that needs to be made. But it could help the appraiser give your home’s price a slight increase since the whole process was easy for them.

What hurts a home appraisal?

If you’re trying to buy or refinance a home, a good appraisal is key. If the appraisal comes in too low, you might not be approved, or you could face higher interest rates. A number of factors can negatively affect your appraisal, including:

  • Deferred maintenance
  • Dated or undesirable finishes
  • Not being up front about needed repairs
  • Comparable properties that are “outliers” (e.g., sold to relatives, under duress, or a foreclosure)
  • Market conditions
  • Appraiser experience

When Does a Home Appraisal Happen?

In most cases, the home appraisal occurs after you’ve accepted an offer and the home inspection has been completed. Many lenders want the appraisal done within a week of the completed inspection. You’ll have to coordinate the appointment with the appraisal company. The timing is important because you’ll need time to properly prepare for the home appraisal.

About Quadwalls®

Quadwalls.com is a real estate website founded by Indiana Realtor® Chuck Vander Stelt. Chuck and his team of Quadwalls Connected Agents are committed to helping home buyers and sellers save money and make better decisions when buying or selling real estate.

Pro Tips to Preparing for an Appraisal

Deep clean your home before appraising

Never show your home to the appraiser when you haven’t cleaned every nook and cranny. Make sure you do a deep clean first—vacuum hard-to-reach ledges, windows, and even above cabinets. Wipe off cobwebs and bugs, especially from your window screens. Don’t only deep clean your living room, including the bathroom and kitchen. Give extra attention to those often-neglected spots in your home. Wipe clean all table surfaces, appliances, chairs, dressers, sink basins, countertops, and windows. Don’t forget to wipe clean the stains on your carpet and upholstery, and smudges and fingerprints on the doors and doorframes.

Make sure everything else is functional

A burned-out light bulb, defective smoke alarm, or broken light switches can cause an under-appraisal on your home. Inspect if everything on your property is working properly. You can make a list of minor upgrades or repairs to show that your home is well-maintained and is worth more than the estimated price.

Although an appraiser won’t examine your home thoroughly as most of the home inspectors do, it’s still best to show your home in its best shape, including most of the major systems. There’s a big chance an appraiser can lower your property’s value after having examined several of your home devices and systems are in disrepair.

Research and evaluate the numbers beforehand

Nothing beats preparation and information. Contact your real estate agent and ask for details on the recent closing home sale prices in your neighborhood. Through looking at the numbers and information, you have now a good idea of how your property measures up to the market.

These are helpful insights that are compared to your home’s market value to similar properties sold in your area. If you’re targeting for a higher price same with the recently sold homes (but they have much modern look and appealing features), then you better make some home improvements to catch up with the deal.

Create a list of home upgrades and repairs

Create a list of home upgrades and repairs

Show a list of repairs and upgrades to the appraiser. It will help them to see what you’ve done so far and how you made an extra effort to add quality of your property’s condition. To increase the value of your home, try to list for usual repairs such as leaky roof, leaky faucets, rain gutters, defective doorbell, loose floorboards, or upgrades in the fireplaces, pools, etc.

It’s a better idea to point out upgraded features that could potentially add to the appraiser’s final opinion of the home’s value. Remember, it’s a different approach when you want to impress your appraiser—buyers tend to appeal on subjective considerations, but appraise dive more on objective factors.

Apply the $500 rule

Have you ever heard of the $500 rule? It’s a useful idea that suggests every house issue can add up when it is multiplied by $500—and so that’s why it’s crucial to perform minor repairs rather than ignoring them. Minor issues like faulty light switches, defective doorknobs, and such can affect the whole worth of your home. Don’t let a simple issue can decrease the value of your home. As much as possible, repair what is to be repaired even how slight it can be.

Apply the $500 rule seriously and think of it as a good tactic to increase the value of your home. Spending an amount of $500 or less to do some repairs and fixes can save you more than you imagined. Don’t risk showing your home to the appraisal having lots of repairs to be done.  

Can I Appeal an Appraisal?

If the appraised value of the home comes in below expected, or below the sale price you agreed upon with the buyer, there are several things you can do.

  1. You can appeal directly to the lender, which is often called a reconsideration of value. You’ll need to collect all relevant information you believe proves your home is worth more to make your case to the lender.
  2. You can order a second appraisal and pay for it yourself. This will likely require the buyer to find a different lender, and appraisals are expensive. It can also delay the closing date, so it’s generally not the preferred course of action.
  3. You can go back to the buyer and see if you can renegotiate the deal. The buyer can decide to change lenders in hopes that a second appraiser will judge your home more favorably, you can lower your asking price, or the buyer can try to come up with more money.

While all of these are essentially last-ditch efforts, if you’re determined to sell your home, it’s worth doing your due diligence. But the best way to ensure the deal goes through is to properly prepare for the home appraisal so you don’t run into issues in the first place.

Ready to get your home on the market so you can start getting offers? Register with Homes for Heroes and our dedicated real estate specialists will walk you through every step of the process, helping identify cheap and easy ways to increase the value of your home.

Start Preparing for a Home Appraisal Today!

Preparing for a home appraisal can make all the difference when it comes to getting a good price for your home. Don’t skip this important step!

For more top tips on selling your home, get in touch with one of our team today. We’re here to help.

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