This post is written by John Allasio and comes to us from our partner site QuickenLoans.com.
Right now is the most popular time for people to buy a home, and if you’re looking to sell or refinance your home, one of the things you’ll have to deal with is the appraisal. If your appraisal doesn’t go well, it’ll considerably drop the perceived (because perception is reality) value of your home. So, it’s really important to do some research and know what to prepare for when you’re getting an appraisal.
The basic thing to keep in mind, an MSN.com article explains, is that “Some of the advice [for appraisals] — like home valuations themselves these days — might seem contradictory. But what all the appraisers agree on is the importance of keeping the look, feel and condition of the property as updated and cared-for as possible.”
To best prep for your appraisal, you should become familiar with the appraisal process so you know what to expect so you can prepare your home accordingly.
While your mortgage lender can’t conduct the appraisal, they’re the one to order it through an appraisal management company, which will then select the individual appraiser to visit your home. The appraisal will last approximately 20-45 minutes as the appraiser examines the quality, condition, size, etc., of your home.
The three parts of the appraisal
With every appraisal, you have the inspection, the comparables and the final appraisal report. The inspection is the part where the appraiser visits your home. The comparables (comps) are similar homes in your area that have recently been sold. The appraiser researches comparable homes to help figure out the market value of your home.
And, you guessed it, the final appraisal report is what the appraiser issues after he/she has inspected your home and researched the comps.
The general appearance of your home will affect the appraiser’s evaluation of your home. Before an appraisal, spruce up your home, inside and out, so your house looks clean, neat, well-kept and appealing to others.
Start with the outside
Mow and trim the lawn, put away or organize any tools/gardening equipment and clear away any debris like leaves or sticks. Get rid of any noticeable weeds or dead plants, too. Also look at the condition of the house itself. Do you have peeling paint, cracked/missing bricks or mortar, damaged gutters or siding? Peeling paint is one of the big things appraisers look at, and some types of mortgages appraisals – like FHA – have very specific requirements about paint condition. It’s absolutely worth your time and money to repaint any worn or damaged areas inside or outside your home before an appraisal.
Now tackle the inside of your home
After you’ve got everything shipshape outside, walk through your front door and try to look at everything through the eyes of a critical stranger. Mess and clutter will project a negative image of your home and can decrease its appraised value.
Some experts say just an old TV can make an entire room look outdated. This isn’t a necessary change, but if you were thinking about upgrading your TV soon anyway, think about doing it before your appraisal to spruce up your home’s appeal.
Keep your appraiser’s comfort in mind
You don’t want to patronize your appraiser, but think about little things you can do to make the visit a pleasant one. For example, lock up your dog if you have one. The appraiser doesn’t want an excited, or angered, pet jumping up on him/her while working. If it’s cold outside, make sure you have your house set at a comfortably-warm temperature and vice versa if it’s hot outside. You want the appraiser’s visit to be as pleasant as possible.
Also keep in mind the $500 rule
Appraisers often measure home value in $500 increments. If your home needs some relativity-minor repairs, they’ll hurt your appraisal. Absolutely fix or replace all non-functioning door latches/handles, torn screens, worn out carpet and basic plumbing and light fixtures.
Having lights, doors or windows that don’t work can affect your home’s effective age. If elements of your home are worn or in disrepair, its effective age will be higher so it will be compared to homes that are older than it actually is.
Keep track of all repairs or updates to your home
This is something you should do whether you’re thinking about appraisals or not – so that you can point them out, along with any other special features of your home, to the appraiser.
Sell the neighborhood
You’ll also want to keep track of and show the appraiser any changes or amenities in your neighborhood. If there are any parks, playgrounds, historic landmarks, unique shops, restaurants or anything else that makes your area stand out as a great place to live.
The bottom line for home appraisals is to make your house as appealing as possible but don’t stress about it too much. Appraisers are trained to be careful and fair in their inspections.
Additional stories from QuickenLoans.com:
13 reasons to buy a home in 2013
For sale by owner: The pros and cons for the seller
For sale by owner: The pros and cons for the buyer