The home appraisal is your last chance to ensure your home’s value comes in as high as possible, which is especially important since most offers you’ll receive will be contingent on the buyer acquiring financing from a mortgage lender. Basically, the higher your home appraisal is, the smoother the home selling transition will be. Taking the time to understand how to prepare for a home appraisal is your best chance of maximizing your appraisal value ahead of the appraiser’s visit. Here are nine home appraisal tips to help your home stand out.
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Home appraisal tips: what to do before an appraisal
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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.
3) Clean your home thoroughly
Appraisers are required to follow strict regulations, but much of their job is subjective. Set aside time ahead of your appraisal to give your home a thorough deep cleaning. A clean and tidy home speaks volumes about you as a homeowner and can help the appraiser see every feature in its best light. Deodorize off-putting smells from the fridge, garbage, pets, or dirty laundry, and pay extra attention to areas that may not be a part of your regular cleaning routine, such as the baseboards or inside of cupboards. If you want to go all out, consider hiring a cleaning service to tackle bigger cleaning projects such as shampooing your carpets to remove caked-in stains or debris. By deep cleaning your home, you’ll also have the opportunity to find and fix potential problems that the appraiser may notice.
4) Make minor repairs – the $500 rule
Do a walkthrough of your home and ensure that everything is in good working condition. If there are minor problems, such as drippy faucets, squeaky doors, or scuffs on the walls, you can tackle these ahead of the appraisal to ensure none of these imperfections result in an under-appraised home. In fact, many appraisers follow the $500 rule, where they value property based on $500 increments. So even small fixes can incrementally add value to your home’s overall appraisal. Some quick and easy repairs you can make are:
- Securing any handrails on stairways, steps, or raised decks.
- Replacing burned-out bulbs.
- Ensuring smoke alarms are working properly and batteries have been replaced.
- Addressing any roof stains or leaks and fixing plumbing issues.
5) Look at your garage, roof, foundation, and home systems
In addition to curb appeal, a home appraiser will also review your home’s exterior to ensure its structurally sound. Signs of water damage, a cracked or leaning chimney, or loose shingles are indications of underlying damage and will be considered during the appraisal process. Check the foundation for signs of water intrusions or cracks in the foundation, ceiling, or walls. These are all signs of foundation damage that will need to be addressed. You’ll also want to ensure your roof has at least three years of economic life remaining since the quality of the roof will play a key role in determining your home’s value. Make sure the garage door opener and any garage outlets are working, and that all utilities, water, electricity, and HVAC systems are functioning properly.
6) Make small upgrades
You want to increase your chances of a high appraisal, and there are simple home improvements that can increase value. However, keep in mind that you should prioritize items that clearly need to be addressed rather than stress over “nice to have” components. Replacing worn or dirty handles and hardware on drawers and doors can create a new look without a huge investment and is a great way to modernize your home. A fresh coat of paint can also go a long way in giving your rooms a clean and updated appearance. When selecting different paint color options, go with tried-and-true neutral colors, such as light grey, cream, or beige, to give your home a simple and sophisticated upgrade.
7) Have a list of your home improvements ready
Compile a list of home improvements you have done, such as adding a new kitchen, HVAC system, or finishing your basement. Then provide this list to the appraiser with any supporting documentation – like receipts or invoices – to prove you made these upgrades. This will help the appraiser see the extra value you have added to the home, and it just may help them justify their final appraised value of the property.
8) Create a welcoming environment
While an appraiser’s job is to be as objective as possible, creating a welcoming environment is important for making a good first impression. Light and bright spaces are more inviting so bring in as much natural light as possible by opening up any blinds or curtains and make sure to keep the lights on throughout your home. Add soft touches to the interior with pillows or blankets to add a look of comfort, and set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature. Incorporating these simple tips as you prepare for a home appraisal will make the appraiser’s visit more pleasant.
9) Look at real estate comps in your area
Looking at real estate comps in your area – also known as comparables – is a key step in preparing a home appraisal and will give you valuable insight into the appraisal price you might expect to get for your home. You’ll want to look at homes that have sold in the last 3 to 6 months and are approximately the same size and have the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Comps will also give you a general idea of how your home stacks up against others in your area, allowing you to compare your home’s exterior and interior features, as well as its general condition to others in your neighborhood. Getting familiar with the comps in your area will also put you in a better position to challenge an appraisal in the event it comes in too low.
The home appraiser will also be looking at comps in your area to get a baseline of what home’s like yours are selling for. The number of rooms, square footage, location, neighborhood, and other elements will all factor into determining your home’s value. The appraiser will also make adjustments from home to home based on each property’s characteristics compared to the subject property being appraised.
Key takeaways for how to prepare for a home appraisal
Preparing for a home appraisal can be stress-free once you know what the home appraiser is looking for. Many items can be done ahead of the appraisal to make the process go smoothly, and you’ll want to take the extra time to ensure your home is showcased in the best light. Make sure your home’s interior looks as good as the exterior and that all appliances and systems are in good working order. Spend some time decluttering and sprucing up your home with minor repairs, and be sure to prepare a list of home improvements for your appraiser. When all’s said and done, these factors work together to help increase your appraisal results while maximizing your home value.