Whether your goal is to refinance your home or sell it, a high appraisal is the desired outcome. While there are some things related to your appraisal that are beyond your control, there are a few things you can do to help the appraiser see a higher value in your home. However, first, you need to understand a little more about the appraisal process.
How the appraisal process works
An appraisal can be quite disconcerting. You are essentially paying someone to come into your home and tell you how much they believe your home is worth. Even though you love your home and the improvements you've made over the years, it is important to keep the emotional connection you have with your home out of the picture and approach your home appraisal objectively.
These are a few of the things appraisers are looking at that will impact the appraisal value of your home:
- Values of comparable homes sold nearby.
- Overall market value of the home.
- Observations made during a detailed review and walkthrough of the home’s interior and exterior living areas (this part is often documented with photos to support the appraiser’s valuations).
Part of the process of standardizing the process involves a checklist appraisers use to help determine values. This creates a level playing field for all homeowners with some things that are assigned specific values.
This does not mean that there is no room left for interpretation by appraisers, which is why it is important to make sure your home is presented in its best possible light to boost the appraisal value.
Top factors driving value
These are a few things you can do to maximize the appraisal of your home.
Improve its curb appeal. First impressions matter in both selling your home and appraising it. You want to present the best possible image of your home to the appraiser. Spruce up the lawn, cut the grass, trim the trees and properly prune shrubbery so the property presents an optimal first impression.
Choose updates wisely. When updating your home with an appraisal in mind, experts recommend choosing projects that offer the best return on investment. These includes projects like the following:
- Installing Wood Floors
- Enclosing a Garage
If you have plans to update a kitchen or bathroom, go small with these for maximum impact on a small budget.
Another area of concern for updates involves the location of the updates. Updates to the basement of the home have a lesser impact on appraisers than updates to the attic. Finishing a basement does not increase the overall square footage of your home while converting an attic into a bedroom does. The difference in the numbers is that attic renovations recover 73 percent of the costs in the appraisal while basement renovations only recover 66 percent of the costs on average.
Document updates. This is more important than you may realize since some updates have a more visual effect than others. Updates like new roofs, electric system upgrades, and even updates to the heating or air conditioning in the home are not aesthetic improvements, but can offer significant increases in appraisal values.
Offer the appraiser before and after photographs along with copies of receipts and other documentation regarding the upgrades.
Clean everything. Consider a professional cleaning of the home, carpets, and everything in between. You want to make sure the house looks and smells clean, and a little extra help never hurts – especially for pet owners. Carpet and upholstery cleaning can help clear the air of pet smells you do not even notice in your home.
Consider kenneling your pets. You want the appraiser as calm and comfortable in your home as possible. If he is nervous around dogs or allergic to cats, it is best if they are not there while he is working on your home appraisal.
Handling a Low Appraisal
While you’ve put much work and love into your home, those things do not always translate into dollars and cents for appraisers. They have a cold, unfeeling checklist to guide them. If you get a lower than hoped for, or necessary, appraisal, you do have a few options ahead of you.
If you are selling your home, you can work with the buyer by lowering your asking price, or having them increase the cash component of their offer. You might have to split the difference and meet in the middle.
If your goal is to refinance your home, you’ll have to do one of three things.
- Accept the presented offer even though it is less than you would have liked.
- Point out potential errors in the appraisal in hopes of raising the proposed value. Bring facts, figures, and comparable home values in the neighborhood to the table when doing so and present a compelling argument.
- Make further changes to your home and get another appraisal.
A low appraisal is not the end of the world, and the advice above can help you have a better than average appraisal experience, though there are no guarantees when it comes to the business of home appraisals.