Somewhere between applying for a home loan and the close of escrow comes a most crucial step: the home appraisal. Since the transaction that got you to this point is one in which a buyer and seller agreed on a price, an actual market dynamic, the appraisal is likely to match the purchase price.
In fluctuating markets however, especially those going up after being down for some time, low appraisals frequently occur. For instance, as the nation climbed out from under the explosion of distressed sales, it took some time for home appraisals to even out. The gap was understandable, given that appraisers were basing market values on many homes that had foreclosed or sold via short sale.
Although there is nothing a homeowner can do about nearby properties that affect the market value of all homes in the area, there are things he or she can do to help achieve a higher figure at appraisal. Here are three ways to increase your home appraisal.
1. Arm the Appraiser With Accurate Info
“The reality is that the appraiser is only there for 30 minutes at most,” Brian Coester, chief executive of appraisal management company CoesterVMS, told Reuters. Thirty minutes to make a good first impression is a tall order.
Put together an information packet that the appraiser can take when she heads back to the office to crunch the numbers. Here are some items to include in the packet:
- The facts – Make a list of facts about your home, including the street address, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the year it was built. Yes, the appraiser has access to these details, but verification from you can’t hurt.
- A list of recent sales – The appraiser has access to area home sale prices, but there is always the possibility of an error or two. Ask your real estate agent to print out a list of comparable homes in the area that have recently sold for prices that help justify your price.
- Inside information – Include any information you may have that the appraiser can’t possibly be aware of, such as the fact that your next-door neighbor sold his home at a drastically reduced price to be able to quickly relocate for a new job out of town.
- Improvements – Let the appraiser know about any improvements you’ve made to the home, the date they were made and the contact information of the contractor who performed the work. Include info about new floors, windows, countertops or a new roof. If you finished the basement, list that. Any work on or replacement of major systems should go on the list, too.
2. Spiff Up Your Home
While you don’t need to stage your home for the appraiser’s visit, you do want to show that the house has been well maintained.
“Things like overgrown landscaping, soiled carpeting, marks on walls — those do affect value and are part of the property’s overall condition rating,” Dean Zibas of Zibas Appraisal in San Clemente, Calif., told the Wall Street Journal.
Certified residential appraiser Ralph J. Vaccari of Marblehead, Mass., agrees. “It’s important to realize that a dirty or unkempt home can increase its appearance of wear and tear beyond normal, and that condition can, in fact, affect value.”
So get busy cleaning up the landscaping and sprucing up the interior of the home in advance of the appraisal appointment.
3. Make Repairs
The appraiser will assign an “effective age” to the home, which is based on the condition of the home and any updates performed.
“Say you have a cracked window, thread-bare carpet, some tiles falling off the shower surround, vinyl torn in the laundry room, and the dog ate the corner of the fireplace hearth. These items could still add up to an overall average condition rating as the home is still habitable, however your effective age will be higher, resulting in comparables being utilized which will have the same effective age, and resulting in lower value,” Doreen Zimmerman, an author and appraiser in Paradise, Calif., told the Journal.
Make any repairs that, if not made, would age the home in the eyes of the appraiser. Some of these may be as simple as replacing torn window screens, while others may be more substantial.
While the sale prices of comparable properties are relied upon heavily to ascertain the subject property’s value, appraisers do not solely depend upon them. All pertinent data, including some intangible aspects, will help determine the closest estimate of the value of a property. And these are often the aspects of the appraisal process that you can have an influence on.