Appraisers determine the market value of your home based on several factors, including your home size and location. Appraisers also look at how much similar homes in your neighborhood have sold for. Getting an accurate home assessment is important because lenders use home appraisals to determine whether they should extend a mortgage, while governments use them to set your property tax rates.
Appraisers will visit your home, examining both its exterior and interior condition. On the outside, appraisers look at your roof, paint job, windows and landscape. They also look at any additional structures on your land, such as sheds, garages, decks and pools. Appraisers are looking for damage, maintenance or structural problems. Any of these will downgrade your home's worth. In addition, they look for any damage done by pests like termites, which can severely degrade the value to a buyer.
When they examine the interior of your home, appraisers looks at the systems within your house, like the plumbing, electric wiring, heating and air conditioning. They also look at the condition of your floors, walls and ceilings. Appraisers are looking for warning signs like mold or water damage. Additionally, appraisers look at the quality of permanent fixtures in your home, like carpets and lighting. Homeowners should be sure to point out any improvements they've made, including kitchen or basement renovations.
Appraisers also look at what other similar homes in your neighborhood have sold for. Whoever is assigned to appraise your home will try to compare it to comparable properties. He will look for a similarly sized property with the same number of rooms and amenities, but also will consider any factors that might make your home worth more or less than the comparable home, such as recent upgrades or property size. Homeowners can provide an appraiser with suggested comparable properties. Additionally, homeowners should look for an appraiser who is intimately familiar with your neighborhood -- knowing your block can make a big difference in the final assessment.
Insight From the Owner
The property owner may be asked to weigh in on the quality of his home. An appraiser will ask what improvements the homeowner has made, whether there is any unseen damage and whether there are any problems the appraiser should know about.
John Louis is an award-winning journalist based in Washington, D.C. He attended Columbia University, where he was editor-in-chief of the "Columbia Spectator." He is currently studying law at Georgetown University.