Home appraisals are based on the market sales of comparable homes that have recently sold in the neighborhood, but there are a few things that a homeowner can do to maximize the chances of keeping those appraisal figures as high as possible.
Prevent Surprises: Do Some Homework
Contact a real estate agent who specializes in sales in your neighborhood. Ask him do a "sold search" on the multi-list service system. These sold properties will serve as a comparison point for home values in your neighborhood that the appraiser will use in appraising your property. The appraiser will use the homes that are closest to your home's style, size, square footage and lot size. You can also access Zillow (see Resources), enter your address and see what comes up, but on this website, highly populated areas seem to have good information, whereas areas of low population are not as reliable.
Good Communication Helps
After the appraiser calls to schedule an appointment, prepare a list of all the upgrades, repairs and permanent additions that you have made to your home since you have owned it, especially items that increase value such as kitchen and bathroom upgrades. Print off this list and give it to the appraiser when he arrives. Point out upgrades that you have done as you accompany him in a walk-through of your home. During the conversation, the appraiser will ask you about some of the amenities that your home offers. He will ask about the number of bedrooms and baths, outside buildings and a pool or any additions. These questions are to scope out sold properties to use as comparisons in a database. Mention upgrades and additions you have done so that he will have a better idea of what he is appraising.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Imagine pictures of beautiful home that are shown in magazines. Notice how perfect they look on the outside. Look at the outside of your home and imagine the appraiser's pictures. Take a couple of days and cut the grass, edge the parameter of the yard and around flower gardens. Make sure the weeds are pulled, regular maintenance is done and trash is hauled away. Clean out gutters and pressure-wash the outside of the house and the driveway. The appraiser will take front and back pictures of your home.
Upgrades Help Prevent Depreciation
Clean the inside of the home, make any repairs and add a fresh coat of paint on the house, if needed. If the home is an older home, make sure the flooring style is current, clean and in good condition. Do the same for light fixtures. The appraiser will take pictures of special features of the inside of the home. The appraiser will deduct a certain percentage for depreciation--the more updated the home, the less the depreciation percentage. The appraiser's report will contain information about the entire neighborhood and will focus specifically on your home.