Whether you are selling, purchasing or refinancing a home, the lender’s appraiser has the final word on how much money the home is worth. Therefore, the appraisal can make or break the real estate transaction. Unlike a home inspection, where the inspector determines any existing mechanical or system problems in the house, the appraiser’s job is to compare your house against comparable homes that have recently sold to determine its market value. Some items on the appraisers list you can’t change, such as location, but others, such as condition and updating, depending on your budget, may be appropriate tasks to perform to prepare your house for an appraisal.
Cleaning and Organizing
While these may not be the most desirable tasks, cleaning, organizing and removing clutter from your house are among the best ways to prepare for an appraisal. A clean home looks well-maintained – something the appraiser will be looking for. Organizing the garage, closets and cupboards helps them appear larger, which is a great way to add value. Finally, removing excess clutter from your house, such as items on counter tops, makes a room appear both larger and cleaner.
Check out how your home stacks up against those that have recently sold in the area insofar as its exterior appeal, also known as curb appeal. The outside of your house makes a first impression on the appraiser, so make it is as clean and de-cluttered as the interior. Tidy up the landscaping and spread some fresh mulch in the landscape beds. Remove any toys or other clutter from the front yard. A well-maintained yard gives the impression of a well-maintained home.
Make Necessary Updates
Fresh paint is an easy and inexpensive way to add value to your house. This is especially necessary if you have wild or unusual wall colors, advises Loreen Stuhr, an appraiser with Appraisers of Las Vegas. She recommends painting the walls in neutral colors and replacing vinyl flooring with wood, laminate or tile. If it’s in your budget to do so, consider replacing laminate counter tops with tile, granite or other more upscale materials.
Fix any maintenance issues that the appraiser is sure to notice, such as leaking or dripping faucets, running toilets, torn screens, missing trim and missing or wobbly stairway handrails. If the home buyer is using a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to purchase the house, keep in mind that FHA requires that the seller repair anything that affects the health and safety of the occupants. An FHA-approved appraiser is required to make note of such property conditions, including an assumption of the structural integrity of the property. Items that require repair before the close of escrow include providing adequate access and exit from the bedrooms to outside the home, leaky roofs, foundation damage and flaking lead paint.
Although the appraiser has numerous ways of finding information, she may have no way to know about improvements you’ve made to the home, which could have a positive impact on its value. A good way to let her know is to create a list of the home’s features and benefits, advises David Hesidenz of David Hesidenz Appraisals in Pennsylvania. Hesidenz suggests that you supply the appraiser with a page or two containing the exact street address of your home, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and the square footage and lot size. Then make a list of any improvements you’ve made to the home and the date they were finished. Some of these improvements may include a new roof, new windows, upgraded plumbing or electrical work, and room additions.
Based in the American Southwest, Bridget Kelly has been writing about gardening and real estate since 2005. Her articles have appeared at Trulia.com, SFGate.com, GardenGuides.com, RE/MAX.com, MarketLeader.com, RealEstate.com, USAToday.com and in "Chicago Agent" magazine, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing.