10 Best Ways to Prepare for a Home Appraisal

The Takeaways:

  • If you spend around $500 or less to do some superficial fixes, it increases the value of your home because a well-maintained home holds more worth.
  • Having lights, doors, and plumbing working will put your home at a younger effective age.
  • Organize a list of repairs and upgrades. The kitchen and bathroom hold the biggest opportunity for return on investment.

Are you in the market to sell your home? Maybe you’re simply looking to refinance your mortgage? To do either of these, you may need a home appraisal. The outcome of the property appraisal will help determine your home’s value.

How much is your home worth? Find out with a home appraisal.

To get the best-appraised value, we’ll help you learn how to prepare for a home appraisal with 10 tips to better equip yourself and your home.

What’s a home appraisal?

A home appraisal helps set your home’s market value or how much the home is worth. This also includes the value of the land where the home is built. Note that a home appraisal is different from an inspection.

Let’s jump into some home appraisal tips!


1. Clean Up Your Yard for Curb Appeal

Walk out front and look at your home with fresh eyes. Are there weeds in the yard or driveway? Are there children’s toys or other clutter on the lawn? These are all minor issues you can take care of rather quickly.

Tidying up can help improve the value of your home and can help make it appear larger.

Create a home appraisal checklist in the weeks leading up to your appointment. Then do a few projects or repeat some tasks each week.

Leading up to your home appraisal, consider watering your outdoor plants a bit more. Don’t have time for that? Then maybe adding a few new plants in pots or the ground can bring some new life to your home’s exterior.

Be sure to check for any chipping paint that you could touch up if you have the supplies. Cleaning your windows’ exterior can make a difference, as well as sweeping or hosing down any sidewalks or driveways is a great added touch.

Keep some of these minor touch-ups in mind for the interior of your home too. And remember: a decluttered and clean home will feel more expensive.


2. Make the Appraiser’s Visit a Pleasant One

Make sure the appraiser feels comfortable. Is it a hot or cold day? Make sure to set your air conditioning or heater to a comfortable temperature. Even turning on some fans can make a difference.

While candles are nice, be wary since everyone prefers different scents and some have allergies. Perhaps light a candle or two and make sure to blow it out an hour or two before your appraiser arrives so the scent is more subtle.

If you have pets, make sure to leash them or see if a friend can watch them for a few hours.

Don’t go over the top, but doing the simple things, like the above, will make them feel more comfortable.

3. The $500 Rule is Real

The home appraisal process doesn’t have a hard rule on how much a home’s price increases or decreases in value.

However, appraisers often measure home value in $500 increments. If your home needs some relativity-minor repairs, they’ll hurt your appraisal. Fix or replace all non-functioning door latches or handles, torn window screens, and even worn-out carpet. Also, make sure basic plumbing and light fixtures function correctly.

While appraisers don’t fully inspect plumping, they’ll note if there are issues found during their visit.

Think of it this way: If you spend around $500 or less to do some of these simple fixes, it increases the value of your home because a well-maintained home holds more worth. Possibly even more than the amount you spent.


4. Double Check the Basics

Having lights, doors, or windows not working can affect your home’s effective age. Basically, if elements in your home are in disrepair, their perceived age will be higher. Then it’s put into a category with older homes and loses value.

It’s much better to have your home grouped with newer homes as the value will increase.

Think of these small repairs as the tipping point. If the appraiser sees lights or doors not functioning properly, they may wonder if the homeowner has kept up with larger home repairs.

5. Keep a List of Repairs and Upgrades

Organizing a list of repairs and upgrades is something you should do whether you’re thinking about an appraisal or not – you can point them out, along with any other special features of your home, to the appraiser.

Enclosed garages, fireplaces, pools, and things of the like increase the value of a home.

Plus, by showing the appraiser your list of repairs, it makes it easy for them to see the time and care you’ve put into your home.

Check this list for common repairs such as:

  • Loose Floor Boards
  • Leaky Roof
  • Functioning Door Bell
  • Rain Gutters
  • Replace Bathroom Caulk
  • Dripping Pipe or Faucet


6. Safety Equipment is Installed and Working

Make sure to check your safety devices. Like the batteries in your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, or home security alarm.

Remember to check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher, too.


7. Change What Will Add the Most Value

The kitchen and bathroom hold the biggest opportunity for return on investment.

In a study sponsored by the National Association of Realtors, G. Stacy Sirmans reviewed 150 variables that affect home value. The Professor of real estate at Florida State University discovered that the kitchen and bathroom held the most weight toward a higher home value.

Some other elements that greatly increased the home’s worth are wood floors, landscaping, and an enclosed garage.


8. Basement vs. Attic – Which has a bigger return?

Wondering how to increase home value? Maybe you’re considering remodeling a basement or attic?

One important thing to remember is that anything below the grade, basically the ground or foundation, aren’t factored into square footage. Therefore, an updated basement won’t be factored into an appraisal the same as a repurposed attic.

A study found a basement had a 66% return on a remodel, whereas an attic has 73%.

However, potential buyers may like the idea of a fun game room, man cave, or guest room in a basement. It just won’t help much for your home appraisal.


9. Don’t Hover

During the home appraisal, don’t follow the appraiser around too much. Some appraisers have said it can make them think there is something wrong with the home. Be available to answer questions but allow them to do their job.

If you can’t watch them the whole time, what do appraisers look for?

Appraisers are looking for the overall structure of the home to gauge the quality of the build. The size of the property will be factored into the total value. Also, the upkeep of the interior and exterior features help tell the story of the home.


10. Remember Your Neighborhood

It’s important that your surrounding area is factored into your appraisal.

What improvements have happened since you moved in? Was a new school, restaurant, or community park built? Note if your roads have been recently re-paved.

What is within 10 miles of your home? A luxury shopping center, university, or sports stadium can all affect the perceived value of your home.

These same 10 ways also work great for refinancing appraisal tips.

Want to know more about the home appraisal process?

Just keep reading.


Facts About a Property Appraisal

Property Inspection Waiver, PIW

A PIW is, “an offer to waive the appraisal for eligible transactions.” Through Fannie Mae, a Property Inspection Waiver can be issued. First, the lender submits the application to DU (Desktop Underwriter). DU has a database of over 26 million appraisal reports and property analytics. This data helps determine the value for homes without the appraisal. Second, an offer is issued by DU to waive the appraisal. Third, the lender would then accept. Fourth, the lender gives the loan and all documents needed to Fannie Mae.

PIW may not work for all homebuyers. Talk with your On Q Mortgage Consultant to learn more!


Mortgage Insurance Premium, MIP

If you have less than 20% equity in your home, it’s likely that you pay a Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP). One way to help lessen or get rid of your MIP is to get a new appraisal. “Some lenders will consider a new appraisal instead of the original sales price or appraised value when deciding whether you meet the 20 percent equity threshold.” Talk to an On Q Financial Mortgage Consultant to see if this may work for your loan situation.

If you’re wondering how to get your house appraised, don’t worry. Your lender will help coordinate that. They can help answer questions about appraisal cost or something like, “how long does a home appraisal take?” Talk with one of our Mortgage Consultants to learn more.

The bottom line for home appraisals is to make your house as appealing as possible, but don’t stress about it too much. Appraisers are trained to be careful and fair in their evaluations.

As always, you’re welcome to contact one of our Mortgage Consultants if you have any questions.


This material is provided for information and educational purposes only. Although the material is deemed to be accurate and reliable, we do not make any representations as to its accuracy or completeness, and as a result, there is no guarantee it is without errors.



About the Author

Before opening On Q Financial in 2005, John Bergman originated and funded 450 units a year as a loan officer. He founded the company with just $1M of personal life savings—committed to his vision for building the best independent mortgage organization in the industry.

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