How to make the most of your appraisal

Homeowners can do a lot to make the appraisal process smoother.

Homeowners can do a lot to make the appraisal process smoother.

 

The home appraisal is a crucial step in the process of buying or selling a home or applying for a refinanced mortgage. As any professional appraiser will tell you, there are numerous factors at play in an appraisal that can be difficult for homeowners to really understand. According to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, a home's value is determined by the market in which it's located. That means that the location and surroundings of a home, factors that sellers can't control, play a big role in determining its appraised value.

Still, many homeowners are encouraged to treat the appraisal as more of a test than an evaluation. While not everything is in the owner's hands, there are still some excellent ways a seller or refinance-seeker can present data on the home's value, as well as assisting the appraiser in performing their job.

Covering the basics

With a visit from an appraiser on the books in the next few days, there isn't much that homeowners can do in such a short timeframe to significantly boost their home's market value. Perhaps the best they can do, though, is to be prepared for the appraiser's visit, and provide him or her with all that's needed to get a clear picture of the home's value.

"Be prepared for the appraisal with the necessary documentation."

The first step to achieving this goal is to provide the right documentation. According to Angie's List, it's recommended that homeowners provide receipts for any major renovations or repairs made to the home. This can provide information for the appraiser and speed up the entire process. Providing a copy of a home inspection report, if available at the time, will also help streamline things. Angie's List suggested providing the most recent bill for the home's property tax payment and the title policy as well. These documents may be needed for other closing procedures anyway.

Tidying up

Appraisers reach a conclusion on a home's value based on a number of objective factors, including previous sales of similar homes in the same general area. However, home valuation experts also must use their best judgment in determining a home's market value. This means that the overall appearance and curb appeal of a home go a long way in the final tabulation of its value.

As Realtor.com noted in a discussion with several real estate professionals, the idea that homeowners can influence their appraisal is controversial, but technically unavoidable.

"Having your house clean does make a difference, even though in theory it should not," said Mark Ferguson, a real estate agent and property investor in Greeley, Colorado, according to Realtor.com. "Appraisers are people, and they are swayed by smells and how a house feels, even if they aren't conscious of it."

Painting
If time allows, a new coat of paint can make a big difference in value.

With this in mind, most will recommend ensuring the home is in its best shape before the appraiser visits. All floors and walls should be cleaned as much as possible, and any outdoor work must be completed as well, like mowing the lawn for example. If your home is still on the market, putting in the time to clean is generally a good idea anyway.

Besides basic cleaning, there are some other quick fixes that tend to make appraisals go smoother. NerdWallet recommended adding a fresh coat of paint and getting rid of excessive clutter as two basic first steps. If sellers have more time to work with, they could also replace worn out flooring or carpet, as well as update crucial kitchen and bath fixtures to make the home really shine.

It's only natural that a homeowner would want to get the best judgment possible on their appraisal. Following these simple tips may be the best chance at accomplishing that.