Home Appraisal Checklist

Jacqueline Zenn
Written by Jacqueline Zenn
Updated October 7, 2021
Well - maintained house exterior with large porch
JamesBrey/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Getting an entire home appraised can be nerve-wracking, especially if you know that your potential purchase or a property's price or sale is contingent on the outcome

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Stressing out over a home appraisal is common during the seemingly endless real estate purchase process, but there’s an easy solution: create a checklist of key features to review along with potential problems and their solutions, and the whole home appraisal becomes a breeze. 

The Home Appraisal Process

Professional appraisers have certain standardized forms they usually have to fill out, and knowing what they look for, and the questions they ask, can help you make the house appraisal as easy as possible for everyone involved. It will also help you understand what the potential results of the home appraisal will be and how they might affect the property’s value.

The most important items to assess during a home appraisal depend on the area’s climate, the home’s style and age, and other, more intangible elements, like the value of nearby or comparable properties and local housing trends. 

Another thing to note as you prepare for a home appraisal is that, while a home appraisal and a home inspection are similar activities, a home inspection determines the safety and overall “health” of the home, an appraisal assesses the worth or value of the property.

1. What Is the Overall Condition of the Home?

Any cracks in the foundation or walls, leaks in the roof, damaged windows, floors, or siding, or anything else that is clearly a problem will affect the appraisal. That’s because repairing or replacing those elements will likely be necessary in the near future, and therefore the responsibility of the new owners. 

2. What Is the Total Square Footage of the House and the Property Lot?

This one is simple, but if you haven’t gotten a professional to survey the land and establish the property lines, the home appraisal might be a good time to do so since the size of the lot is one of the primary property value factors. 

3. How Many Bathrooms and Bedrooms?

Of course, the number and size of the bedrooms and half and full baths play a major role in the value of a house. Note that this includes rooms that could be bedrooms, even if they are currently offices, craft rooms, home gyms, or other purposes. Generally, a room has to have an outside window and a closet to be considered a bedroom for appraisal purposes. 

4. How Is the Landscaping?

Is the landscaping in good condition? Are the bushes, trees, and shrubs well-trimmed and healthy? Are there any older shade trees on the property that add significant value? Older or larger trees can be a great asset and their health factors into a home appraisal.

5. What Outdoor Features Are There?

Back patio with stone path way and fireplace
chuckcollier/E+ via Getty Images

Outdoor living spaces like patios, decks, porches, and other areas should be considered and assessed, along with features like ponds, creeks, fountains, and stone or paved pathways on the property. Properly maintained, all of the above can add value to the property, but they can also be costly to repair now or in the future.

6. What Kind of Shape Is the Roof in?

Roof leaks and damage are some of the most expensive and complicated repairs to make. A damaged roof will affect the overall health of the home, so appraisers check:

  • the age of the roof.

  • recent inspection dates and recently fixed minor damage.

  • if there have been any major storms or weather events in the area in the past few years.

Also, pay attention to the type of material, since inspectors value some types of roofing higher than others. 

7. How Solid Is the Foundation?

The foundation affects the overall integrity of the home, so ensuring that it is in good shape is essential if you’re considering purchasing a new property. Fixing a foundation gets expensive and could be a dealbreaker in a potential sale, so the status of the home’s foundation should be a vital element of any appraisal.

8. What Is the Lighting and Electrical Situation?

The condition, style, and kind of bulbs required of any built-in lighting, along with the integrity of the electrical system, affect a home’s value. LED lighting and other cost-effective lighting systems can be a boost in the eyes of a home appraiser—as well as potential buyers.

9. What Is the State of the Plumbing System?

Functional plumbing is a necessity, of course, and one that can be costly to repair or replace if a problem occurs. Appraisers also assess special features, along with the age of the pipes and various appliances connected to them.

10. What Is the HVAC System’s Condition?

A home’s HVAC (or, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) appliances and the system are other key elements of a home appraisal since their function is a necessity, and fixes can be costly. Appraisers regard newer systems more highly, especially recently updated HVAC systems. If that’s your system’s case, that’s likely a value-add.

11. How Old Are the Appliances, and What Is Their Condition?

Man inspecting oven condition in the kitchen
Zero Creatives/Image Source via Getty Images

The age of the home’s various appliances—including the stove, range, and oven, the refrigerator, the water heater, the dishwasher, the washer and dryer, and anything else that might be part of the property—should all be checked during an appraisal. If you don’t know an appliance’s exact age, a professional should be able to discern it from the serial number and manufacturer.  

12. How Many Fireplaces Are There?

The number and condition of the fireplaces and associated chimneys is another important part of a home appraisal. Having a clean, well-functioning fireplace and flue or chimney is not only a value add, but is also an essential safety element; a damaged or overly sooty chimney is a serious fire hazard. 

13. What’s the State of the Basement?

Whether you have a finished or unfinished basement, it plays a role in the property’s value, along with the overall condition and lack of basement-specific issues like mold, dampness, or similar problems. A finished basement is usually a value add, especially if it has features like a wine cellar, wet bar, AV system, or other standout fixtures. 

14. What’s the Condition of the Home’s Other Features?

Granite countertops, hardwood floors, marble tiles, or other pricey finishes can affect the property’s value, along with more “fun” additions like wine cellars or custom wine storage, built-in audiovisual systems, or home theaters. Essentially, anything else out of the ordinary may increase your home’s value.

Home Appraisal FAQs

In addition to the features mentioned above, you may also have other questions arise when getting your home appraised. 

Why are you having a property appraised?

Generally, if you are having a property assessed or appraised, it is because you are somewhere in the process of purchasing the home. Mortgage lenders or banks generally require a home appraisal before approving you for a mortgage; they want assurance that the home is worth the purchase price and could potentially sell to cover losses if the owner defaults on the mortgage. 

You may also need to get an appraisal to get a homeowners insurance policy. If you make or dispute a claim, or if your house needs rebuilding, the established home value places a critical role in determining the outcome.

How do I find a home appraiser?

Often, your real estate agent or the seller’s agent can provide you with a list of vetted local home appraisers, or your homeowners’ insurance company can connect with you with a professional. Or you can find a home appraiser near you fairly easily in most regions—just be sure to check their reviews on various platforms and social media first. 

How much does a home appraisal cost?

A home appraisal typically costs around $300 to $400 or more. But often, potential buyers will throw in the cost of an appraisal or include it in the purchase price, or your mortgage provider may offer discounted appraisal services. 

How long does a home appraisal take?

A home appraisal can take around twenty minutes to two hours based on the size of your home and lot, and then three to five or more business days for everything to be reviewed and confirmed with the mortgage lender or other party who requested the appraisal.

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