How to Prepare for a Home Appraisal

Amanda Bell
Written by Amanda Bell
Updated February 29, 2016
gray house exterior
There are certain things you should do, like provide documentation on any remodeling, when preparing for a property appraisal. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Caroline C., of Edina, Minnesota)

If you're getting your property appraised, you need to be prepared.

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When selling your home, the bank will want an objective price to match it with a potential buyer’s mortgage.

Enter an appraiser, who the buyer pays to assess a home by its condition against other similar properties in the area to determine its fair market value. This number can make or break your selling experience, so it’s important to put your best foot forward.

Get the most out of your appraisal — and ultimately, a buyer — with these tips.

Request a local property appraiser (if possible)

If you’re having your home appraised as part of a refinance or during the process of selling it, you don’t have much say in choosing an appraiser, as the lender typically assigns someone to evaluate your home.

However, if you’re hiring an appraiser to determine what renovations would get the largest return before you put your house on the market, you have some sway.

Avoid potential problems by requesting a professional who has state certification and field experience in your area, says Fred Smith, president and owner of FTS Real Estate Appraisers in Lake Worth, Florida.

Provide renovation documentation

A list of the approximate costs of any recent updates, closed permits on any major improvements and inspection reports aren’t mandatory, but can be helpful. If you don’t have them on hand, an appraiser knows how to obtain these documents.

“An inspection report helps to let me know if there’s any needed repairs, like if a stain on the ceiling is because of a roof that’s leaking,” Smith says.

Your most recent property tax bill and title policy are also good to have on hand.

Know what determines value

Do your research before starting a major remodel or converting part of your home into additional living space. If you don’t acquire the proper permits, those areas may not count toward your home’s overall square footage, which can result in a lower-than-expected appraised home value.

“If you convert a garage into an extra bedroom or an office, it’s still considered a garage, not additional living space,” Smith says.

Make any necessary repairs

Appraisers visually inspect homes for improvements or deficiencies that may lower the values, taking into account location and square footage. While your home’s overall condition will be noted on their report, the appraisal itself isn’t a home inspection.

“That doesn’t mean you should defer maintenance,” says Penny Smith, owner of Penny Smith Appraisals-Realty ONE Group in Newport Beach, California, and no relation to Fred Smith.

Fix torn screens, damaged siding or peeling paint before the appraiser arrives.

Clean up clutter

Whether a home is neat or not doesn’t affect the value outright, but Penny Smith says messes can be a distraction for appraisers trying to write an accurate report.

“Take care of any piles of clothes on the floor, dishes in the sink or an unmowed lawn before the appraiser comes over,” she says.

Give the appraiser some space

You don’t typically need to escort an appraiser around your property, but you can if you want, according to the Appraisal Institute, a professional association of real estate appraisers.

“I always tell a homeowner to point out any features that might affect the home’s marketability,” Fred Smith says. That includes nearby amenities or recent upgrades. “I’m absorbing everything as I’m walking around,” he says. “I don’t know the house as well as the homeowner does.”

If the appraisal report is wrong

If you find inaccuracies in the appraiser’s report, contact the company or lender that ordered it, not the appraiser, says Penny Smith. Do your homework if you choose to contest it. Websites that discuss home price estimates are often inaccurate and won’t help your case, she adds.

“You have to have supported data and information, like comparable home values and closed permits, and prove that your information is better than what the appraiser has,” she says.

Did you recently have your home appraised? Tell us about the experience in the comments section below.

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