The home appraisal process can be a stressful time, whether you're buying or selling a property. It's the job of the appraiser to find the fair market value of the home. If their findings don't match the buyer's offer, there can be delays in the transaction. But if you know what appraisers look for, you might be able to prevent your house sale from running into problems.
Related: 4 Ways to Polish Up Your Home Exterior Before Getting an Appraisal
The appraisal will be one of the bigger hurdles to clear in your sale so it will be important to have an understanding of how they work. Pricing your home accurately from the start will lead to the best results. In order for your home appraisal to get the results needed for the sale to close, it's important to know what appraisers look for:
Appraisers Look at External Factors Around Your Home
The appraiser that visits your home will have been certified to operate in the state. They'll probably be using the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report as the basis for their evaluation. This means that the appraiser will be checking for certain things both inside and outside your home, as well as factors related to its location.
The appraiser will be looking at the type of neighborhood your house is situated in. The zoning of the area is important, as are the types of homes in the neighborhood.
They also check on things more closely related to your home. This will include the lot's size, the connected utilities, the driveway and the garage. Things like garage space add more value to a home, with a two-car garage worth more than a single-vehicle garage.
If your property has something extra above what's found in other homes in your neighborhood, it could add value. While the appraiser might notice this anyway, it doesn't hurt to make sure they know. Here are other things an appraiser will look at on the exterior:
- The condition of the siding and trim—is there wood rot? Does the siding need painting?
- Are structures on the property sound? Are any decks, patios or porches in need of repair?
- Are there any other exterior structures that add value, such as a storage shed?
- Is there a pool, tennis court or other exterior feature that warrants added value?
- Are there underground sprinklers?
The Appraiser Will Look at Internal Factors
A big part of what appraisers look for is inside the home. They'll work out the square footage, note the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and check the condition of the structure. They'll also look at how the home was constructed and what materials were used in the walls and floors.
Appraisers will check if kitchens and bathrooms have been updated, and measure the sizes of attics and basements. They'll also look for any signs of pest infestations in the home.
Safety features can sometimes be important too. Does every staircase have a handrail? Have smoke detectors been fitted throughout the home?
What appraisers look at can sometimes be some less obvious though. There can sometimes be local factors that make certain features in a home more valuable than others. In Northern states, where natural light is at more of a premium, larger windows will be more valuable. In Southern states, shaded areas and better air conditioning might increase the value instead.
Here are several other internal features an appraiser will take note of:
- Does the home have a security system?
- Does the house have a central vacuum system?
- Is there a home theatre or a sound system?
- Are there other amenities that could add value to the property?
The Condition of the Home is Paramount
The appraiser is going to make careful note of the condition of the property. They'll be looking at the foundations, walls, roof, as well as the heating and cooling systems. Any basic maintenance issues with the home, like peeling paint, will negatively impact the valuation too.
Upgrades and Improvements Influence the Appraisal
While the appraiser will mention upgrades to your home in their report, it won't necessarily reflect the full value that you have paid for the improvement. If you've spent $60,000 on modeling your kitchen, it doesn't necessarily follow that your home will be worth $60,000 more in the appraisal.
It's difficult for the appraiser to tell the difference in the quality of every upgrade you have made to your home. If you have receipts and other documentation ready to show them, this can help.
How to Get Ready for a Home Appraisal
Since it's in your best interest to have the home appraiser value the home higher, you should try to make sure your home is looking its best. Treat a visit from the appraiser the same way you did when your home was being shown to potential buyers. Ensure it's tidy, fix any minor maintenance issues and have any paperwork that might be relevant laid out ready.
This way, you might save yourself from having to negotiate with the buyer over the price if the valuation comes in lower than expected. It is possible to challenge the appraisal value but not very likely to be successful. Most of the time, you'll only be able to get an appraisal value changed unless the appraiser has made a mistake. For example, if your home's size is presented incorrectly, this would be a valid reason for a challenge.
Going through another appraisal is also an option, though the result may still not go how you and your buyer want it to. Pricing accurately is paramount even with foreclosure homes, as lenders will not grant a mortgage on properties that do not appraise.
One of the essential steps in the process of buying or selling a home is the appraisal. Both buyers and sellers should have at least a rudimentary understanding of how a home appraisal works. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what to expect from the process. Best of luck with your next home appraisal!
Bill Gassett is a nationally recognized real estate leader who has been helping people buy and sell MetroWest Massachusetts real estate for the past 33 years. He has been one of the top RE/MAX REALTORS® in New England for the past decade. Gassett works for RE/MAX Executive Realty in Hopkinton, Mass. In 2018, he was the No. 1 RE/MAX real estate agent in Massachusetts.
Every little bit that seller can do to help in the valuation is extremely important!