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A home appraisal is an important step in refinancing or selling a house. Understanding the process can help the seller or the refinancing homeowner earn the best marks possible on an appraisal report.
An appraiser will count the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, measure the square footage, and use neighborhood sales as a gauge to help settle on a dollar value for your home. These are variables you can't change, at least not in the short term. What you can change will take some time, but it is completely doable.
Hire the Right Appraiser
Sometimes the lender providing the refinanced loan selects the appraiser for you, but if you are in the position to hire your own appraiser, seek a licensed professional who has experience in your local area.
First Impressions Count
A clean home may not add dollars to its value, but a dirty home can definitely subtract from it. Prepare your home and property inside and out to look its best. The appraiser will take photos of each room and look inside every closet. Make sure to:
✓ Tidy up the landscaping and haul off outdoor trash.
✓ Clean and declutter indoors, especially on open surfaces.
✓ Lock up pets and deodorize the house.
Keep a List of Upgrades
Did you add more insulation to your home? Mention it. Before the visit, prepare a list of small or extensive indoor and outdoor projects that you have completed while owning the home (up to fifteen years) for the appraiser to reference later. Provide copies of receipts and records for expensive materials and contracted work. Even if you did the work yourself, a home improvement project, such as a new bath vanity and faucet, will be worth more than the cost of materials, so include the small improvements too.
Be Smart about Updates
Say you have a little money to spend—where will it go the furthest? Obvious fixes like dripping faucets and nicks on walls are easy and cheap to remedy, but if time is the issue, prioritize repairs or improvements by focusing on condition; for example, replace shabby carpet or broken trim, paint dingy walls, and update cheap lighting and plumbing fixtures. Be sure to check your light bulbs—the appraiser will flick switches in each room. It's not the light bulb he's testing, it's the working condition of the fixture and possibly the wiring. When you're spending money before an appraisal with hopes of improving the value, consult an expert first—an experienced real estate agent can spot the most glaring issues within minutes, and they're savvy about making home-improvement dollars stretch.