It may seem that homebuyers and sellers don't agree on much, but they share one important concern: that the transaction is successful. This comradery is never more evident than during the appraisal process. It's only natural since the results of the appraisal can send the deal spiraling out of control.
Appraisers take into account many factors when determining the worth of a home. While some of these, such as location, can't be helped, there are things a homeowner can do to ensure that the home is appraised for maximum value.
1. Information is King
Appraisers don't spend a lot of time in the home. In fact, Brian Coester, chief executive of appraisal firm CoesterVMS, tells CNBC that the interior inspection typically takes 30 minutes or less.
"After inspecting thousands of homes, it does become quite easy to quickly assess the amenities in a home," reiterates Ryan Lundquist on Sacramento Appraisal Blog. That isn't much time to make a good first impression, so line up those ducks in advance of the appraiser's visit. The first one should be a packet of information that you can hand the appraiser as he or she speeds out the door after the inspection. This packet should contain not only the basics about your home but anything that will help back up the buyer's offer.
Include a fact sheet about the home with the address, the year the home was built, the square footage, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the size of the lot. Also include a listing of recent sales in the area, especially if you know of any for-sale-by-owner homes that have sold or homes that sold for less than they should have for any reason. For example, a home may have been sold to a relative, or the owners may have sold quickly to take a job out of town. Yes, the appraiser has access to recent home sales, but there's always a chance he or she may miss something.
Create a list of any improvements you've made to the home. List them by date and include contact information for the contractor who did the work.
2. If It's Broken, Fix It
The appraiser will assign the home with what is known in the business as an "effective age."
It's largely based on the condition of the home and how well it has been maintained. This age may be older or younger than its actual age. "Say you have a cracked window, threadbare carpet, some tiles falling off the shower surround, vinyl torn in the laundry room, and the dog ate the corner of the fireplace hearth, these items could still add up to an overall average condition rating as the home is still habitable, however, your effective age will be higher resulting in comparables being utilized which will have the same effective age and resulting in a lower value," Doreen Zimmerman, an appraiser in Paradise, California, tells the Wall Street Journal.
Fix anything that will age the home in the eyes of the appraiser.
3. Give the Home a Quick Cleaning
Most appraisers will tell you that it doesn't matter if your home is clean or dirty - it has no bearing on its value. We, on the other hand, know how illusions can sell, and if a clean house gives the illusion that the home has been well-maintained, what harm can it do to clean it before the appraiser's arrival? I don't know about you, but before I trade in a car at the dealership, I give it a good cleaning.
"Things like overgrown landscaping, soiled carpeting, marks on walls - those do affect value and are part of the property's overall condition rating," Dean Zibas, of Zibas Appraisal in San Clemente, California, tells the Wall Street Journal.
While some things impact a home's value more than others, the bottom line is that the process can vary by appraiser. Anything you can do in the three areas listed above has the potential to streamline the appraisal process and increase the value of your home. Plus, going through these steps prior to listing your home will only help increase the number of potential buyers. And ultimately, selling your home is what it's all about.