What does an appraiser do?

  • Real estate inspection: The appraiser closely examines the interior and exterior of your home, taking photos and noting its overall condition.
  • Comparables: After the initial visit, the appraiser researches recently sold homes in your neighborhood. This helps the appraiser calculate the home’s worth based on current housing market values.
  • Final report: The appraiser prepares a complete property and market analysis, which typically includes:
    • Your home’s size and condition,
    • A record of any serious structural issues,
    • Notes about recent home renovations and the surrounding area and
    • Photographs, sketches and maps of your property.

Home inspections are also critical in both the buying and selling process. Knowing what is inspected and what’s not is always good.

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Bonus: Advice From An Appraiser On How To Prepare For An Appraisal

Advice From An Appraiser On How To Prepare For An Appraisal – Tom Horn

For some additional insight on how to prepare for an appraisal, we reached out to Tom Horn, a Birmingham real estate appraiser.  Tom has over 25 years of experience performing real estate appraisals.  

We reached out to Tom to find out what his top 5 tips were for sellers who are preparing for an appraisal.  Here is what Tom provided as his top 5 tips on how to prepare for an appraisal.

“Sometimes homeowners feel that they have little to no influence when getting an appraisal on their home but this is not always the case. There are numerous things that owners can do to help prepare for an appraisal inspection and hopefully contribute to a favorable appraisal.

Homeowners can help prepare for an appraisal in two ways. The first involves getting the house ready for the appraisal inspection and the second involves collecting information to give to the appraiser during their visit.

Tip #1: Make repairs on maintenance type items 

Be sure to make repairs on maintenance items such as leaky faucets, missing electrical cover plates, missing light fixtures, and/or missing doors. While these types of repair items don’t always translate into large deductions in value they can give the impression that the home is in worse condition than it actually is.

Don’t leave anything to chance, make the repairs before the appraiser looks at the house. If the appraisal is for an FHA loan some of these repairs may be necessary before the loan closes.

Tip #2: Provide access to all areas of the house

The appraiser must have access to all areas of of the home including all rooms, basement, attics, and closets. If there is anything that is stacked up against doors that would prevent the appraiser from opening them it must be removed so that the appraiser can get into them. Appraisers must observe all areas to make sure every feature of the home is included and all finished area is included.

Tip #3: Have a list of recent repairs or renovations

If you have made any repairs or renovations to your home in the past 15 years it’s a good idea to make the appraiser aware of exactly what was done. Examples of repairs and renovations include the following: roof replacement, heating and cooling replacement, new siding, flooring replacement, kitchen renovation, bath renovation, build out of basement or second story attic room, etc.

Repairs and renovations reduce the subjects “effective age”, meaning that if the actual age of the house is 25 years, the home might appear to be 15 years old, which could help it appraise for a higher amount. It also adds livable space and value to your home.

Tip #4: Provide a copy of the survey

A copy of a survey, while not necessary, can be helpful if your lot is irregular shaped or is larger than typical. This type of information is typically available online with the local county assessor, however if you have bought any adjacent property to increase the size of your site and have a survey, you may want to provide this to the appraiser to make sure they consider all of the property.

Make the appraiser aware of how much land you have so they will know.

Tip #5: Provide Recent sales

Are you aware of any recent sales that have occurred in your neighborhood that you believe are similar to your home?

Appraisers have access to most sales information, however private sales do occur and they may be more difficult to find unless you know the address or owner, which you can provide to them. I am always open to any sales a homeowner can provide, however that does not mean I can use them.

The sale has to meet certain criteria such as time of sale and comparability to the subject among other things. A sale is not always a comparable and the appraiser will make the final determination.

By making sure that the house is clean and in tip top condition and that the appraiser has complete information relating to repairs and renovations the homeowner can rest assured that they have done everything in their power to contribute to a good appraisal.”

Create A Pleasant Visit For The Appraiser

As you prepare for an appraisal, you need to treat it as you would a private showing to a potential buyer.  When you’re selling a home, there are dozens of tips for preparing for showings when selling a home.

The same tips that you’d follow while preparing for showings should be followed as you prepare for an appraisal.  Creating a pleasant visit for the appraiser will not guarantee it’s a successful one, but definitely can help with their overall impression of your home.

A few of the best ways to create a pleasant visit for the bank appraiser includes de-cluttering, caging your pets, and keeping your home at a comfortable temperature.  If you happen to be selling your home with pets, there is nothing worse then Fido nipping at the appraisers ankles while he or she is trying to do their job, so make their visit as pleasant as possible!

What Hurts a Home Appraisal?

If you’re trying to buy or refinance a home, a good appraisal is key. If the appraisal comes in too low, you might not be approved, or you could face higher interest rates. A number of factors can negatively affect your appraisal, including:

  • Deferred maintenance
  • Dated or undesirable finishes
  • Not being up front about needed repairs
  • Comparable properties that are “outliers” (e.g., sold to relatives, under duress, or a foreclosure)
  • Market conditions
  • Appraiser experience

About Quadwalls®

Quadwalls.com is a real estate website founded by Indiana Realtor® Chuck Vander Stelt. Chuck and his team of Quadwalls Connected Agents are committed to helping home buyers and sellers save money and make better decisions when buying or selling real estate.

5. Make Sure Everything Works

Your appraiser won’t walk around your home testing light switches and outlets, but you should make sure that all your home’s major systems are functional. Go through your home with this checklist and make sure that everything is working.

  • Run your heating and cooling systems. Time how long it takes for your home to reach the requested temperature.

  • Engage your home’s security system. Make sure that only the correct code arms and disarms the system.

  • Open and close all of your home’s windows. Look for cracks and warping near your window bases. Lock and unlock each window.

  • Test your kitchen appliances. Run your dishwasher with dirty dishes and make sure they come out clean. Heat up your oven and use the burners.

  • Run your ceiling fans. Turn them on and off and pay attention to how long it takes for your fan to start and stop. 

Schedule a repair before your appraisal if you notice that something doesn’t work. 

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Clean and Repair: Preparing for a Home Appraisal

To get the best possible appraisal value, you want to make sure your home is in tip-top shape. Ideally this would mean your home is completely up to date, both structurally and through design, meaning expensive renovations. But that’s not very realistic, and the return on investment may not live up to expectations. Instead of taking on a major project, there are a number of small things you can do to improve your appraisal value, including:

  • Mow the lawn and trim any hedges or outdoor plants that need maintenance
  • Sweep the sidewalk and front steps
  • Wash the windows and replace broken screens
  • Make sure doors open and close without sticking, and ensure all locks are working properly
  • Clean and declutter each room
  • Touch up any peeling paint and remove scuff marks from the walls
  • Schedule an appointment with an electrician to get a maintenance check done for all your electrical wiring
  • Repair broken appliances that will stay with the home
  • Make sure all your heating systems are in good working order
  • Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly
  • Ensure that your heating devices and cooling appliances like your air conditioning unit are in working order
  • Fix any roof or gutter problems – check for loose or missing tiles, look in the attic for leaks, clean your gutters, etc.

If you’re able, look at previous appraisals on your home and see what brought down the value of the property in the past. If you can address those issues specifically, you’ll have a better chance at a higher appraisal value.

Top 8 Tips Home Appraisal Checklist

How does one best prepare for an appraisal? We put together a checklist of common (and not-so-common) tips to help ensure you get a high valuation from your appraiser.

1) Do Your Own Appraisal

Imagine that you are the appraiser. Walk around your home indoors and out, and really scrutinize, as if you were going to rebuy your house. Take note of any truly obvious damage or deferred maintenance that needs your attention. Leaks, broken systems, and damaged surfaces should all go on your list of things to quickly repair.

Thoroughly inspect safety equipment like smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and home security systems: Are they all functioning, or do parts or entire systems need to be replaced? Make a plan to repair these issues, and clean up any cosmetic issues that may have occurred as a result.

2) Investigate Comps

Check out recent home sales in your neighborhood. What has the price range been for homes with features and updates similar to yours? The values of these comparable homes (also known as “comps” in the industry) should be similar to what your home will appraise for. This information can help you know where to focus your time, efforts, and funds. If you happen to know a neighbor (or real estate agent) who recently sold a home in your area, contact them to find out if there were any appraisal issues or insights that they can share.

If you’re working with a real estate agent, you can request that they collect some comps for you and your appraiser to review. Particularly if your home has unique or uncommon features, your agent may need to get creative while staying within the guidelines for selecting comps.

3) Get Superficial

Clean your house from top to bottom and remove any extra clutter. Once you have scrubbed and straightened up everything possible, consider making cosmetic updates that can have a big impact for a low cost. Painting or touching up existing paint, hanging updated window treatments, and replacing worn faucets, doorknobs and cabinet hardware are all easy updates that can have a big impact.

If you have been planning to update your decor after you move, consider bringing in a few of the newer pieces to make the old house look fresh and modern. Downsizing or moving long distance? Ask your real estate agent if they have staging furnishings you can borrow, or recommendations for a service you can use.

4) Make Your Outdoor Areas Truly Great

Now that the inside of your house is looking great, it’s time to pay attention to the outside. Make sure that your landscaping is looking its best: Mow your lawn, trim your trees and bushes, and have any weeds or dead vegetation removed. Add color with inexpensive, seasonal annual flowers in the spring, summer, or fall, and make sure that snow removal is neat and tidy in the winter.

Remove outdoor clutter, like yard-work tools or stray toys, from everywhere on the property, and consider staging any outdoor living spaces with new furniture or accessories. Power wash your home’s exterior, as well as your driveway and any deck or patio surfaces. Most of this can easily be accomplished in just one weekend, and the increased curb appeal will be worth it.

Check out expert tips for outdoor home renovations — you may find just the right improvement to increase your value!

5) Be Sure To Share Your Upgrades

Don’t be afraid to mention to your home appraiser about the improvements you have done on your home. New features that you have added, updated HVAC units, exterior improvements like siding, gutters, or a new roof, and high-value room remodels like kitchens and bathrooms will all impact your appraisal value.

An easy way to make sure that your appraiser doesn’t miss or forget about any of these improvements is to create and share a short, one-page list detailing each. You should have this list ready in advance, and include permit information for any work that required one.

6) Know Your Neighborhood

Make sure that your appraiser is also aware of any recent improvements in your overall neighborhood. Perks like new or highly rated schools, parks, transportation improvements, shopping, or other amenities that benefit residents are worth mentioning. These kinds of changes can add significant value to your home, and if your appraiser is not a local resident, they may not be aware of them. Appraisers are often familiar with the general area, but you probably know your specific neighborhood better than they do.

7) Stay Focused

While you are working your way through the tasks and updates listed above, it’s important to remember not to go overboard and take on too many projects. Invest your time, money, and effort only on issues that clearly need attention. If you are getting an appraisal for a home you’re selling, you most likely already have a buyer who liked your home enough in its current state to make an offer on it. Any major changes made could easily end up as a waste of time and resources.

8) Be Polite

When presenting the information on your home and neighborhood, be friendly with your appraiser, and avoid being bossy or overbearing. Readily share your collected information, but then step back to let them do their job. Once they are done, ask them if they have any questions for you or if there are any issues they feel you need to know about.

Your home’s selling price is affected by much more than just the appraisal! Find out how the time of year can increase your sale price, or how disasters during home inspections can hurt it.

How Long Does A Home Appraisal Take

The appraisal usually has two parts. First, the ap

The appraisal usually has two parts. First, the appraiser must physically come to the home and briefly tour it. This only takes about 15 to 20 minutes. As a Realtor® familiar with Indiana home appraisals I can share with you the norm is that the buyer is not present when the appraiser walks through the home. With an FHA, VA, or USDA and its added verification of minimum property conditions, the appraiser may be at the property for 30 to 40 minutes.

The second part is the report. I usually do not begin inquiring about the appraisal report until 7 to 9 days after the appraiser has visited the property.

An additional frequently asked question is how long does a home appraisal last? The answer to this depends on the type of loan.

  • Conventional or insured conventional loan: lender dependent, but generally 90 days to 6 months
  • FHA loan: 120 days from the date of appraisal
  • VA loan: 6 months from the date of the appraisal
  • USDA loan: 150 days from the date of the appraisal

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