If you’re looking to refinance your home or take out a home equity loan, you will first need a home appraisal valuing your property. The higher the appraisal, the more substantial the possible loan can be.
So how can you ensure the highest value possible?
“The reality is that the appraiser is only there for 30 minutes at most,” Brian Coester, chief executive of a national appraisal management company, recently told Reuters. “The best thing a homeowner can do to get the highest appraisal possible is make sure they have all the important features of the home readily available for the appraiser.
Here are some more detailed suggestions from Reuters:
Request that your lender send a local appraiser:
It’s important that appraisers have an intimate understanding of the neighborhood, in order to come to a fair assessment. Be sure you have discussed your preference with your lender before the appraisal is scheduled. Then, when the appraiser arrives, ask if he or she is from within a 10-mile radius of your property. If not, you have a right to decline that appraiser.
Provide your own comparables.
Find the recent selling prices of three properties in the neighborhood that are similar to your own and supply them to the appraiser, suggests Reuters. “You will save her some work, and insure that she is getting price formation from homes that really are similar to yours.” Your RE/MAX agent would be happy to provide you this information.
Know what sorts of upgrades make the biggest impression on appraisers. Kitchens and bathrooms top the list; wood floors, improved landscaping and an enclosed garage are also significant. In addition, be sure to point out any improved structural elements, such as electrical and heating and cooling systems; these can greatly increase your home’s value.
Focus on upstairs, rather than basements:
In terms of renovation, basements mean less than upstairs space. Finished basements don’t add square footage to the house; as such, they are less valued in an appraisal than, for example, an attic that has been refurbished into a bedroom.
Document your home improvements:
Take before-and-after photos and save all your receipts. Then, make a summary of improvements and provide a copy to the appraiser. This helps an appraiser differentiate between your home and other comparables.
“Even jaded appraisers can be swayed by a good-looking yard,” writes Reuters. Trim your trees, clean up the grounds surrounding your home, plant a few flowers and touch up the exterior paint. And don’t forget the inside of the house as well, where it’s important to remove all clutter. “It makes the home appear larger,” notes one appraiser.
Don’t appear desperate.
If you stick close to the appraiser as he or she works, not only will you annoy this person, but you might be sending a signal that there’s something wrong with the house. Give the appraiser space.
A few cookies can’t hurt:
Appraisers are people, too. “Baking some fresh cookies and offering him one or two probably won’t sway your appraisal, nor should it,” says Reuters. “But it couldn’t hurt.”