written by: NicoleHarms•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 8/20/2011
A home appraisal gives your home a value banks will use to determine how much to lend you against your home. Learning how to get ready for a home appraisal can help improve the value. These steps do not cost much money but can make a big difference.
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A home appraisal is basically a survey of a home done by a professional to provide an opinion about the property’s value. Often this is performed on behalf of a bank when the home’s owner or potential buyer is looking for a new loan on the home. The appraisal looks at several factors, including the neighborhood, location, values of other homes and the length of time similar homes take to sell. Yet one of the most important factors considered is the home’s condition.
As the homeowner, you can take steps to improve the way the appraiser views your home. The key is knowing what improvements are the most important and spending your time and money on those, while avoiding costly improvements that may not improve your result all that much.
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Preparing your home for the appraiser does not require you to make it spotlessly clean, because these professionals look at hundreds of homes a year and are used to seeing a little bit of clutter. However, the more tidy your home is, the better “first impression" it will make.
So how can you strike this balance? Consider tidying your home as you would for important company. This may not be as spotless as you would tidy it for a showing when it is on the market, but it will still be pretty clean. A nice, clean home will prevent your stuff from distracting from what the appraiser is there to see.
As you are cleaning, pay attention to spots and stains. If your flooring has a stain, for instance, try to remove it. The better the condition of the walls and floors in your home, the more valuable it will appear to the appraiser.
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Make the Home Accessible
If there are areas of your home that you do not regularly use, like a crawl space or attic, understand the appraiser may need to see them. Make these as accessible as possible by clearing away furniture that may be blocking the doorway or other roadblocks. Clearing the path will save the appraiser time if he or she decides to look at the area.
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Making improvements to your home will depend on what your goal for the appraisal is and your timeframe for a future sale. If you know a sale will be in the near future, you may wish to spend a little extra money to add new flooring or windows and improve your appraisal result. If, on the other hand, you are having an appraisal so you can refinance your current mortgage but intend to stay in your home for a while, you may not wish to spend your money in this way. Regardless, there are always minor improvements you can make to improve your result.
Go through your home and make sure everything is in good working order, within reason. If you have missing door handles, trim that has broken, leaky faucets or other minor things that need to be repaired, take care of these. If larger things in your home, like your water softener, are not working, decide whether or not you feel it is worthwhile to fix. Doing so will improve your appraisal result, but the cost may not be worth the slight increase on value.
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Landscaping can be a very simple way to improve your appraisal result. Before the appraiser comes, mow your lawn, weed your garden and put some fresh mulch over your flower beds. The appraiser will notice a home that has good curb appeal and attractive landscaping. Because they know this appeals to potential buyers, they will give the home a better rating in most instances if the landscaping looks good.
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Specifics for FHA and VA Appraisals
If a home is being appraised for a FHA or VA loan, there are certain repairs that are more important than with a traditional loan, due to the special requirements of these government backed loans. Chipping paint, for instance, is frowned on by these loans, and you will want to remove the chipping paint and repaint the area before the appraisal. Stairways will need handrails, and all floors will need a smoke detector. These appraisers almost always require access to the crawl space and attic, so make sure these are not only accessible, but also in decent shape.
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Once your home is ready, you can help your appraiser by preparing some documents. If you have the plot plan or a survey of the house and land, pull this out. Any written property agreements or prior home inspection reports are helpful. Your latest real estate bill and a list of major home improvements or upgrades you have made, as well as proof if you have it, is also helpful. If you are in a homeowner’s association or similar group, have that agreement ready. By having these documents on hand, you will not have to spend time searching while the appraiser waits if they are needed.