5 Ways to Prepare for Your Home Appraisal

No matter if you’re selling your home or simply refinancing your mortgage, a key step in the transaction process is the real estate appraisal. This unbiased opinion of your property’s value gives potential buyers and lenders a clear picture of your home's worth.

While there are some factors outside of your control — such as proximity to desirable schools and the value of neighboring homes — there are a few things you can do to prepare for your appraisal that may protect, or help increase, the value of your home.

Take Care of Maintenance 

One of the most important pre-appraisal steps is to walk through your home with a critical eye, which can be difficult for many homeowners. Put on your appraiser’s hat and try to identify factors that could possibly affect your home’s value. Are there areas that need repair? Do you have any loose floorboards? Does all your lighting work properly? Do the doors open and close easily? Are there any leaks? 

Your home’s safety will also be important to an appraiser, especially for certain types of mortgages. Make sure your safety standards are up-to-date by testing your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and security system (if you have one). 

While an appraiser is not necessarily there to make sure everything is in working order, they do want to see that a home has been well cared for. If routine maintenance is not done it can impact the appraiser’s view of the property, particularly as he/she begins to compare it against other homes in the area.

Pay Attention to the First Impression 

Just like a prospective buyer, the first thing an appraiser will notice is your home’s exterior. Doug Petroff of Petroff Appraisals says homeowners don’t need to spend a lot of money on intricate landscaping, but they should tidy things up. 

“If I drive up to a well-manicured lawn and clean exterior, then I already have a positive mindset going into the appraisal,” he said. “While landscaping doesn’t necessarily add value, it matters when looking at comparables. If your home has well-maintained landscaping, then I’ll compare it to other well-maintained homes.” 

Remember that simple tasks can make a big impact. Keep your lawn mowed, trim trees and shrubs, edge along driveways and walkways, put away outdoor toys and tools, clear weeds from flower beds, and add some new mulch to freshen things up.

Make Sure Everything is Clean 

No, the appraiser is not coming to judge the cleanliness of your home, but when your home is clean and organized, it gives the impression that you take care of the property. 
But, Petroff says your house doesn’t have to look like a parade home to give the appraiser a positive impression. 

“We are human, too, and we aren’t expecting everything to be pristine,” he said. “But we do have to report on the condition of the property, and a clean home tells us it’s likely been cared for and properly maintained.” 

Petroff says if you have any half-done projects around the house, make sure to let the appraiser know. 

“Maybe you’re replacing interior doors and you don’t yet have the trim up, or maybe you’re repainting a bedroom and weren’t able to get it finished,” he said. “Just give the appraiser a heads up so he/she knows what to expect.” 

Have Your Paperwork Ready

In addition to the information appraisers gather on their own, it’s helpful for them to know what types of updates, renovations, or repairs have been done to the property. 

Pertinent information includes all major improvements or renovations, and info on the age/condition of the roof, major mechanical systems, and appliances. If you took on any DIY projects, you’ll need to show the original permits. If your home is newer, providing the original house plans can be helpful. 

Remember, if you don’t get everything sent over before the appraisal, at least make sure it’s available on the day of the appointment. You never know what will impact value, and if your appraiser doesn’t know about it, he/she can’t include it. 

Make it Easy on the Appraiser 

Just like the rest of us, appraisers have busy schedules, so anything you can do to help the process run smoothly is appreciated. In addition to cleaning, taking care of repairs, and having your paperwork ready, make sure all areas of the house are accessible  — like attics and basements — and be on time for your appointment. 

While he has done appraisals in which no one was present, Petroff says he welcomes homeowners and REALTORS® to attend, and says it can often be beneficial. 

“An experienced appraiser will be asking questions, and who better to answer those questions than the homeowner,” he said. “We want every bit of information we can get in order to make a quality analysis of your home. If you can be there to help us through that it makes the process easier on everyone.” 

For more buyer and seller tips, follow the Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS® on Facebook. And, if you need a professional REALTOR®, lender or appraiser for your next transaction, visit www.lansing-realestate.com for a list of area service providers.