When Martin Erle, a certified athletic trainer who lives in Glen Mills, Pa., was preparing for a home appraisal, he knew there were factors he couldn't control, such as the location of the neighborhood and the value of other houses on his block. But Erle could control what the appraiser saw when he walked up to the front door.
"I could control the physical and visual condition of my house and property," Erle said, when recounting his thought process before the appraisal.
He's right. As with many events in life, successful home appraisals depend on good preparation, careful attention to detail and a dose of fortunate circumstances. The good news, as Erle noted, is that there is a lot homeowners can do to give themselves the best chance for a favorable appraisal. Here are some tips to follow.
1. Start with the right mindset
"When it comes to getting a home appraisal, the homeowner needs to approach the inspection as if he/she is selling the property to the appraiser," says Jennifer Creech, president of InHouse Inc., a provider of residential real estate appraisal management technologies and services. "They must not assume the appraiser will be able to determine all the amenities of the property on their own."
Another simple step in preparation is to "ask the appraiser if there is anything else you should do or have prepared for them upon their arrival at the property," says Kevin Donegan, an appraiser with NY Appraisal Source in Floral Park, N.Y. "This will help guard against any unnecessary delays in the completion of the appraisal and will further ensure that the appraiser is working with all the relevant facts to properly do their job."
Find a local expert contractor who has been pre-screened by ServiceMagic 2. Get your paperwork in order
You should've seen this one coming. Whenever you embark on any home-value project, expect paperwork to be involved. This time, however, it's not about forms to fill out, but records you have to gather. Here are some things it would be prudent to have on hand:
- A list of improvements you've made to your home and the related receipts. That will enable the appraiser "to identify the full value of a home improvement rather than to guess each improvement's worth," says Creech. A new or updated electrical system, roof, air conditioning system, security system, irrigation system, smart-home features and energy-efficient items are especially important to include.
- A list of the number of bathrooms, bedrooms and other important rooms your property has, "as the appraiser might think a room is a closet when it is actually not," says Creech. She also recommends making it a point to tell the appraiser if there is a parking space associated with your property.
- Other documents to consider having ready are building plans, land titles, the most recent property tax bill, copies of agreements with neighbors regarding shared resources, recent appraisals or home inspection reports, and a Certificate of Occupancy. The latter is a document stating the legally permissible occupancy of a residential property, and is especially important for homes that were converted from one use to another.
3. Take care of repairs and maintenance
"Before an appraisal of your home begins, be sure to have your home in order," says William Fall, CEO of William Fall Group, a national provider of valuation services and products for the real estate and mortgage industries. "If there are any corrections and repairs to be made, try to have them completed before the appraisal. And if you don't have time to complete them but intend to do a repair, have proof of an estimate or scheduled repair to show the appraiser."
Don't neglect minor repairs, either, such as leaky faucets, damaged window screens, dead smoke detectors, and poor paint jobs. Delaying these types of maintenance jobs can dent the appraisal value of your home. Ditto for the curb appeal of your home, which means a tidy lawn and clean landscape could be helpful.
4. Get rid of clutter
Appraisers can't evaluate what they can't see. "A cluttered home will make it harder for an appraiser to take note of important characteristics," Fall says. "Most appraisals now require a photo of each room, so a well-kept property can help."
The best thing that you can do to get ready is to make sure that the appraiser has easy access to the entire property, inside and out. Pay careful attention to areas that you may not frequently access, like tool sheds, attics and basements. Also, in case the appraiser is allergic to certain animals, it's prudent to send your pet elsewhere during the appraisal.
5. Smile and be honest
While the appraisal is focused on the home and not the homeowner, it can only help if you're pleasant and friendly. Be ready to accompany the appraiser as he walks through your home, ready to answer any questions he might have. Answer honestly and don't raise suspicions by skirting questions.
Going along for the walk through your home can be helpful for the appraiser, and it "also provides the homeowner peace of mind that the appraiser is doing their job appropriately without fear of theft or unacceptable behavior while on-site," says Fall.
Erle cleared out the clutter, had every carpet cleaned by professionals, set table places, burned aromatic candles and tactically placed books and magazines on coffee tables. He essentially treated the house as though it were a "dollhouse for display." The outside was also improved, as Erle restocked flower beds with new mulch, trimmed and pruned bushes, and touched up the siding.
"Does it help? Not sure. Does it hurt? Not at all," he says. "The appraiser is a stranger visiting your home for a huge purpose. Make them feel welcome, comfortable and pleased."
Want to learn more about the appraisal and inspection process? Here are some AOL Real Estate guides to help:
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