by Kimberly Blackford
Although the recent housing market downturn has left most homeowners a little uncertain what to think when it comes to the value of their home, one thing is for sure, it is still your home, you should take pride in it, and it has value. While many homeowners in neighborhoods all over the country have witnessed their friends and family foreclose over the past few years, the homeowners remaining in their homes do have the ability to take advantage of the extremely low interest rates being offered today. But, whether you are interested in lowering your monthly mortgage payment, or you’re seeking equity from your home for other uses, there are some things to consider if you need an appraisal of your home.
Home appraisals are usually based on the market sales of comparable homes recently sold in your neighborhood. But, there are many things a homeowner can do to maximize the chances of getting a high appraisal on their property.
Research Beforehand – If you know a real estate in your area, give them a call. Ask them to search for the properties that have recently sold in your area. The homes that have sold in your area will provide a comparable price point for you before you have your home appraised. Then, there won’t be any huge surprises. Look for homes that have similar square footage, style, and lot size.
Communication Is Key – Once you have an appointment scheduled with the appraiser, create a list of all of the upgrades, repairs and additions that have been made to your home since you have owned it. A couple important upgrades to list are any kitchen or bathroom upgrades since both of these upgrades increase in value over time. Print the list and give it to the appraiser when he arrives for his appointment. Then, walk through your home with the appraiser and point out any upgrades or special features so that all amenities can be accounted for. Often an appraiser isn’t entirely familiar with a neighborhood or is pressed for time, creating this list and giving it to the appraiser upon their arrival will help avoid any oversights. Some common perks worth noting include: custom woodwork, new windows, striking views or mature landscaping. Another helpful piece of information for the appraiser is the selling price for any homes right in your area. It is a great idea to include that information as well.
Put Your Best Face Forward – Imagine yourself as the appraiser for your home and driving up to your home for the appointment. How does your home fair within the neighborhood? Do you think your home looks welcoming? Take some pictures of your home and look for ways to add curb appeal. Be sure to keep the grass cut neatly, pull weeds, put trash cans in the garage, clean out gutters and pressure wash the outside of the house and driveway. The appraiser will also be taking pictures of the back of your home, so be sure to follow through with any yard maintenance in the backyard as well.
Prevent Depreciation With Upgrades – When the appraiser steps inside your home, it should be clean and as clutter-free as possible. If minor repairs need to be made, then go ahead and add a fresh coat of paint inside the house to give it a fresh look. If your home is older, then it is best to update the flooring and light fixtures, but anything that is clean and in good condition is fine. Keep in mind, appraisers don’t give out grades for housekeeping, but obviously appearance will definitely influence their final number. So, prepare your house as if you were having an open house and rid your rooms of clutter, tidy up the closets, wash the windows and vacuum the floors. Think of the appraiser as a buyer.
In addition to your home specifically, the appraiser may include information on the neighborhood and surrounding area. So, if public transportation or top schools are nearby, this may help your overall price.
One last thing to remember, as the homeowner you have the right to request a copy of the final report when it’s done and lenders are required to give it to you. Be sure to check for any errors in the main stats of your home. If you happen to notice a mistake, call the appraiser directly and ask him to recheck his notes. And, if needed, request a correction or a “review appraisal” to be carried out any another appraiser. This time the lender will cover it. As the homeowner, it's your job to present your home in its best light and protect the biggest investment in your lifetime.
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