One common thread that runs through homeowners is that they typically think their home is the nicest in the development, according to Loreen Stuhr, veteran appraiser with Appraisers of Las Vegas. Stuhr goes on to say that the single most difficult challenge she faces in her business is trying to convince a homeowner otherwise.
Whether or not you own the nicest home on the block, when it comes time to refinance or sell it, getting a high house appraisal is crucial. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to assure that you receive credit for all the ways you think your house is worth maximum dollars.
If your house is on the market, and you’ve taken the time to properly prepare it for the market, half the battle is won right there. If you think you have work to do in that area, here are a few suggestions:
1. Improve Curb Appeal
Although many homeowners are familiar with the term “curb appeal” as it applies to prospective buyers, many don’t realize that the home’s first impression is important to the appraiser as well. Landscape maintenance chores, such as clearing away debris, trimming trees and shrubs, spreading fresh mulch in the beds and greening up the lawn will all help to bring your home close to market value.
Here’s a quick video walkthrough of how you can improve your house and yard’s curb appeal. It is by no means a complete guide; for additional guidance, contact your real estate agent.
2. Clear Away Clutter
Although clutter may be evidence of a busy family, it can also lead an appraiser to question if the homeowner can maintain the entire home if they can’t even keep their countertops and other surfaces free of junk.
Some quick de-cluttering tips:
- Box up and store excess items in the home.
- Pay close attention to the kitchen and bathroom. If what’s sitting on the counter is frequently used, hide it away in a cupboard so that your counters are free of anything that isn’t decorative.
- If all else fails, or your don’t have enought time to properly clean, shove your clutter into boxes and store it briefly in your car or storage unit.
3. Clean the House
While this seems like an obvious step, many homeowners are busy with jobs and family concerns and overlook the obvious fact that a clean home is a desirable home.
What if you don’t have time to clean your home before the appraiser comes by? You probably don’t have time to sell your home. Do it once, do it right!
4. Make an Investment
If you have the funds to make updates to the home, Stuhr recommends the following:
- Paint the interior a neutral color. For the price of a few cans of paint and some elbow grease, you can actually add value to the home.
- Get rid of vinyl flooring. Stuhr claims that vinyl flooring screams “dated!” and recommends replacing it with ceramic tile, wood or even laminate flooring.
- Update countertops. Laminate countertops are “bottom rung,” according to Stuhr, and should be replaced with ceramic tile or, preferably, granite.
As you tour your home deciding what changes to make, keep an eye out for maintenance problems such as torn window screens, dripping faucets, running toilets, missing trim and broken door handles. These should be fixed prior to the appraiser’s arrival.
5. Compile an Information Packet
The appraiser has access to a number of sources from which to pull information about your house and those that have recently sold. This information, while generally reliable, does sometimes include errors. To guard against a low appraisal based on erroneous information, compile an information packet for the appraiser. Just a few, neatly typewritten pages in a folder will do the trick. Here are several items to include in the package:
Comparables – Similar Homes in Neighborhood
Although your appraiser has access to neighborhood sales information, it’s a good idea to supply him or her with any additional information you may have on why houses in your area sold for the prices they did. If your neighbor took a job out of state, and because he needed to relocate quickly he dropped the list price dramatically to get a sale, make note of that to the appraiser.
Comparables: homes sold in one-mile radius over last six months.
In fact, it’s a good idea to have your real estate agent print out the MLS sheet for every home sold within a one-mile radius of your home over the past six months. These homes qualify as the best comparables. Go over these printouts, making notes of anything you or your agent know about the sale that affected the price, and include those notes in the package.
“Brag” Sheet – Why Your Home Deserves a High Price
Sometimes the information available to an appraiser is in error and even one error can lower the value of your property significantly. Appraisers will refer to your brag sheet while preparing the appraisal, according to David Hesidenz, of David Hesidenz Appraisals in Butler, PA. Here’s what to include on your brag sheet:
- Exact street address
- Year built
- Number of bedrooms
- Number of bathrooms
- Add the square footage if you like, although the appraiser will measure the home.
Then, list any major improvements to your property, the date they were performed and the cost. Include the name and phone number of the contractor who performed the work, if you have it. Some of what should be included on this list:
- New windows
- New floors
- New countertops
- Finished basement
- Replacement of the home’s major systems, such as heating and air-conditioning
- Upgraded electric or plumbing
- New roof
- Room additions
- Converted garage
This package, if prepared properly, gives the appraiser accurate, detailed, firsthand information to refer to when compiling his or her report for the lender.
A Word About Foreclosures
Unfortunately, if your neighborhood was hit hard during the recession, resulting in a number of foreclosed homes nearby, there is very little you can do to prevent your home’s value from being dragged down.
Having foreclosed homes in your area will drag your home’s appraised price down.
“Unfortunately if you live in a subdivision where the dominant sale is a foreclosure, those homes will be listed in your appraisal,” says Las Vegas appraiser Loreen Stuhr. She does recommend, however, performing the above-mentioned chores to bring maximum value to the home, despite the presence of distressed properties nearby.
Additional Tips from the Wall Street Journal
Here are some quick tips on how to improve your home’s appraised value from the Wall Street Journal:
- Isolate dogs – Your beloved dog can cost you dearly if they annoy (or worse, intimidate) the appraiser
- Remember the $500 rule – Homes tend to be appraised in $500 increments; a single damaged appliance or window can cost $500!
- Mention neighborhood updates – New schools, playgrounds, parks and even shopping areas can improve a home’s appraised value; make sure the appraiser knows about them!
- Make the appraiser comfortable – Offer beverages, snacks, and keep the temperature in a comfortable range (not too hot or cold)
- Strive for a low “effective age” – A new home can appear to be – and be appraised like – an old one if its condition is poor. Learn more about effective age here.
Can you think of anything we missed? Mention them in the comments below!