How to Get a High House Appraisal

by on February 15, 2012Shannon O'Brien

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.

How to get a high home appraisalWhether 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.

Clean up before your home appraisal or it will cost you!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.
Make sure the appraiser knows about major home, property improvements by telling them!

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:

  • Make sure to mention home improvements, like recently-installed windows, during your home appraisalNew 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:

  1. Isolate dogs – Your beloved dog can cost you dearly if they annoy (or worse, intimidate) the appraiser
  2. Remember the $500 rule – Homes tend to be appraised in $500 increments; a single damaged appliance or window can cost $500!
  3. 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!
  4. Make the appraiser comfortable – Offer beverages, snacks, and keep the temperature in a comfortable range (not too hot or cold)
  5. 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!


7 actions you can take to counsel clients through low appraisals

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Clarissa July 24, 2014 at 6:43 pm

I have a few quick questions.
1) we’re closing on a house in the next few weeks and are planning on fixing up (it has the original 70′s mustard colored tile and brown grout) to granite in all three full baths and kitchen. New tile floor and carpet throughout and new showers (in new tile instead of the nasty old tile). The two things that wouldn’t be touched would be windows and cabinets (they’d be polished but not redone). I’m planning on spending a substantial money on this project – what would be the valuation (appraisal wise) on this type of remodeling?
2) does anyone know the seasoning for a cash-out refinance? Chase bank said 3 months but that seems way too soon after closing. I thought it’d be like 2 years.

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judy Figueroa July 13, 2014 at 8:40 am

We added a two car garage which does not show up in our general area appraisal (town appraisal for taxes). How do we get the added value for the garage addition?

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Mr Malcolm June 15, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Most important thing is to clear the mess up before selling the property to buyers and secondly to renovate the property.

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Mr. Arvel June 4, 2014 at 1:44 am

That’s nice blog about home appraisal real estate with detail. thanks for share it.

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Thomas May 20, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Many of people don’t realize that the home’s first impression is important to the appraiser as well and its true..

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Mr. Baldwin April 21, 2014 at 1:29 am

It is really nice to read that and see that. which is useful to all person….thanks to share it..

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Mr. Adam April 17, 2014 at 4:03 am

Your agent know about the sale that affected the price, and include those notes in the package. thanks to share it.

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Rich Paulos April 10, 2014 at 5:50 pm

What do think of Zillow estimates?

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Steven Kuria February 7, 2014 at 4:05 am

I like your post and very informative about home appraisal.you may included also video for that.thanks.

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Don Noel January 15, 2014 at 12:32 pm

I would like to respond to your comment about cleaning and painting to improve the appraised value. As a Certified Appraiser I have been to numerous homes to do an appraisal and the home is not well kept. Dirty dishes, clothes on the floor in the kids bedroom, really loud color paint, that kind of thing. Not very appealing, not the way I live, but not an influence on my value. Picking up the clothes, cleaning the dishes, making the home look clean is not a cost factor in value. A poorly kept home is quite different from a poorly maintained home. Appraisers must consider the cost influence from “differed maintenance”. Generally, differed maintenance will result in problems such as rotted wood due to not painting, torn screens, bad finish in the pool, and so on. In most cases that I have encountered, if the home is poorly kept there will be differed maintenance because that is the mind set of the owner. If the home is relatively new lack of maintenance will not have had time to have an impact.

Personally, if I were having my home appraised I would want it to look especially good. If I were trying to sell it I would not only want it to look good but would do things to improve the impression to the buyer. Good realtors know how to improve the home’s curb appeal and it usually goes well beyond just cleaning.

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Bill Cowhig October 24, 2013 at 11:33 am

I’ve read several articles today about how to increase your home’s appraised value. I’m a different type of homeowner. who has done almost all of my home maintenance, repair, repainting, remodeling, etc. by myself because I do not trust the quality of so-called “professionals”, at least none that I could afford. I take my time and do things to my own personal satisfaction, which is a much tougher quality standard, if I say so myself, and it has taken me considerable time. That said, I find it discouraging to learn that a lot of things I have done will be lost in the trash heap of “comparables.” I have a question, nonetheless. I’ve added a very nice, well-built (commercially) outdoor storage facility with a roll-up door (10′- x 12′); replaced the carpet upstairs with gorgeous hickory 3/4″ HDWD flooring, throughout; hand-built strikingly beautiful cabinetry across the end wall of my 2-car garage to store away clutter (floor to ceiling, three sets of large double doors across the top that open to shelving, six sets of four sturdy drawers on the lower level, all on sliders, to move in and out so nicely; made a small, but superb patio used as a landing from the deck stairs, out of 1′ thick randomly shaped and colorful granite slabs tied together with concrete; built a super efficient energy trap entryway into my upstairs attic; floored a substantial section of my upstairs attic and added shelving to organize whatever we place up there in storage; doubled the amount of attic insulation; built an aesthetically pleasing wood stained 2″ thick doorway with deadbolt lock into a sub-attic that runs the length of the front of the garage, floored it with left over hickory, added lighting to both attics; hand-washed and painted the entire outside of my house, doing the carpentry required for each and every “damaged” spot (from whatever reason), including rotting wood found in molding around windows; and that’s not all. However, from what I am reading, an appraiser won’t much care about such things, cause they are down stairs writing me up for not upgrading my kitchen cabinetry and countertops, so I’m one of those cases where, regardless of the time and energy and money I’ve spent, I’ve most likely only helped myself to a “lower” appraisal than my fellow man owning the typical house in my (I think nice development). Is that how I should be reading these advice columns; I’m screwed by statistics?

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Kathy Hutton November 3, 2013 at 7:36 am

I am not an appraiser but a buyer. Yours is exactly what I would be looking for. Different unique and not the some old cookie-cutter house everyone else has. My husband would love the garage. You might not have the top appraisal but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask what you want. Anyone looking at the house will see where the extra $$$’s are. You should be proud to have such a nice thoughtful home. Bet it is beautiful!

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Sam July 11, 2014 at 11:47 am

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what you like, if your bank won’t approve you for the purchase based on the appraised value.

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Rob June 2, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Short answer: yes! I am in the exact same boat as you. For me, my very hard work to a very high standard brought in 8 solid offers in only 3 days on the market, 4 of which were far over asking price. Unfortunately, the fact that appraisals are 90% based on comp values in the area, my house appraised the exact same as a dump down the street. Very frustrating! In the end, I met my buyers halfway, as I didn’t expect that rolling the dice on another appraisal was going to make enough of a difference. It’s very disheartening when I consider the projects I want to do on the next home (and will question whether it’s even worth it).
Sorry to comment on an old thread. I’m just frustrated with the whole appraisal process! If I have 4 buyers begging to buy at a similar price, that’s what the house is worth!

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Brad Hanson June 10, 2013 at 9:28 am

Will an appraiser be swayed one way or the other, if we ask home to come over in a week, so we can “clean-up” house and property a bit. He wants to come tomorrow (5-11). This is for a refinance.
Thanks

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CT homeowner May 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Maybe someone in Connecticut can clear up this mystery or anywhere else who may know what applies here. We are about to refinance. Real estate.com comes back with a home value of $286,000 based on 4 bedrooms/2 bathrooms. We added a 3rd bathroom this year and remodeled our basement nicely and our permits and inspections as well as re-valuation by the town are filed with the town office. Why does it say 2 bathrooms and how on earth do we get this changed as well as the square footage for what they revalued…?

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Susan September 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Dear CT homeowner, Sometimes the appraiser may not “count” the bathroom if the extra one is in the basement.

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Nikki Perry May 5, 2013 at 1:54 pm

We are trieng to refinance our home. Its only 5 year old…what do we expect, we are scared to death it wont go for 120,000 god knows we need this. Its on great shape and finished except for the basement. Can anybody give me input please?

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nae28 April 10, 2013 at 8:45 am

My husband and I are refiancing our home im worried sick anout get a good appraisal, our home is only 6 yrs old and I like to think pretty great condition. I am worried because our upstairs is closed off and only half way finished (needs carpet and lighting and bathroom flooring) we plan to finish after this is threw and we barrow more $$. Is this going to hurt us in long run? What are some key things the look for when u aren’t selling but just refiancing other than clean and curn appeal?

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danny April 23, 2013 at 7:44 am

It will def hurt the appraisal- he/she may not claim that as livable space which will reduce your sqft

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Ally Ibby March 23, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Anyone ever hear of a realtor telling her buyer clients that they should go and buy paint to paint an outside deck so the appraisal would come in ok?

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danny April 23, 2013 at 7:44 am

anything to get value…

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Doug January 28, 2014 at 10:23 am

Absolutely! You have one chance to make a good first impression. If the obvious, easily visible, parts of a home are in disrepair, I can almost guarentee you there will be other problems.

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Kathlyn James March 15, 2013 at 7:25 am

What do you do when the home you want refinanced has something in it that was built by the previous owner without a permit (e.g. dock, deck, garage)? Is that a factor in the appraisal? Do you have to go back and tear down what the owner had built, even though it is working well for you and you are planning to stay in the home?

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Susan September 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Sometimes certain thngs may be OK unless they are unsafe (no railings, bars too far apart, etc.)

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Joan May 15, 2014 at 11:09 am

Somethings don’t require a permit. A front porch or patio may require one due to measured distance from the road but a back porch or patio will not. This was our experience. A new fence in the front under a designated height (city codes) does not require a permit but a higher one will. The dock or deck is more than likely ok. A garage would be something different but I’m fairly certain that local authorities would have noticed a garage going up and would have required a permit. The garage will add sq. footage to the home and should improve the appraisal – the appraiser is not likely to care about permitting. They are all computer calculated now and far less subjective than they once were.

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Rhonda Rutledge March 11, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Laminate can look really nice. Everything I have read here is not what the appraiser is really looking for. Don’t spend your money on flowers. Your house will not appaise for more. You’rer not selling to the appraiser. Make it clean, clean, clean and nice.

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Shannon O'Brien March 12, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Thanks for chiming in, Rhonda. You are correct, what is listed here isn’t everything the appraiser is looking for … ah, if only space permitted more! Maybe RealEstate.com can produce a post on “What Appraisers Look For.” Alas, this one is about how to get a higher appraisal. Fortunately, we found some pros to help us out with ideas.

Flowers? I don’t understand where that comes from but I agree. But clean, clean, clean is a must as is “nice.”

Thanks again for the tips.

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Julia July 2, 2013 at 9:03 am

I agree, Rhonda. I think if cleaning and making older things look as new as possible is all you can afford to do, then do it. I have to get ready for a re-fi appraisal next week and I can’t afford a remodel or wood floors. I’m going to power-wash the outside and scrub the inside, but I’m not worried if the appraiser sees my coffee pot. I do agree with a coat of paint though. It beats having to clean the walls and brightens up the rooms!

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Property Selling Expert February 28, 2013 at 3:04 am

I’m a beliver in getting as many prospective purchasers over the front door for viewings and would suggest “dangling the carrot” of an attractive asking price that either undercuts local competition or suggests excellent value for money.

This should yield viewers in their droves and if two or three parties like the property, you could have multiple offers pushing the price up.

The “low asking price” is merely used as the incentive to view and as a seller their is of course no obligation to accept an offer at the low asking price.

It’s one of the tricks of the trade commonly used with auction houses.

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Doug January 28, 2014 at 10:46 am

Never have,and never will I use this tatic. What you are suggesting is commonly called “Bait and Swtch”. Knownly putting a property on the market for substantially below what you are truely willing to accept. Insulting and a waste of my time.Professional investors and Brokers might get sucked into this scheme once by you, but will not engage in business with you again in the future. AS you stated: “its a TRICK of the trade”.

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Damaris January 21, 2013 at 2:02 pm

My fiance and I are refinancing with todays low rates. My fear is that the banks are giving us great rates on thier Good Faith Estimates, but in the end if the appraissal isn’t good, then we are out $400 and still looking. How can we avoid someone under valuing our home to benefit the bank? I just don’t feel comfortable in this process because no matter who tells me what, I really won’t know for sure what kind of loan I’m getting until after the appraissal. HLEP!

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Lindsey January 27, 2013 at 12:51 pm

While the bank told you the $400 fee is non-refundable, most banks will usually refund the $400 if the refi falls apart through no fault of your own. The reason they avoid telling you this up front is because they rely on people having some “skin in the game” and not wasting their time to begin processing a loan that the customer never intended to close on. On the other hand, the bank has a vested interest to keep you happy so they can do business with you in the future, and if you didn’t cause the loan to fall apart, they will likely refund your fee. ;)

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Carole Davis October 17, 2012 at 1:40 pm

How do I get the best appraiser? Can you get one from the phone book? I get a different price everytime I go on line for my house!

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Shannon O'Brien October 18, 2012 at 11:10 am

Carole, the buyer’s lender will send its own appraiser out once the home is in escrow.

I am assuming you want to know the current market value of your home, is that correct? If so, don’t bother trying to get it from one of the big real estate sites. They are notoriously wrong about value. The best thing to do is call several real estate agents that are familiar with your area and ask for a CMA.

This is a market analysis in which the agent compares your home to others in the area that are similar and then comes up with a ballpark current value. A good agent is typically on the money with his or her evaluation.

Bonus: A CMA is free. But, it’d be really nice if, when it comes time to sell the house, you consider using the agent that provided this free service.

I hope this helps!

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Shannon O'Brien August 27, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Hi Mari-Ann,

Although I believe you were responding to Michael Lambert’s post, I want to take a minute to offer up some advice: speak to a local real estate agent. They are the experts at comparing the homes in your area. It will cost you nothing to speak with an agent. I’ve taken the liberty of contacting two in your area and asked them to chime in on your question. Hopefully, we’ll be hearing from them soon. In the meantime, do protect yourself by contacting both a good divorce attorney and a local real estate agent.

Sorry for your problems. . .

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Michael Lambert May 4, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Extremely entertaining, but home appraisals and valaution is anything but entertainment.

Quick anecdote. You can polish a door knob, but in the end its only a shiny door knob. Smoke and mirrors with staging, appliances, etc.. not going to work. Appraisal reports contain pictures of everything including the tooth brush and toilet bowls. If pictures in report don’t match at closing, guess what happens??? No deal and believe me this happens.

Appraisers evaluate your home in comparison to the market. Appraisal reports are not forward looking (I.e. present day activity), but look back in time 3, 6 or 12 months, in order to provide current market value. Appraiser’s don’t control the market sales. More over, appraisers have no control in what a lending institutions Underwriters do with the report and value they underwrite the loan.

If you don’t like the system, right your Congressman, Senator and President and fix the over regulation. Remove Appraisal Management Company’s (the Wheel as referenced in earlier posts) and above all, if you think you have been wronged, then report it to your State Regulatory Board. After all Appraiser’s have licenses that can be REVOKED.

There are good and bad in every industry. If you really want to increase the value of your home, talk to an expert about timing the market.

Certified Appraiser and Active Real Estate Agent.

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Mari-Ann Walker August 25, 2012 at 3:36 am

I have a question for you, if you don’t mind. (I saw certified Appraiser and Active Real Estate Agent.)

I have to sell my house because of a divorce and not that I want to, but I don’t have control of his mind. We have been married 30 years and it just kills me to be even typing this. I am trying to protect myself as he says he isn’t leaving the house and it won’t sell. We bought it 8 yrs ago at 325,000.00 I’m sure will be lucky to get 250,000.00. (we put down 273,000.00 omg) I know will take a loss, but I’m not going to wait 2 yrs for a refi when he has a sidekick at work.

The house is in Miwuk Village, Ca 95346. Every house and cabin are different, so I would think the stats would be hard to compare. The houses in the area sold for 199,000.00 to 222,000.00. What would be your advice for me? I did read the sqare footage is 132.00 a foot. Probably not good at 1600 sq. feet on .23 acres.

Thank you
Mari-Ann Walker

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Stephanie R August 27, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Good morning, Mari-Ann. I’m sorry to hear about the troubles you’re having with your home and divorce. I have forwarded your questions to our blog post writer, Shannon O’Brien. She will answering your question by comment on this page, so please be sure to check back with us!

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Donna Carroll April 9, 2012 at 8:02 pm

What do you do when the appraiser cannot be chosen but comes off a wheel, you get what you get. This happened to me and I shot my house sale. Buyer, seller, and banker were ready to make the deal and the appraiser came in and used homes as comp’s that were not equal to my home. I’m still on the market but am worried how the next person could kill the deal. On Wall Street Journal Reports was a story that 31% of appraisers were under valuing homes and killing deals. With this attitude the economy will never recover.
D Carroll

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seiko snaa93 March 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Entertaining post – cheers. I thought your blog post was pretty entertaining. Cheers once again – I will come back.

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Timothy Homsher March 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I like this web blog very much so much excellent info.

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