Real Estate Appraisal Checklist: What to Expect

Home appraisals tend to cause a lot of nervous anxiety on both the home buyer and the home seller sides. But before you get overwhelmed, let's talk about what real estate appraisers are really looking at to discern property value.

What Appraisers Look For: The Basics

When an appraiser comes to evaluate your home, they focus on five key areas. Understanding these can help you prepare better and ease some of that appraisal anxiety.

 1. Home's Exterior

The first thing a real estate appraiser will examine is the exterior of your home. Think of your home as having three essential parts: the foundation, the walls, and the roof. Appraisers will look for the structure's soundness and workmanship quality. They’ll also pay attention to the exterior maintenance of the home.

If the roof has a hole, it needs to be fixed. If there are issues with the foundation, disclose them upfront and get them repaired if possible. Even a settling crack in the walls should be addressed and disclosed. Proper maintenance of these areas ensures your home is of sound quality, positively affecting its appraisal value.

 2. Size of Your Home

Many people think that a real estate appraisal is all about the numbers. And yes, the size of your home plays a critical role in determining its value. Appraisers will verify the square footage of your property to ensure it matches the listed size. For example, if your home is listed at 3,500 square feet, they will measure to confirm it is indeed 3,500 square feet of livable space.

 3. Interior Condition

The interior condition of your house is another important factor. Appraisers will assess the general condition of windows, doors, flooring, walls, plumbing, electrical systems, the kitchen, and the bathroom. 

It's easy to confuse a home inspection with a real estate appraisal, but they are separate and distinct.  A home inspector thoroughly examines the property and provides a detailed report of their findings. 

A real estate appraiser assesses the condition of key comments of a residence to ensure the items meet basic health & safety requirements pursuant to a buyer's home loan type.  Then, the appraiser uses this information in the overall calculus to estimate a specific property's current fair market value. They look to ensure everything is in operable condition and well-maintained. To help you get the best home appraisal possible, ensure all these components function correctly and appear well-kept.

 4. Home Improvements

Improvements you’ve made to your house significantly impact your appraisal value. Flooring updates, kitchen or bathroom remodels, and HVAC system upgrades are all improvements that add resale value. However, avoid over-improving for your area, as it can have the opposite effect. Improvements should be in keeping with the neighborhood to help you get the most value from the renovations.

 5. Amenities

Unique amenities can make your home stand out in a real estate appraisal. Features like a pool, a built-in barbecue pit, or even an elevator can add value to your home. Appraisers will compare these amenities with those of similar properties in your area to adjust the valuation of your home accordingly.

Preparing for a Home Appraisal: Best Practices

Knowing what appraisers look for is just the beginning. Proper preparation can significantly impact the outcome of your home appraisal.

Clean Your Home

It might seem obvious, but a clean home makes a significant difference. Appraisers need to move around freely and take notes. A tidy home gives the impression of good maintenance and care, which can positively influence the appraisal value. A clean and fresh-smelling home is essential for making a good impression.

Improve Curb Appeal

Curb appeal isn’t just for potential buyers; it also sets the tone for the appraiser. A well-maintained landscape can add value to your home. Ensure your lawn is mowed, bushes are trimmed, and the exterior looks inviting. It helps set a positive tone right from the start.

Repair What You Can

Addressing necessary repairs before the appraisal can help increase the home's value. If a buyer requests repairs, it's a good idea to complete them. This shows the appraiser that the home is well-maintained and in good functioning order.

Document Your Improvements

Provide the appraiser with a list of improvements you made to the property. Include the dates, project types, and costs. This documentation helps the appraiser understand the enhancements and their value.

Be Present and Helpful

While some appraisers prefer to work alone, it’s helpful to be available to answer any questions. If possible, have your listing agent present during the appraisal to provide comparables and highlight key improvements IF the appraiser requests the listing agent to be present.

Factors Affecting Home Appraisal Value

Several factors affect your home's appraisal value, including location, age, condition, and market trends. In most cases, appraisers use the comparable sales approach to determine value, which compares your home to similar properties recently sold in your area.

Location

Location is a significant factor in determining your home’s value. Proximity to schools, shopping centers, and other amenities can positively affect your appraisal value.

Age and Condition

Newer homes typically appraise higher than older ones unless the older home has been well-maintained and updated. The home's overall condition, including the quality of construction and materials used, also plays a critical role.

Market Trends

Appraisers look at recent sales data of comparable homes in your area, usually within the last three to six months. They consider market trends and how they’re affecting home prices.

Comparable Sales

Appraisers will compare your home to similar properties recently sold in your neighborhood. They look at homes within a certain percentage variance in size and adjust for differences in features and conditions.

What to Do If Your Appraisal Comes in Low

A low home appraisal can be a deal-breaker, so review your options with your real estate agent.

Verify the Appraisal

Have your listing agent verify the appraisal details to ensure there are no errors. Simple mistakes like incorrect square footage can significantly impact the appraisal value.

Provide Comparables

Provide additional comparable sales that support a higher value. Your listing agent can present these to the appraiser and request a reconsideration of value.

Negotiate

If the appraisal remains low, you might need to renegotiate with the buyer. Options include lowering the sale price to the appraised value or having the buyer pay the difference out of pocket.

Avoiding a Low Appraisal

To avoid a low appraisal, price your home correctly from the start. Ensure all necessary repairs are completed and provide a detailed list of improvements. Maintaining a clean and well-presented home also helps.

Pricing Your Home Correctly

Work with your real estate agent to set a realistic price based on market data. Overpricing can lead to appraisal issues later.

Preparing Documentation

Keep thorough records of all improvements and maintenance. Provide this documentation to the appraiser to justify the value.

Regular Maintenance

Maintain your home regularly to ensure it remains in good condition. Address minor repairs promptly to prevent them from becoming significant issues.

Dispelling Home Appraisal Myths

There are a few myths about home appraisals that need to be dispelled.

Myth 1: Assessed Value Equals Appraised Value

The assessed value is used for property tax purposes and does not reflect your home's market value or appraisal value.

Myth 2: Appraisers Use Zestimate

Appraisers DO NOT use Zillow's Zestimate or any other online valuation tool. They rely on current market data, comprehensive research, and their professional judgment to determine your home's value.

Myth 3: All Improvements Add Value

Not all improvements add value. Over-improving for your area or making highly personalized upgrades can actually have a negative impact on your appraisal value.

Understanding the home appraisal process and what appraisers look for can significantly ease the anxiety associated with it. By preparing your home, documenting improvements, and addressing necessary repairs, you can help ensure the best possible appraisal outcome.

Remember, a clean, well-maintained home with good curb appeal sets a positive tone for the appraiser, potentially increasing your home's value.

Please contact me if you plan to sell or buy a home in the Las Vegas, NV area.  Thank you.

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