Read Before You Refi: 5 Tips For A Higher Home Appraisal

By Laura Agadoni | April 21, 2016

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A clean, uncluttered home isn’t just attractive for potential buyers: It can make an impression on your home appraiser too.

If you’re refinancing, these home appraisal tips can help.

If you’re hoping to refinance the mortgage on your home, there’s one big roadblock between you and that lower rate: the home appraisal. If your appraisal is low, you might not be able to refinance at all, or you might be facing less-than-optimal loan terms, including potentially paying for private mortgage insurance. If your appraisal results in a higher assessment, you’ll quite likely have more loan options available to you — often with lower interest and better payments.

To start your appraisal prep, make sure your home is clean (inside and out). Appraisers are human, after all, and can be swayed by how pristine (read: well-cared-for) a home looks.

Here are five more home appraisal tips to ensure your home appraises as high as possible.

1. Make those small repairs you’ve been postponing

Your house isn’t going to morph into a mega-mansion overnight, so some of the considerations for an appraisal (such as the number of rooms, square footage, and location) aren’t negotiable. But you can make the most of your home’s features. “Make sure that all the major systems have been serviced and that everything in the home appears to be maintained and functional,” says Ingrid Vincent, a Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts real estate agent. For appraisers, the condition of a home often matters more than the year it was built. Tackle any DIY home projects that you’ve put off.

2. Enhance your home’s curb appeal

You might not pay much attention to your home’s exterior, especially if you typically enter and exit through the garage or a side door. But curb appeal matters to potential buyers, and it matters to appraisers too. The Appraisal Institute states that properly maintained landscaping can enhance a home’s value. If you’re wondering what else you can do (besides mowing the lawn) to boost curb appeal, Cassy Aoyagi, president of FormLA Landscaping in California, gives these tips for a quick landscaping fix:

  • Strategically place container gardens
  • Mulch flower beds
  • Wipe down existing foliage and outdoor lights
  • Stage patios or porches with seating and pillows

3. Create a file of all recent improvements, upgrades, and tax documents

If you spend any money on your home, save all your receipts and keep them in a filing cabinet. (Or digitize the documents and store them on your computer.) It’s also a good idea to take before-and-after photographs of any improvements and upgrades. By staying organized, you can easily prove to the appraiser what you did to improve and upgrade your home, and how much you spent. Also be sure to include documentation for any permits that were pulled as part of home improvement projects.

4. Know the comps in your area

One of the best ways to determine the value of your home is to compare it with similar homes nearby that have recently sold. If you know the comps as well as or better than the appraiser, you can challenge any lowball comps they might use. “Don’t wait until the appeal process if you think you got a lowball appraisal,” says Gloria Shulman, a California mortgage broker. “You have almost no chance of succeeding because it would be an admission they were wrong.”

Instead, here’s the approach Shulman suggests: “Go to your local county offices and find out exactly what properties have sold in your area in the last six months and then go see them in person.” Too labor-intensive? Trulia makes it easy to find recently sold homes with a quick property search (like this one for recently sold homes in Charlotte, NC). “You might find out that the property with the lowest sale price was a teardown,” Shulman says — and that’s the type of information appraisers can use to best evaluate your property.

5. Don’t be pushy

To present the appraiser with all the great information you’ve gathered, you need to do so diplomatically, or all your efforts could be wasted. “Meet the appraiser, and be as nice as possible but not overbearing,” says Antonia Barry, a Maryland broker. “State that you have some information to share with them before they get started.” You would then go over your intel (don’t forget to mention the brand-new shopping center nearby) and then let them do their jobundisturbed. If you hover, the appraiser might wonder what you’re trying to hide.

One the appraiser is finished, you have one last chance to offer assistance. “Ask the appraiser if they have any questions and if they feel there will be any issues with the appraisal,” advises Barry.

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