From the Pros: The Dos and Don’ts of Home Appraisals
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Selling a home was difficult even before the market started to slide. Now every penny counts more than ever — which means that every leaky window, every dangling gutter and every ugly cabinet can make a big difference in the price of your home. While we all have a natural tendency to nest in the places we live, the reality is that many of the changes you make (or don’t make) can make or break your home’s appraised value.
What to do — and what not to do — before and after a home appraisal? We asked Houzz users and professional appraisers across the country for their tips.
When remodeling: DO tackle all the major features in each room.
Kitchen — DO have:
- An open layout
- Newer matching appliances, stainless steel
- Extra perks like small beverage refrigerators, dual dishwashers, instant hot water and a central vacuum clean-out
- Granite countertops
- Custom cabinetry
DON’T try to fix outdated cabinetry or countertops. These need to be replaced if you want to add value — new hardware won’t be enough to fix them.
Rikki Snyder: Click to View the Original Photo on Houzz!
Bathroom — DO have:
- New fixtures and mirrors
- A freshly painted tub if necessary
- Natural light
- Good ventilation
- New or refaced cabinetry
DON’T let your bathroom feel dark or have any outdated colors or materials.
AHBL: Click to View the Original Photo on Houzz!
Exterior — DO:
- Pick plants that are evergreen and perennial so your yard always has pops of color.
- Put in new exterior light fixtures.
- Add on extra touches like shutters or planter boxes to give your exterior charm.
- Put a fresh coat of paint on the front door.
- Keep grass and landscaping healthy and not overgrown.
- Replace worn-out fencing.
DO pay attention to low-cost finishing touches that can make a big difference. Peeling or chipped paint, mildew, exposed insulation or pipe insulation and visible dry rot are small details that your appraiser is sure to notice. If you have a basement, make sure there are no signs of water leaks, moisture or mildew. Visible evidence will get mentioned in the appraiser’s report.
DON’T try to change your home’s style. “Always stay with the style of your home and go with the features that enhance it the most,” says Tom Blair of Justin Thomas Appraisal in San Ramon, California.
Nicole Helene Designs: Click to View the Original Photo on Houzz!
Interior layout — DO:
- Incorporate a smooth and open layout. Anything that feels too cramped or doesn’t make sense might need help from a good contractor before going on the market.
- Think about potential. Does a basement have the capability of turning into a media room, or are the ceilings too low?
- Fix negative features when possible. Small bathrooms, rooms that are accessed through other rooms, slanted second-floor ceilings and small kitchens can be a downside.
DON’T worry about changing features that are common for the home’s age and area. Appraisers do take into account the way the home functions in the area and for its age. “In Atlanta, the downtown-area homes built in the 1920s had two bedrooms and one bathroom, which is common for this area. But that house wouldn’t function properly in suburban Atlanta, with newer homes that have three to four bedrooms,” says Mark Skapinetz of What’s It Worth? Appraisals.
Kenny Craft, CNU LEED AP: Click to View the Original Photo on Houzz!
Before your appraisal:
DO make a list of recent improvements to your home. Think big and small here — this can range from renovating the kitchen to painting your deck. Make sure your appraiser has a list when comparing your home to others in the area.
DO talk to your appraiser before the inspection. Discuss your house and its history. Find out the appraiser’s history, number of years in business, and knowledge of the area. “The key in getting a fair appraisal is to have an appraiser that is experienced and knowledgeable in the local market, and that you’ve checked out,” says Greg Wilkinson of Worth Every Dollar Appraisals in Atlanta.
DO ask your agent to do a walk-through with the appraiser. Houzz user Genevieve Llerena says this is the best decision she made. “She pointed out all of the work that I’d done and made sure the appraiser was familiar with all of the comparables in our area. She reminded him of how our location made a difference in the comparables.”
Modern Patio. Click to View the Original Photo on Houzz!
DON’T try to predict your appraised value based on listings in your area. There are far too many factors to be taken into account here. “Just because something is listed at $300,000 doesn’t mean it will sell at $300,000, especially in today’s market,” says Skapinetz.
DON’T stage it for the appraiser. There’s no need to do staging until you begin showing your home to buyers. Straightening up and doing light cleaning for the appraiser is fine, but not necessary.
After your appraisal:
DO consider getting a second opinion. Many lenders won’t allow multiple appraisals for a loan, but if you’re not getting an appraisal for lending purposes, it could be worthwhile to get more than one opinion of value if you feel like your home has been seriously undervalued.