When selling a home or refinancing, you may be required to have an appraiser determine your home's current market value. Appraisers look at factors such as your home’s square footage, materials, amenities and condition and compare these factors to comparable properties, or “comps,” that have recently sold in your area. Even though the appraisal process is meant to be objective, better curb appeal and de-cluttering are just a few of the ways to boost your home's value without a lot of time or expense.
Spruce It Up
Make sure your home looks its best when the appraiser arrives by taking cues from professional home stagers who prepare properties to show to buyers. De-clutter, make minor repairs and touch up the paint if necessary, suggests Marie Graham, who runs a staging business called The Refreshed Home, in Westchester County, N.Y. You’ll want to do these tasks anyway if you’re selling your home, so you might as well get started. And even if you’re simply refinancing, you won't want your dirty dishes or messy desk immortalized in the appraiser’s photos.
Don't Neglect the Outside
Even before the appraiser reaches your door, they are likely taking notes. Unless your yard, if you have one, is a total disaster, investing in elaborate landscaping is usually a waste of money. But a little clean-up can be worth the weekend or two it might take. M. Lance Coyle, a Dallas-based appraiser and former president of the Appraisal Institute, suggests tearing out any dead trees or bushes that detract from your home’s appearance. Graham says she often advises staging clients to make simple fixes such as repairing walkways, sealing driveways and putting numbers on their mailboxes.
Collect Your Own Comps
If you know of similar homes in the neighborhood that have recently sold, don’t hesitate to call them to the appraiser’s attention, Coyle says. The appraiser may not be as familiar with your area as you are and could miss a comp that would work to your benefit. The appraiser might even appreciate the help.
Point Out Major Improvements
If you recently replaced your roof or added a new patio, mention it, Coyle says. But don’t make major improvements now in hopes of increasing your home’s appraisal or resale value. Few such projects ever recoup 100% of their cost. For example, a major kitchen renovation costs close to $64,000 on average but returns only about 59% of that, roughly $38,000, according to Remodeling magazine’s “2018 Cost vs. Value Report.”
Be Available to Answer Questions
Offer to answer any questions the appraiser may have, but resist the urge to trail the appraiser from room to room.
Appraise the Appraiser
Look for credentials such as MAI or SRA, both of which are conferred based on an appraiser’s education and experience. If the appraisal comes in lower than you hoped, you can gauge whether it was due to your unrealistic expectations or possible appraiser inexperience or incompetence.
Know Your Rights
If you hire the appraiser to determine your home’s value, the appraisal belongs to you. If you’re refinancing your mortgage and the lender hires the appraiser, the lender is required to provide you with a copy–possibly for a reasonable fee–of the appraisal and any other home value estimates. Review the written appraisal for errors and whether the comps the appraiser chose are reasonably similar to your home. If necessary, appeal the appraisal with your lender or ask it to order a second appraisal.
The Bottom Line
Do what you can to make sure your home is appraised for as much money as possible. But don't over-invest in renovations based on boosting your home's value because you probably won't recoup what you spend. (See also: What You Should Know About Home Appraisals.)