Advice on How to Appraise a House

Get to know the home appraisal process and how to prepare for a home appraisal

Buying. Refinancing. Renovating. Getting home insurance. Filing an insurance claim.

In the life of a home buyer, seller or owner, appraisals matter. Conducted by a state-licensed appraiser, a home appraisal is an impartial review of the property to determine its value. Lenders use home appraisals when making decisions on mortgages and home loans. Insurance companies may consider home appraisals when confirming the characteristics of a home for a new policy or to review features of the home for an insurance claim.

That's why having a fair and accurate home appraisal is so important. The first step to obtaining an accurate appraisal is having a clear understanding of the home appraisal process. Use these home appraisal tips to help your home appraisal run smoothly.

How to Prepare for a Home Appraisal

If you are selling your home, once you have agreed upon the sale price with the buyer, an appraisal needs to be completed to confirm the home is worth at least as much as the mortgage loan the buyer will need. This is also true if you are refinancing your home or taking out a second mortgage. Mortgage lenders will generally not approve a loan for more than the appraised value of a home. The lender generally initiates the appraisal process, and their first step is to assign an appraiser. The assigned appraiser will contact you to schedule a viewing of the property. At this point:

  • Ask the lender how the appraiser will be chosen. When asking this question, request an appraiser who has recent experience appraising other homes in the same neighborhood.
  • Schedule your appointment. When the appraiser contacts you, return the phone call promptly. Make sure you will be at the home during your appraisal appointment.
  • Prepare the home. Appraisers view properties through the eyes of a buyer. Prepare for an appraisal the same way that you would for an open house, by mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes, sprucing up the landscaping and clearing the yard of any broken lawn furniture or outside toys to enhance curb appeal. Clean the carpets and remove spots or stains. Clear out excess furniture to make the space look larger. Fix anything that may be broken inside and outside of the house. Clean your house as if you were having guests over for dinner.

Even small repairs can make a sizable difference in a home appraisal.

Participate in the Home Appraisal Process

The appraiser will evaluate the lot size, square footage of indoor space, home improvements, number of bedrooms and bathrooms and more. During the home appraisal, you can:

  • Talk about improvements to the property. Make a list of any improvements to the property and the cost of those improvements. Point out these improvements and enhancements to the appraiser.
  • Share information about recent sales in the neighborhood. The appraiser will look at the price of recent sales in your neighborhood. If you know any factors that may have impacted the sale of a nearby home, let the appraiser know.

Following the Home Appraisal

After seeing the home, your appraiser will prepare and submit a report to the lender, based on property observations, the current housing market and the selling price of comparable homes in your area.

The lender is required to provide you a copy of the appraisal once it is complete. If you do not receive one, request a copy. Review the appraisal to ensure it fairly describes the property.

Correcting Home Appraisal Errors

Occasionally, appraisals are incorrect. If this happens, you can request another appraisal, though you may have to pay for the second appraisal. In the unfortunate circumstance that an incorrect appraisal is jeopardizing the sale of a home, gather evidence to correct the errors. If the appraisal highlights problem areas in the home, repair those issues and request an appraisal review.

Overall, you want to make sure that your appraisal is fair and accurate to help make buying, refinancing, renovating or insuring a home or resolving a home insurance claim as smooth as possible. Remember these home appraisal tips to help make that a reality.