With mortgage rates at an all-time low, you might be thinking about refinancing your home. A big factor impacting your ability to refinance is your home appraisal. An appraiser is a third party individual who is there to make sure both you and your lender are getting a fair assessment of the property.

What’s the best way to maximize the appraisal value of your home? While you can’t do anything to increase the square footage or number of bedrooms in your house, you can impact the appraiser’s overall impression of your property. For your appraisal, you’ll want to prepare your home just like you would for a home sale, because in essence you are re-selling your home. Here are a few steps you can take to be prepared for your appraiser’s visit.

  1. Clean and de-clutter. Put all of your things away neatly to make your house look more open and inviting. Make sure all toys are put away, and minimize the amount of knick-knacks you leave on display. Scrub, dust, and vacuum all the areas of your house that you don’t clean on a regular basis. Clean the grout, dust all the furniture, wash the carpets, and polish the hardwood floors – do everything you can to make sure your house looks clean and well taken care of.
  2. Fix anything that is broken and/or outdated. It’s important to fix any minor problems that could leave a negative impression on the appraiser. They will check for obvious damage that could decrease the value of your property. Repair minor cracks in walls, tiles and windows. Do a little bit of updating on things like light fixtures and cabinet hardware. The object here is to spend as little money as possible to make everything presentable.
  3. Fix up your outdoor space. A well-cared-for yard can do wonders for improving curb appeal. Trim the grass, weed the garden, and, if it’s warm out, plant flowers. Make sure you sweep the driveway and walkways. It’s probably also a good idea to wash your windows and doors, and clean the gutters.
  4. Check for walls that need repainting. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do for a home. Turn on all the lights in your home and check to see which walls look tired or banged up. A can of paint is a relatively cheap way to make a room look brand-new.
  5. Make it easy on the appraiser. Do you have cats or dogs? Lock up your pets and let the appraiser know which room they are in. Turn on all the lights so it’s easy for the appraiser to see what he needs to see. Make sure the appraiser has easy access to things like the electrical box, the hot water heater and the furnace.
  6. Make a list of upgrades. It’s important to let the appraiser know about any upgrades, repairs, or permanent additions that you’ve made to both the interior and exterior, so that he can compare them to amenities in comparable properties. You’ll want to include things like new cabinets and counters, flooring, decks, and major landscaping improvements.
  7. Do your homework. Home appraisals can be really nerve-wracking. The best way to prevent being surprised by your appraisal amount is to research ahead of time. Compare your home against current sale prices for comparable homes in your area.

While you can’t really assign a dollar amount to the value added by cleaning and freshening up your home, it will encourage your appraiser to reflect positively on the property when comparing it to other homes in the area. Remember that he will be taking pictures of the property inside at out, and these photographs may impact the appraisal price when your property is compared to similar homes.

If you’d like to learn more about appraisals, here are a few links that can help.

  • This cool video gives some general information about appraisals.
  • This is another super cool video which has more specific information about what goes on during an appraisal.
  • For more about common repairs you should make before your appraisal, click here.
  • To learn about what your appraiser will and will not do, click here.

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