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Things to Remember When Getting a Home Appraisal

by Lorna Hordos, studioD

Getting a home appraisal can be intimidating. To prepare for the appraiser's visit, have the property’s legal description and receipts for upgrades and repairs ready, suggests The Appraisal Group, Inc. Then, give the appraiser space to do his job; he likely isn’t obligated, ready or legally allowed to disclose his findings on the spot.

The Process

An appraisal isn't the same as a home inspection. Basically, a home inspector totals the cost of any defects and structural issues, and an appraiser provides the home’s fair-market value. An appraiser checks that things like your air conditioner and furnace work, and may confirm that certain structural aspects such as crawlspace depth are to code. Your appraiser might make a basic sketch of your home’s layout and will wander through your home and around the yard. He’ll note certain features, such as an in-ground pool and your type of windows and fill out a common Uniform Residential Appraisal Report for information including code-related data. The URAR form is required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Federal National Mortgage Association, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation and others, HUD says.

Cleaning and Repairs

Some cleaning and maintenance may be in order to get an optimal assessment. If the carpets are soiled, steam clean them. Repair holes in walls and roof leaks. If you have pests such as mice or cockroaches, get rid of them with the help of traps or an exterminator. As for the window treatments, you may wish to keep them open to brighten the space.

Updates and Effective Age

Updates made to your home may influence its effective age. If you updated the kitchen of a 30-year-old home just last year, the appraiser may note the effective age of the kitchen according to the year of the remodel, not the year the home was built. However, just because you spent $10,000 on a bathroom overhaul doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those dollars will be reflected in the report. The addition of a second bathroom or even a powder room in a large, four-bedroom home, for instance, can increase value.

Square Footage

Let’s say you have a basement, or a lakefront home or home on a steep lot with a lower-level walkout -- don’t be too quick to add-up those downstairs’ square feet. Nothing below grade is considered square footage. If the below-grade space is finished, however, your appraiser will allot value accordingly. Keep this information in mind if you compare your home to other homes that have recently sold in the vicinity.

The Report

You have the right to a copy of the appraisal report. To receive it, submit a written request to the lender or appraisal company. Review the appraisal report for accuracy. For example, ensure that the square footage and location are correct, and that upgrades and comparable homes are noted.

About the Author

Lorna Hordos has owned a home-flipping business for more than two decades. She uses her construction and interior design experience to write friendly, conversational home and lifestyle articles for Daltile, Marazzi, Lowes and numerous other publications. She also enjoys writing for children, and has been featured on the cover of Humpty Dumpty magazine.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images