Preparing for a Home Appraisal Inspection

When selling your home or refinancing your mortgage, the home appraisal inspection is a crucial step in the process. And of course you want the final appraisal report to reflect your home’s highest possible value.

Remember, what your home is worth is also tied to your home equity. If the property appraises at a higher value, it could mean you have more equity in the home, which gives you more money to put toward your next home purchase, paying off debt, saving for retirement, or meeting other financial needs.

Most buyer offers are contingent on a mortgage lender approving their home loan to purchase the property. However, if the home’s appraised value is less than the loan amount, it can cause the home sale to fall through. Or you may need to lower the sales price, which is not ideal when you want to profit as much as possible from the transaction.

If you want to refinance your home, that also will require an appraisal. An appraisal report protects your mortgage lender by ensuring that they are not lending more money than what the home is worth. So whether you’re using the appraisal for a home sale or refinance, the higher the home’s valuation, the smoother the process will be.

A licensed appraiser considers many factors that impact a home’s appraised value, including public records, square footage, condition of the property, and the home valuations of comparable homes in the area. While things like the prices of similar homes are out of a homeowner’s control, there are steps you can take prior to the appraisal inspection to maximize your home’s value.

1. Enhance Your Home’s Curb Appeal.

Curb appeal is the first impression your home gives to people buying a home and the appraiser conducting the inspection. You can improve your home’s exterior by mowing your lawn, cleaning up leaves, planting fresh flowers, trimming overgrown bushes, and clearing your sidewalk and driveway to make everything appear safe and clean. 

If it’s within your budget, you can also give your home’s exterior a fresh coat of paint. You want to give the appraiser the impression that you keep your home and property well-maintained—both the interior and exterior.

2. Declutter Your Home.

A clean and organized home gives the impression that the owner takes excellent care of it. Also, the condition of the property is one of the ratings that appears on the appraisal report, so it is essential to keep this in mind. Just as you staged your home when you listed it for sale, you should stage it thoughtfully for the appraisal inspection.

Decluttering your house also helps the appraiser do their job. They will need to take pictures and measurements as part of the real estate appraisal process. So cleaning up and putting items away in closets, cabinets, or storage is essential. 

As an added benefit, when you clean things up, it makes your home look more spacious. 

Clear the kitchen sink of all dirty dishes, and put any unused appliances and gadgets out of sight. Remove magazines, books, children’s toys, and other clutter from the living room. Make the beds and put away any clothing lying around in the bedrooms.

3. Give Your Home a Thorough Cleaning.

Having your home be as clean and tidy as possible helps the appraiser to see the property’s most appealing features. Remember that a clean house goes beyond appearance; it involves smells as well. Be sure to deodorize unpleasant odors from your pets and refrigerator, and dispose of all garbage.

Pay special attention to areas that you don’t clean very often. This might include baseboards, the inside of cupboards, windows, sliding doors, and cabinet fronts. You might even want to hire a cleaning service to tackle the more demanding projects, such as deep-cleaning your carpets to remove unsightly stains. 

Another advantage of thorough cleaning is that you may discover potential problems that you—or a professional—can fix before the inspection. For instance, if you find a damp area with mold in your basement, you can have it remediated before the appraiser notices and includes it in their appraisal report.

4. Make Minor Repairs.

Neglecting minor repairs leaves the high possibility that the appraiser will uncover these issues and subtract them from the home’s valuation. If you have leaky faucets, squeaky doors, locks that don’t work, faulty light switches, or holes in the walls, you should be able to fix those issues quickly and inexpensively before the home appraisal. 

Below is a list of things around the home to inspect. If needed, you can have these repairs completed before the real estate appraisal:

  • Secure all handrails on stairways, steps, or raised decks.
  • Replace any burned-out light bulbs. 
  • Ensure that smoke alarms are working correctly and that their batteries have been replaced.
  • Address any ceiling stains or roof leaks.
  • Repair all plumbing issues, including running toilets.
  • Check for and repair any loose floorboards.
  • Fill in and repaint all nail holes in the walls.
  • Make sure that your HVAC systems are functioning properly.

5. Complete Small Home Improvements.

Simple upgrades to your home’s interior can help increase its value. Things like replacing worn door handles and hardware on drawers can help modernize your space. Repainting walls with neutral colors—like gray, cream, or beige—can bring sophistication to any room. 

Also consider replacing outdated features like linoleum, old vinyl flooring, and frosted-glass shower doors.

6. Make a List of All the Home Improvements You’ve Done.

One of the most important things you can do to prepare for the home appraisal is to show the appraiser how much money you’ve put into upgrading the property. Whether it was a kitchen remodel, a new HVAC system, or a finished basement, the licensed appraiser will calculate these upgrades into the home’s value.

Compile a list of all big renovations completed under your ownership. Provide this list to the appraiser with any supporting documentation—like receipts or invoices—showing proof of the work that was done and the costs, dates, building permits, warranties, and more.

To gain a better understanding of how home improvements impact the real estate appraisal process when selling your home, check out our blog on Highest ROI: Top Home Renovations.

7. Know Your Area.

A licensed appraiser does their best to know the areas they conduct appraisals in. But don’t assume they know all the improvements happening around your neighborhood as well as you do.

For instance, new retail centers, upgraded schools, and increased highway access are neighborhood improvements that can have a positive impact on home values. Believe it or not, a new Starbucks, Whole Foods, Target, or Trader Joe’s coming to the area can also increase what your home is worth. So be sure that the appraiser knows about the positive upgrades to the area around the home, as well.

Key Takeaways on Preparing for a Home Appraisal

As the homeowner, your goal for the home appraisal inspection is to make sure that your house looks clean and well-maintained, that all systems are functioning correctly, and that any potential issues with the condition of the property have been addressed. 

A few small improvements can help in a big way, and the good news is that many are do-it-yourself projects that you can complete quickly, easily, and affordably without the need to hire a professional.

Putting in the effort beforehand to enhance or fix items where needed should help maximize your home’s appraised value. One of the most frequently asked questions we hear from homeowners is, “How can I prepare for the appraisal inspection?” so we hope you found these tips to be helpful.

For more insight on how to make your home appraisal run more smoothly, check out our blog on 5 Things Real Estate Appraisers Want You to Know. And for more information about the appraisal process, click here to read additional articles from Kairos Appraisal.

Alex Todak