We’ve blogged before about best practices for pre-sale inspections. Now we turn to appraisals and offer a range of tips that can ensure the fairest possible outcome.
The exterior of the property will be the first thing that the appraiser lays eyes on, but it is often de-prioritized by sellers. It is particularly important that the initial impression be a good one—that the appraiser is assured that the home is well cared for from the moment he steps on the grounds. This means that the grass should be mowed, leaves raked, hedges trimmed, swimming pool cleaned, gutters cleared, sidewalks and driveways hosed down, flower beds mulched, etc. It can’t hurt to also add a personal touch such as new potted plants to the front entrance.
After an exhaustive review of tips shared online, the following are the ones that most agree are essential:
- Make sure that the house is reasonably clean and de-cluttered.
- Make sure every room is open and accessible.
- Check in advance to make sure that there is nothing that would leave the appraiser with the impression that the property has been neglected (g., chipped paint, broken knobs, bathroom caulk that needs to be replaced, nonfunctioning doorbell, loose floor tiles, etc.). Minor repairs should be undertaken in advance.
- Do a deep cleaning in advance, to include having the carpets professionally cleaned if they are stained.
- Inform the appraiser about improvements you have made to the property. Make sure that you have documentation on hand that evidences those improvements.
- Make sure that safety equipment is in good working order—check that the batteries are working in smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and home security alarms. If there is a fire extinguisher, make sure that it has not expired by checking the date stamped on the cylinder.
- Make sure the property is light-filled by opening draperies/blinds and turning lights on.
- A number of online commenters also mentioned to make sure to “freshen up” smells. Some even mentioned brewing coffee or baking cookies to improve the sensory experience.
Meeting the Appraiser:
- If the street is a busy one and street parking is scare, make driveway space available for the appraiser.
- If you have a pet, make sure that the pet is contained during the appraiser’s visit (or perhaps the pet can even spend time elsewhere while the appraiser is doing his work).
Building Rapport with the Appraiser:
Many online commentators agreed that it was important to strike a balance between building rapport with the appraiser and hovering. Most agreed that it would be beneficial to share information with the appraiser if you can do so without seeming as if you are assuming the appraiser is incapable of doing his job. With that in mind, a seller can:
- Provide a full list of updates, their associated costs, and proof that the work was permitted and performed by a licensed contractor. Be careful not to overburden the appraiser with paperwork though—it may cause him to set it aside if he feels like he is being deluged with unsolicited data.
- Provide a set of “before” and “after” photos if renovations were undertaken.
- Provide information about local area improvements (g., roads recently repaved, new community park built, addition of other new amenities nearby, etc.).
Commentators were mixed in their approach to providing appraisers with comps. Some said that they provided appraisers with the highest comps they could find. However, one appraiser who weighed in said he could see right through that effort and that he would feel his time were being wasted if that is what someone was presenting to him. No seller wants to run the risk of being accused of attempting to exert “undue influence.”
Many agreed that it is worthwhile to bring up other recent sales in the area and explain why their property was superior (e.g., better layout, bigger lot, etc.).
There is no way to guarantee that the outcome of an appraisal will meet or exceed a seller’s expectations. But taking the tips presented here into consideration will mitigate the risk that the valuation will be unnecessarily depressed.