You’ve sold your house. It passed inspection, and your buyer has been pre-approved for a mortgage. But don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet – the house still needs to appraise for your deal to close as planned.
Appraisers play an important role in the home buying and selling process. Whenever a mortgage is originated—by a buyer to help finance a home purchase or by a homeowner who’s refinancing—the lender requires an appraisal to confirm the value of the house.
Appraisers calculate that value by inspecting the home, determining the number of rooms, evaluating its condition and other features, etc. and then comparing it to similar homes that sold in the neighborhood.
Since a sale often depends on getting a satisfactory appraisal supporting the contract price, sellers should do what they can to help the appraisal process along. Consider doing the following:
- Clean up. You want the house to show well. Eliminating clutter can also help rooms appear larger. While some say the appraiser "sees past the clutter," don’t risk the unfavorable view and opinion. Clean up.
- Give the appraiser a list of significant improvements you’ve made to the property. Certain improvements—a new roof, air conditioner, appliances, electrical panel, etc.—may add value to the house. Often, an appraiser will gather data prior to visiting the home, so unless you point out significant and valuable updates and quality features, a pre-determined valuation could threaten your sale.
- Inform the appraiser about your neighborhood. Let him or her know about features that add value and make your home more desirable to buyers, such as walkability to schools and shopping, top-rated schools and nearby amenities such as parks or recreational facilities.
- Provide the appraiser with information on comparable homes in the neighborhood. Mention nearby homes that have sold recently, and any known factors that might have affected those sales negatively such as disrepair, an outdated interior, a foundation settlement issue or problems like mold or moisture in the home due to a leaky roof. That way, if a comparable home sold for less money, the appraiser will be fully informed and may make value adjustments due to those issues.
- Tell the story of the sale. If your home sold for the full listing price because of recent upgrades, it’s on a larger lot, has an outdoor kitchen, various high-end landscaping improvements or has the best curb-appeal in the area, the appraiser doesn’t know those details unless you fill him in. "While that’s anecdotal, it’s part of the narrative of the transaction," says Jonathan Miller, president and chief executive officer of Miller Samuel Inc., a real-estate appraisal and consulting firm in New York. "Why not share that?"
- Let the appraiser do his job. "When you have a broker or a seller in your personal space the entire inspection—and this is very common—it’s very frustrating and you miss a lot of the positives of the house," Miller says. While appraisals are based on data, they also involve a lot of subjectivity on the part of the appraiser. It’s in your best interest to make his job as easy and pleasant as possible.