Spring is here and the market is on the move—and that means you probably have some first-time home sellers on your client list. First-time home sellers may need a little extra assistance from you because this process is new to them. Take the case of the Lee family, who were renters before they bought their starter home eight years ago. Now they have two kids and are selling that house and planning to move to another neighborhood that's in a good school district. Because they've never sold a house before, the Lees may need some guidance from their real estate agent when it comes to issues like getting ready for a home appraisal. An appraisal that's low could undermine a promising deal. The job of a licensed real estate appraiser is to provide an objective and accurate assessment of the value of a home. But there are some things the Lees can do to give their home a fighting chance of receiving a good appraisal report.
When the appraiser arrives to do the inspection, you should come along for the walkthrough if at all possible. Bring a list of recent comparable sales (“comps”) at hand. The comparable sales that are chosen as part of the report will influence the figure of the appraisal. The appraiser will make her own list for the report, but if she's not from the neighborhood, she may not be aware of the high price that a house similar to the Lees sold for last month. While the home appraiser should never be pressured by outside parties, sellers and real estate agents have the right to communicate with the appraiser if they have concerns about individual valuations.
Get the Paperwork Organized
Before the appraisal, sit down with the Lees and prepare a full list of all the improvements they've made in the house over the past eight years. Having a list of improvements for the appraisal will ensure nothing is forgotten as you go around the house. Ask the Lees to include receipts where possible. If the appraiser has receipts for the hardwood flooring or the HVAC system that they installed last year, it will help her to make an accurate estimate of what those improvements added to the house's value. Include a list of appliances if they are going to be sold with the house, especially if they are energy-efficient appliances. And it's a good idea for you and the Lees to draw up a complete room list with a brief description of all the rooms that you can hand to the appraiser, to help make 100% sure that those very important details are correct on the appraisal report. If the Lees have had a recent home inspection report done, prepare a copy of that to give to the appraiser. And you may not be asked for them, but have the land titles and most recent property tax bill ready for inspection if needed.
One of the factors in a home appraisal can be the “effective age” of the property. If the Lees' home is an older house or if they haven't had time to give it all the maintenance it requires, they may want to consider having some fixes made. Repairing damaged drywall and giving rooms a fresh coat of semi-gloss where the paint has begun to peel may not automatically increase that value of the home but they could prevent it from receiving low marks in the "aging well" part of the appraisal report.
Tidy Up Inside and Out
You can reassure the Lees that they don't need to stage their house for a home appraisal inspection. The appraiser won't care if the drapes clash with the upholstery. However, you can tactfully suggest that it's a good idea to tidy up the home before the appraisal. Be sure dirty grout around bathroom tiles, marks on the walls and soiled carpets get cleaned up. And the Lees should definitely tidy up the yard, cut back overgrown landscaping, pull up weeds, mow the lawn and trim the hedges. These may sound like simple strategies, but an overgrown, unkempt yard will not give the impression that the house is in good condition and well maintained. If the Lees added any significant features to the yard or garden, such as a fountain or deck, make sure that those additions and the costs involved are included in the list of improvements you have ready to give the appraiser when you accompany her on the inspection of the Lees' home.
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