A home appraisal can seem like a mysterious and opaque process — someone comes to your home, looks around, runs some numbers and sends back a home value that may or may not match up to what you or the county assessor thinks it’s worth.
Home appraisal is usually a required element of a bank-financed home sale, and it can be a make-or-break moment for the deal. Here’s a look behind the curtain of what appraisers are looking for.
Overall home condition
Obviously, homes in poorer condition value for less.
Total square footage of the home and property and number of bedrooms and bathrooms
These fundamental elements provide the baseline for the rest of the appraisal.
Quality of landscaping
Well-maintained trees and bushes tend to help home value.
Patios, decks, porches, pathways, fountains and outdoor lighting all increase home value.
Roof and foundation condition
Both elements can have massive deal-breaking problems that had not been noticed before, such as a foundation crack or a leaking roof.
State of lighting, electricity, plumbing, HVAC and appliances
The condition and age of all these fundamental parts of your home’s infrastructure play a big role in the value.
Number of functional fireplaces
Fireplaces add a certain luxury value to any home.
Status of the basement
The better the basement, the more value it provides. A finished basement adds the most value, but even in an unfinished basement, it’s important that it not be moldy or damp.
Condition of other features
Countertops? Home theaters? Nifty stuff like wine cellars or custom built-in furniture? All these things impact home value.
A home appraiser will take this information and then compare it to similar houses in your area, drawing information from recent home sales and prices. All these factors mean that different appraisers might come to different conclusions, so it’s OK to ask for a second opinion if the first one seems wrong.
On average, a home appraisal costs about $350. The initial appraisal inspection can be done in one day, then it will take between seven and 10 days for them to do their comparative research and complete a final report and home value.
When hiring an appraiser, look for certifications and continuing education. Your lender will probably recommend an appraiser, but you can also hire on your own. Ask if they’re experienced in appraising your specific type of property, and make sure they hold the proper licensing, bonding and insurance to work in your state or locality. Feel free to ask them for a list of references from previous clients, and check them. Nothing can replace borrowing a little experience from someone who’s worked with the same pro.
It’s a good idea to independently verify the certifications and licensing the appraiser provides you with. This is a major job with a big impact on one of the most important purchases of your life, so it’s worth taking the extra time to get it right.
Keep all the documentation the appraiser gives to you; you may need it later.