An appraisal is an unbiased, professional opinion of how much your home is worth. It must be completed by a professional who is qualified and certified in your state.
The results of the appraisal help you determine the asking price for your home. The appraisal is important to buyers, as well. If they’re taking out a mortgage to buy a house, the lender uses the appraisal to determine how much loan value they will offer.
Many home sellers worry about this process and wonder what negatively affects home appraisal results. Read on to learn what hurts a home appraisal and what you can do about it.
What Does an Appraiser Look For?
Let’s start with the basics. We will explore what appraisers are looking for while examining your home.
What Does an Appraiser Do?
For consistency, the appraiser uses a “Uniform Residential Appraisal Report.” This helps eliminate bias and ensures that all inspectors are playing by the same rules. As a general rule, they’re looking at:
- Year built
- How many stories
- What the roof is made of
- What the floor and walls are made of
- Bed/Bath Total
- Square footage
- Basement and attic features, whether they’re finished or not
- Off-street parking, driveway, garage, etc.
- Type of neighborhood (rural, urban, suburban)
- Housing market
They will use a “sales comparison” approach, which means they will choose three comps (comparable sales) in the local market and outline how your house is similar or different from those properties. This is necessary since no two houses are exactly alike.
What Does a VA Appraiser Look For?
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has set forth some specific guidelines for appraisals since Veterans can utilize a unique VA home loan. They also use a “Uniform Residential Appraisal Report.”
They will also be looking at the above items that a traditional appraiser looks for. However, they are less likely to make adjustments for certain features that can make a home more attractive to the right buyer.
For example, a traditional appraiser might give your home some “extra value” for having an amazing, kid-friendly backyard that is so much better than the one on the comp homes compared to yours.
A VA appraiser determines value a little more by the book with little wiggle room from unexpected appealing factors in your home.
For this reason, what hurts a home appraisal can be that you got a VA appraisal, not a traditional one. But keep in mind, you won’t always have a choice. This depends on who your home buyer’s lender is.
Things Appraisers Look at That Might Surprise You
By now, you’re probably wondering exactly how detailed appraisals can be. Homeowners often wonder where the appraiser will look and what could end up hurting their appraisal.
Let’s take a look at how detailed these inspections can be.
Does an Appraiser Go Inside the House?
Yes, an appraiser will examine the inside of your home, recording dimensions, amenities, and overall condition. They’ll take photos along the way of every interior room.
Do Appraisers Look in Cabinets?
In most homes, the appraiser will have no reason to look in the cabinets because they do not need to open them to measure living space. However, if there are obvious signs of disrepair, broken hinges, infestation, etc., they might look in cabinets. It’s best to do a little organization before the appraisal if they’re messy. But they generally won’t be what hurts a home appraisal.
Do Appraisers Look Under Sinks?
Yes, the appraiser will look under your sinks to ensure there isn’t any water damage or problems hiding. No need to clear out any under-sink storage but do make sure it is clean and accessible. If there is no damage, this won’t harm your home appraisal.
Do Appraisers Look at Paint?
Some appraisers will, and others won’t. If the paint is chipping, you have unsightly wallpaper, rooms are half-painted, or you’ve painted over a poorly patched hole, these things could hurt your home appraisal. Paint is more likely to be a factor with a VA appraiser. In some cases, VA appraisers will require that you fix certain things like a bad paint job before approving the appraisal.
Do Appraisers Look in Garages?
Yes, they sure do! They are mostly looking for size, condition, and function — not how well you organize your tools. So does the garage door work? Is the concrete cracking? They look for major things like that.
Do Appraisers Look in Closets?
The short answer is yes, they will look in your closet… but only to determine the total living area. So while a clean, organized closet is a sign of respect for the appraiser (and a lot more pleasant to look at), a messy closet won’t negatively affect home value.
Now that we’ve established that a tidy closet won’t raise your home value let’s look at what hurts a home appraisal the most.
What Hurts a Home Appraisal?
A home appraisal is primarily based on the condition of your home relative to similar homes in your neighborhood and what they sell for. Beyond proximity factors, appraisers consider the age, features and curb appeal when calculating what your house is worth.
We’ve explained 18 things that will hurt your home appraisal most:
1. Does a Messy House Affect an Appraisal?
Appraisers try to look past all that. But sometimes, a messy home indicates a home that isn’t being well taken care of. And clutter may actually hide rot, waste, and water damage. So while appraisers may not consider it in home value, it may add time to the appraisal or raise additional questions.
While appraisals are supposed to be unbiased, you generally don’t want to do anything that makes the appraisers work harder or longer. That could cause subconscious bias the appraiser isn’t even aware of.
2. Will Curb Appeal Impact My Appraisal?
It may seem so transient, but yes; curb appeal does impact appraisals. Appraisers judge how good your home looks from the street because they know this will impact initial interest and willingness to pay more.
However, having a yard filled with hard-to-care-for plants that look fantastic may backfire on you and hurt a home appraisal. This is because buyers could see the yard as more of a hassle than a selling point if they are not equipped for the upkeep.
3. Will Structural Damage Affect a Home Appraisal?
Yes. Any unrepaired or ongoing structural damage can hurt your appraisal. Home appraisers are training to look for telltale signs of structural damage, such as cracks in the walls or flooring. They may even uncover issues you are unware of since often times structural damage goes unnoticed until a homeowner specifically looks for signs of wear and tear.
4. Will Home Renovations Hurt My Appraisal?
Yikes! Did you start re-painting the garage and have to stop? Maybe you pulled out the bathtub but haven’t had time to replace it? Half done projects will impact the value of your home on the open market. You’re more likely to attract investors instead of families or individuals seeking a move-in ready option. So appraisers consider this in the final value.
But if you’ve updated the bath, kitchen, front door, or flooring since your last appraisal and did a decent job, this can increase the appraisal value. It’s important to consider the ROI, or return on investment, of a home improvement project before getting started. Some projects add more value to a home than others.
5. Do Overly-Personalized Renovations Affect a Home Appraisal?
Appraisers also care about the marketability of your home. Renovations that are overly personalized but don’t appeal to the general public can hurt a home appraisal. Many times, these renovations have to do with design and personal style choices that you may love, but may not speak to the masses. These can include updates you did to make the home more accessible for an aging parent of someone with disabilities.
6. Do Market Conditions Hurt My Home Appraisal?
Yes. When an appraiser does an appraisal, the assumption is that you’re selling now. So they need to look at how it would sell in the current market.
Since the housing market is always changing, it is possible that you could get a different appraisal value on your home depending solely on the time of year that you schedule your appraisal. If you’re not on a tight schedule, it may make sense to wait to sell your home until market conditions are at their peak, usually in the spring for most markets.
7. Does a Home Appraiser Consider Home Location?
All appraisals look at location first. They can’t compare the value of a home in rural Indiana to one in Chicago. If homes in your area are far apart, they may need to get creative. But the location is certainly a factor. Where your home is in relation to neighbors can also be a factor.
For example, a home near the entry to a suburb may go for less than one nestled in the back of the community because the latter will experience less traffic noise. The crime rate, proximity to schools, walkability, road maintenance, neighborhood amenities, and nearby shopping may also be factors.
8. Will Proximity to Eyesores or Earsoars Impact Appraisal?
Yes, as they say in a city with a rail system, it’s great to live close to the train. But that doesn’t mean you want to be right next to it!
It’s great if you’re close to an elementary school, but you don’t want to be right across the street from the sounds of children playing on the playground 5 days per week. There’s a sweet spot between which proximity is convenient but not a nuisance.
Proximity to poorly maintained, vacant homes or foreclosures may also hurt your home appraisal. They generally drag property values in the neighborhood down because these homes can be major eyesores or even spaces for squatters to enter or mischief to occur.
9. Does the Appraiser Consider HVAC?
Appraisers will want to know how your home is heated and cooled. Most homebuyers want central heat and air. If you have an outdated system, the home value can take a major ding since updating HVAC is costly.
10. Will the Appraisal Value Be Lower Because of Little Closet Space?
Back in the ’60s and ’70s, most people just didn’t have a whole lot of stuff. Closets were smaller, and there was less storage overall. Regardless of the home’s age, houses with at least one walk-in closet will usually appraise for more as long as it’s not attached to a tiny bedroom.
11. Does the Appraisal Consider the Garage?
If you have a garage completely re-finished and permitted to become a living space, it may be considered in your home’s square footage. But if it’s just a garage, they’ll be looking at how many vehicles can fit in it. The ideal size for a garage varies greatly depending on the market.
In some southern states where basements are less prevalent, homeowners may want larger garages than their northern neighbors to use as storage space.
12. Will The Appraiser Factor Square Footage into the Value?
The total number of square footage is definitely a contributor to the home’s appraised value. Not only do they look for the number of square feet, but they also look at how it’s distributed.
Homes built in the ’30s and ’40s sometimes had you walking through one bedroom to get to another with no halls or privacy. This would be an issue for the modern home buyer and would be costly to redo the floorplan.
13. Does What a Home Is Made of Impact the Appraisal?
Appraisers will look at construction materials, particularly the foundation. Newer homes with newer foundation materials and techniques will typically be valued higher, while homes with older foundation materials may take a hit in this section.
The type and age of your roof, new siding, energy-efficient doors and windows, and other features that make homes more energy efficient may increase value.
14. Does the Year It Was Built Affect Appraisal Value?
Homes that are 10-20 years old are much less likely to have a major issue, so anything older than this may get a lower appraisal simply because of the home’s age. However, a well-maintained home in a historic district may get a higher appraisal despite little issues that are sure to arise in an older home because of the desirability of the neighborhood.
15. Does Home Style Affect Appraised Value?
It rarely pays to be “trendy” when it comes to home style. It may be the talk of the town at the time, but five years, 10 years down the road… styles that stick out from the neighborhood become an eyesore and will impact value.
When preparing a home for an appraisal or a showing, try to neutralize the style as much as possible. The buyer wants to be able to picture themself living in the space, and that can be difficult to do if it is covered in someone else’s style.
16. Does the Number of Bedrooms Affect the Appraisal?
The ideal number of bedrooms will depend on the location, but bedrooms will be a factor.
A one or two-bedroom home may not be desirable in many suburban neighborhoods because many who buy homes are thinking about “growing” into it as they start a family. Having too few bedrooms will automatically alienate a large number of potential buyers. Appraisers have to consider that.
But before you try to convert a big bedroom into two, know that size also matters. By appraisal standards, anything that is less than 70 ft cannot be counted as a bedroom. It would be considered an office, playroom, or other small bonus room.
17. Does the Number of Bathrooms Affect the Appraisal?
Yes, the number of full and half baths matters, and it’s all relative to the neighborhood. So if all the homes around you have two full baths and you only have one and a half bath, that will bring down the value of your home appraisal.
18. Will Appraiser Experience Affect a Home Appraisal?
Appraising is like any job — it requires skill and experience to get good at it. An experienced appraiser may see things that add to your home value that a new appraiser wouldn’t. But, on the other hand, an experienced appraiser will also see the little things that hurt value. They know what to look for and what homeowners may try to hide.
How Long Does an Appraisal Take?
It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 10 days or so. Newer homes in good repair are easier to assess, while older homes that may have issues can take longer.
Again, cleaning your home may help speed up the process. If the appraiser has clear walkways and can easily see what he or she needs to see, it can save both of you time and stress.
What Should You Not Say to an Appraiser
Don’t discuss the value of your home. As a realtor or a homeowner, you should avoid saying things like:
– Is it going to come in at this “value”?
– I’ll be happy as long as it appraises for at least the sales price.
– Do your best to get the value as high as possible.
– I would be shocked if it didn’t “appraise”.
Keep your conversation to the appraiser about facts of the home, neighborhood and any other relevant information you think the appraiser should know. Don’t pressure the appraiser to hit the value and you’ll be fine.
How Accurate Are Home Appraisals?
Appraising isn’t an exact science. Appraisers use a lot of data to try to appraise your property fairly, but small oversights or differences of experience or opinion can impact the appraised value.
What to Do If You Aren’t Happy With Your Home Appraisal
- The first step is to talk to the appraiser during the appraisal. If you have a brand new roof, think your attic qualifies as living space, etc., most appraisers will be okay with mentioning those things as long as you do it respectfully.
- Get a copy of the appraisal.
- See if you spot mistakes.
- Look at the comps. Do you strongly disagree that they’re comparable? Be prepared to explain why.
- See if permits are an issue.
- Make “unofficial” changes to the appraisal.
- Send a petition to the appraiser to reconsider based on your notes
- If this goes nowhere, request an appraisal from someone else. You’ll probably have to pay more for it.
If Too Many Factors Hurt Your Home Appraisal, What Can You Do?
Traditional home buyers — those seeking a mortgage loan — depend on an appraisal to get financing. This can slow down the home sale process or even bring it to a halt.
In most cases, you’ll receive an offer right away. With local agents and professional contracts, HomeGo allows you to close with confidence.