There is a lot of anxiety generated when you know that the appraiser is coming. Often times, we are scheduled in the early part of the week when the homeowners have had the weekend to “spruce” things up. Sometimes we are even asked, “what can I do to improve the value?”
Ultimately, the market dictates what your house is worth, but you certainly have a chance to influence where in the range it falls. We aren’t looking at general housekeeping items. With three kids and pets and both of us working full time, the house gets the least amount of attention. We usually figure that if something is curable for under $100 and within a weekend, it’s not really a compelling issue.
If you are applying for a home loan and the appraisal has been requested by the Lender, chances are there are particular things that must be included in the report, and if you can navigate those, you’re halfway home! A lender requires photos of all living areas and bathrooms, including the kitchen. They require that we comment to the level of updating and maintenance that’s being observed. They require that we comment on external factors, i.e. proximity to positive or negative influences like shopping centers or airports.
The inspection portion of the appraisal is so that we, the appraiser, can determine where in the range of appeal your home falls, in comparison to the competing homes. Comparables are selected first based on location, then living area, date of sale and then condition and amenities. Ideally, good comparables are located within 1 mile, are within 20% of the living area, and are similar in condition and features. What you want to avoid is being OUTSIDE of the range that is provided by your neighborhood. This is when we see a dramatically diminished return on investment, primarily for homes that would be considered an “over-improvement”.
So, if you can’t change the size of your home, do what you can (within reason), to make any small repairs that might enhance your property’s appeal at the upper end of the range of appeal for comparable properties. If those homes in the upper range have an updated kitchen, then you can feel free to make that improvement. If they have a minimum of 2 baths and you have a 1.5 bath, go ahead and add that shower! Every house on the block has a lush lawn and yours is brown and patchy? Spend the weekend and the dough on some new sod. Just be careful not spend more than the difference between what you owe on the home, and the price at that upper end of the range of sales prices in your neighborhood.
One last thing, make sure that you don’t make any improvements that are too taste specific or trendy. If you keep with the intention of the neighborhood, you should find great returns on your financial and emotional investments!