What to Do (and Not Do) Preparing for a Home Appraisal
Knowing what to expect during a home appraisal can make the process as smooth and efficient as possible for both the homeowner and the appraiser. If you’ve never experienced an appraisal before, it’s perfectly reasonable to have questions. For instance…
How much time should an appraisal take?
The time the appraisal will take depends on the size and condition of the home, but most are brief and should take between 10 and 30 minutes. Remember, an appraisal is not a home inspection, and won’t be nearly as detailed.
What does the appraiser look for?
Many appraisers use the Uniform Residential Appraiser Report. Here’s what the appraiser will look for to fill it out:
- The appraiser may start (or finish) with the outside of your home. They’ll walk around the entire exterior of your house, looking at your roof, foundation, window screens, gutters, yard and landscaping. They’ll note whether you have access to public utilities, the neighborhood, the size of your lot, and whether or not you have a driveway.
- Once the appraiser is inside your home, they’ll walk through each room to assess the condition of each, possibly take measurements, and evaluate the general layout, ensuring the total number of bedrooms, bathrooms and square footage is as expected. They may take pictures and note any needed repairs.
"An appraiser may ask the homeowner questions, like When was the last time you had any maintenance done? When did you remodel the kitchen?" says home appraisal expert Len Fishman. "They’ll get the history of the structure, the windows, the roof. It’s helpful for the homeowner to have a list ready of what work’s been done and the year it was completed."
- They may look at appliances and necessities like your HVAC, electrical outlets, and smoke detectors. They may also note the material used for the walls and floors, and check for safety features like handrails on stairs.
- If you have a garage, basement, or attic, the appraiser may look at these areas, too.
- Once the appraiser leaves your home, it may take up to 10 days to receive your report, as they may need to verify information and write up their findings, though most reports are completed in five days or less.
What should the appraisal cost?
The cost of an appraisal will depend on many factors, including why the appraisal is being conducted, the location, and the size of the property being appraised. The average cost of a single-family home appraisal can vary drastically depending upon the region. For example, you can expect to pay around $450 in Iowa versus $875 in Montana when requesting an appraisal through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (USVA)
Never experienced a home appraisal and are unsure what to do? Hometap spoke with Fishman to talk best practices, biggest frustrations, and advice for homeowners to ensure the process is as seamless and efficient as possible.
Dos and don'ts of preparing for a home appraisal
DO make the appointment with enough advance notice to do any necessary tidying. It’s common to schedule the appraisal a week in advance. The appraiser will likely inform you on the call what they’ll need access to so that you can make sure sheds, attics, basements, and so on are cleared. The house should be as clean and accessible as it would be for an open house.
DO have a list ready of all the maintenance that has been done and when, including things like when the roof was last replaced or repaired, when appliances were purchased, etc. This will help make the appraiser’s job a bit easier and won’t put you on the spot.
DON’T talk costs. While you may be proud of the Viking range in your kitchen or the premium garage doors you had installed, appraisers won’t be looking for you to include costs with your list of updates.
“You don’t need to include the cost of purchases or repairs,” says Fishman. “The appraiser will form their own opinion based on their expertise and experience. It’s their job to be as objective as possible.”
DON’T try to sway the appraiser. While it’s great for your own information to know what’s happening in your neighborhood, don’t come prepared to give the appraiser a history of the neighborhood or nearby comps.
“Homeowners will often tell the appraiser about the house down the street that just sold for such and such. The appraiser is going to do their research, and will likely disregard the information you provide to avoid creating an anchor bias,” explains Fishman.
Setting your expectations and preparing for your home appraisal appointment will help ensure the appointment runs smoothly and provides the most accurate home value estimate by your appraiser, whether it's the first step in the process for putting your house on the market, or preparing for financing like a Hometap home equity investment.
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