If you want to refinance your home and still take advantage of currently low interest rates, you’ll they have to get through a home appraisal, before landing a new 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.
What do you do when the appraisal came back less than what you’re expecting, and too low to support the new loan? Low appraisals are becoming a bigger problem for many would-be buyers and refinancers as home values have started to stabilize and rise in some markets.
Appraisals are based on recent sales prices of comparable properties. And in rising price markets, those sales prices might not be high enough to support the newest deals.
Here are eight ways you can bolster your appraisal:
Make Sure the Appraiser Knows Your Neighborhood
Is the appraiser from within a 10-mile radius of your property? This is one of the first questions you should ask the appraiser. If the appraiser doesn’t know the area intimately, chances are the appraisal will not come back close to what a property is really worth. You can request that your lender send a local appraiser; if that still doesn’t happen, supply as much information as you can about the quality of your neighborhood.
Provide Your Own Comparables
Provide your appraiser with at least three solid and well-priced comparable properties. You will save the appraiser some work and ensure that price information from homes that really are similar to yours.
Websites including Realtor.com, Zillow, and Trulia offer recent sales prices and details such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in a home.
Know What Adds the Most Value
If you’re planning to do minor renovations, start with the kitchen and bathrooms. Update appliances with new ones or give them a facelift with appliance paint. Retile or at least scour the grout. Even a simple addition of new faucets can add value and appeal. Wood floors, landscaping, and an enclosed garage can also drive up appraisals.
Document Your Fix-Ups
When you spend money on home improvements keep the receipts, so you have proof of the purchases later. Before-and-after photos, along with a well-defined spreadsheet of what was spent on each renovation, should persuade an appraiser to turn in a number that exceeds one formed from initial glances.
Don’t forget to highlight all-important structural improvements to electrical systems, heating and cooling systems, and cannot be seen, but can dramatically boost an appraisal.
Talk Up Your Town
If your town has recently seen exciting developments, such as upscale restaurants, museums, parks, or other amenities, make sure your appraiser knows about them. New construction of all sorts raises overall property values in an area.
Distinguish Between Upstairs and Downstairs
Many homeowners covet that refinished basement, but that doesn’t mean appraisers look at it the same way. Improvements and additions made below grade, such as a finished basement, do not add to the overall square footage of your house, so they don’t add as much value as improvements made above grade.
A basement can recoup roughly 50 percent of what was spent that in added home value, whereas an attic bedroom can recoup up to 75 percent of its cost. Similar bedrooms typically count for more if they are upstairs instead of downstairs.
Even biased appraisers can be swayed by a good-looking yard. Keep your trees properly trimmed and tidy, add a few flowers in the flower beds, and paint touch up can all help the appraisal. Also, be sure your lawn is well kept.
That advice holds true indoors, too. Get rid of all the clutter in your home. Your home will appear larger if obstructive furniture and clutter on tables and counters are moved or removed.
Give the Appraiser Some Space
Do not follow the appraiser around your property but be available if he or she has questions. While you can engage with appraiser in general, remember not to be pushy. Appraisers take it as a major red flag there is a problem with the home.
And while you’re at it, make the appraiser’s job as pleasant as possible by giving your home a pleasant smell. Consider baking some fresh cookies and leave them available. Offering them probably won’t sway your appraisal—but keep in mind that the appraiser is a guest in your home, so make sure they are comfortable during their stay. Put your pets in a separate room if possible and set the thermostat to an appropriate level.