How to Prepare for a Home Appraisal

For homeowners, a real estate appraisal is the linchpin to buying or selling their home. It allows the property transactions to occur among the buyer, seller, real estate agent and mortgage lender.

Before the Home Appraiser Arrives

Before an Appraiser arrives, there are a few things you should know. By law, an appraiser must be state licensed to perform appraisals prepared for federally related transactions. Also by law, you are entitled to receive a copy of the completed appraisal report from your lender.


Have Documents Ready

To facilitate the appraisal process, it's beneficial to have these documents ready for the appraiser:

  • A plot plan or survey of the house and land (if readily available)
  • Information on the latest purchase of the property in the last three years
  • Written property agreements, such as a maintenance agreement for a shared driveway
  • List of personal property to be sold with the home
  • Title policy that describes encroachments or easements
  • Most recent real estate tax bill and or legal description of the property
  • Home inspection reports, or other recent reports for termites, EIFS (synthetic stucco) wall systems, septic systems and wells
  • Brag sheet that lists major home improvements and upgrades, the date of their installation and their cost (for example, the addition of central air conditioning or roof repairs) and permit confirmation (if available)
  • A copy of the current listing agreement and broker's data sheet and Purchase Agreement if a sale is "pending".
  • Information on "Homeowners Associations" or condominium covenants and fees.
  • A list of "Proposed" improvements if the property is to be appraised "As Complete".

Repairs Needed Before The Appraisal

A home appraisal is different from a home inspection. A real estate appraiser looks for things that affect the overall value of the house. An inspector looks deeper to identify things that need to be fixed before you close.

Here are the most common repairs that should be completed before a real estate appraiser visits your home:

  1. Health and safety issues
  2. Protecting the security of the property
  3. Structural soundness of the property

For example:

  • Electric garage door opener that won’t reverse when obstructed.
  • Steps or stairwells with no handrail.
  • Empty swimming pools, pools without a working pump, and pools with mosquito fish.
  • Non-working kitchen appliances.
  • Exposed electrical wires.
  • Non-functioning water, electricity or air conditioning.

If possible, home repairs should be made to your home prior to the home appraisal being done, and if possible - before the home is put up for sale. The repairs not only improve the home’s marketability, but depending on the loan type the repairs will likely be required and will cost an additional fee for a re-inspection.


Cleaning Needed Before The Appraisal

A clean (or cluttered) home does not affect a home’s value. Appraisers see hundreds of homes a year and will look past most clutter. A good impression however, can help form a better opinion because sometimes, a messy home with stained carpet and dirt covering the walls indicates a home that isn’t being well maintained and can be a signal of underlying problems. Has the AC been well maintained? How about regular checkups for the heater? Are there repairs needed that have been neglected?

So while appraisers may not consider clutter in home value, it may add time to the appraisal or raise additional questions, especially when faced with extreme clutter.


After the Home Appraiser Arrives

Once your appraiser has arrived, you do not need to accompany him or her along on the entire site inspection, but you should be available to answer questions about your property and be willing to point out any home improvements.

Depending on the size of the home, an appraiser can spend anywhere from 1 to 4+ hours at your home. The appraiser will not only look around at your home and visit each room, but he or she will take pictures included in the appraisal report. Why? Several reasons.

  1. Client Requirement
  2. Documentation
  3. Reporting

Remember, an appraiser is collecting evidence to support the final opinion of value they arrive at for the bank, or to support a value to set a list price as is done with a pre-listing appraisal. The appraiser’s opinion must stand up in court, if challenged, and pictures are a tool to assist the appraiser’s description.


What An Appraiser Evaluates

Appraisers focus on the condition of the property, its layout and size. There are dozens of internal and external items on the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report, and these are the main focus areas:

  1. Garage
  2. Exterior of the home
  3. Roof
  4. Foundation
  5. Kitchen
  6. Bedrooms
  7. Bathrooms
  8. HVAC
  9. Recent home improvements
  10. Location

Find more in-depth details about the things an appraiser evaluates in a home.


5 Things That Hurt A Home Appraisal

Besides square footage, and condition of the home to determine overall value, an appraiser is also looking for safety hazards or things that could cause damage to the house.

1. Cleanliness / Home Interior
    A clean (or cluttered) home does not affect a home’s value. A good impression however, can help form a better opinion because sometimes, a messy home with stained carpet and dirt covering the walls indicates a home that isn’t being well taken care of. So while appraisers may not consider it in home value, it may add time to the appraisal or raise additional questions.

2. Poor Curb Appeal
    If a home lacks curb appeal and doesn’t appear as up to date as the neighbors before even walking in the door, it will turn off potential buyers. Thus, it will affect your appraisal value. Remember, comparable homes range in value and a poor curb appeal will likely result in a lower final value that matches the lower end of the comparable property values.

3. Outdated Kitchens, Bathrooms & Interiors
    If the interior hasn’t been changed for decades, it may not appeal to buyers, which can also cause the value to decrease. When it comes to home projects, don’t forget about your unfinished ones. Half done projects will make it more likely to attract investors instead of people seeking a move-in ready option. Thus, appraisers consider this in the final value.

4. Outdated Systems and Appliances
    Updating appliances or any major systems, like plumbing, electrical or HVAC, can be costly, so if yours are outdated it could affect the overall value of the home. Outdated features like these could also signal that the home has not been taken care of properly and more issues lie beneath.

5. Glossing Over Needed Repairs
    To ensure the appraisal goes smoothly, be upfront about any necessary repairs that you haven’t completed, such as fixing a cracked foundation. That means giving the appraiser any bids or estimates for the work. An appraiser can factor that cost into their calculations instead of using a more general figure, which will throw off the value.

What Appraisers Can’t Tell You

The appraiser is not allowed to give you - the homeowner - any information. Why? Because you are not the client, the lender who ordered the appraisal is the client.

Now, this isn't true if this is for a private appraisal like a divorce appraisal, or estate appraisal. Then the homeowner becomes the client and the appraiser can give out information.

However, if the appraisal is for a mortgage, the client is the bank. Appraisers understand that the homeowner is the one paying for the appraisal, however, the law is very clear that the homeowner can get a copy of the appraisal from the bank, but the appraiser can't discuss it with them.


Can I Order My Own Appraisal?

Wondering if you can speed up the appraisal by ordering your own? Usually the answer is no, but there are exceptions that allow you to hire your own appraiser.


  • Home Loan: If you are getting a loan on your property the bank/lender must order the appraisal. Not you.


  • Cash Purchase: If you are paying cash for the home, and you want to ensure the price is fair, you can choose your own appraiser because there is no mortgage loan.
  • Appraisal Waiver: When the loan qualifies for an appraisal waiver, you can hire your own home appraiser to do an appraisal anyway and ensure the home you are buying is worth the price.
  • Valuation: If you need a valuation of the home, but are not getting a loan, you can choose your own appraiser. For example:
    • Divorce
    • Date of Death
    • Pre-Listing
    • Bankruptcy
    • Estate Settlement
    • Portfolio Management

Can I Get A Second Opinion?

A low home appraisal can be hurtful in receiving a home loan or refinancing. If you have good reason to believe the appraisal was too low, you can get a second opinion on your home appraisal.

To start, find a reason to appeal. This could be fact checking for errors like miscounting bedrooms or bathrooms, or listing the wrong square footage. If there are no factual errors, it’s important to consider if your own opinion of value is unbiased - is it what you WANT for the house, or what you KNOW it’s worth?

If you still believe your home is worth more than it was appraised for, you can challenge the appraisal. But - you must be prepared to point out mistakes the appraiser made in comparing other properties, “SIMILAR” sales comparables that the appraiser did not use or new/ upgraded features in your home that the appraiser missed.


Need A Home Appraisal In Phoenix, AZ?

We do home appraisals in the Phoenix area including Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, San Tan Valley and surrounding areas. We welcome you to look through our website, review appraisal services, join our Facebook community, and learn more about our expert appraisers.

Give us a call to schedule your appraisal.

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