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How to get a better appraisal value for your real estate


Home appraisers are the unofficial umpires of residential real estate sales, deciding whether offering prices are fair or foul. But much more often than in the past, they’re striking out deals and sending buyers and sellers back to the dugout.

After the real estate bubble burst, new rules were enacted to keep appraisers more objective and to prevent real estate agents and mortgage brokers from pressuring them for higher valuations. As a result, appraisals are now coming back a lot lower than they used to.

Lower appraisals hurt both buyers and sellers. When an appraisal comes back lower than expected, buyers usually can’t qualify for as large a mortgage. As a result, the sale might fall through, or the seller might have to lower the price in order to salvage the deal.

With home appraisals now presenting a much higher hurdle than in the past, here are some suggestions for home sellers on getting a good result:

  • Just as you fixed your home up to look nice for an open house, you’ll want it to look nice for the appraiser, too. Mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges, removing marks from walls and cleaning soiled carpets will all factor into the appraiser’s “condition” rating for your home.
  • Make a list of all the improvements you have made to the property, and give it to the appraiser. Include the date and your best estimate of the cost. Be sure to include items that might not be obvious on a brief inspection, such as new insulation or a new roof.
  • Also tell the appraiser about any recent major improvements to the neighborhood, such as a new school building or park.
  • Fix any peeling paint. This is especially important if the house was built before 1978 (when lead paint was banned) and the buyer is using an FHA mortgage, because the agency will require the paint to be removed before approving the loan.
  • If you can, give the appraiser your own list of recent comparable sales. Appraisers will do their own homework, but providing a list can’t hurt. Two things are especially important: (1) If you know of any homes in the area that were “for sale by owner” (with no real estate agent involved) and fetched a good price, tell the appraiser because these sales probably won’t show up as quickly in the appraiser’s database. (2) If any comparable properties in the area were recently sold as short sales or foreclosure sales, let the appraiser know. These types of sales generally result in lower prices, and if the appraiser knows the circumstances, he or she might be able to adjust the valuation upward.
  • Be considerate of the appraiser. Most appraisers like to go through a house uninterrupted, so don’t follow around too closely and save your questions for the end. You might also want to keep small children and pets out of the way.



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