10 Tips to Prepare for a Home Appraisal

Image of a group of wooden homes grouped together, with a magnifying glass observing a single home that’s separated from the others.

If you’re preparing to sell or refinance your home, one of the first things you’ll want to do is have it appraised so you can determine its worth. The more money your home is appraised for, the more cash you’ll get when you sell or refinance it. While we understand why a home appraisal can be stressful, planning ahead can make for a seamless and straightforward process.

A home appraisal is conducted by a trained and licensed home appraiser. These professionals have completed 150 hours of proper education, an apprenticeship, and potentially additional specialty courses. This extensive training teaches home appraisers how to keep their bias and personal opinions outside your home’s value.

It’s important not to confuse a home appraisal with a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). If you’re selling your home, this is a tool that real estate agents use to estimate the value of your property by reviewing similar homes recently sold in the same area. Sites like Zillow.com and Redfin.com use a similar tool to provide estimated home values.

While a CMA is a helpful tool, a home appraisal is a key to determining your home’s value when you’re preparing to sell or refinance your home. We’ve put together our top 10 tips to help make your home appraisal experience as easy and enjoyable as possible!

1) Make Your Home Show Ready

Preparing a home for an appraisal should be similar to staging a home. Consider how you’d want your home to look if a realtor were showing it to a prospective buyer. That’s the same level of cleanliness and organization to aim for with an appraisal. If your home is messy and cluttered, it could indicate that basic home maintenance and upkeep is not being handled. So, give your home a good declutter and try to get everything photo-ready!

2) Clean Your Home

We’ve already discussed decluttering your home, and it’s also essential to make sure to deep clean your home as well. Ensure there’s no dirty laundry, dirty dishes, or overflowing garbage cans.

3) Create Easy Access

While you’re deep cleaning and decluttering,it’s also important to ensure that the places an appraiser needs to see are easily accessible. This includes hatches to the attic, crawl spaces under your home, etc. In other words, you want the appraiser to have a pleasant experience; therefore, make sure that they don’t need to struggle to find ways to access specific parts of your home!

4) Mind the $500 Rule

If there are some upgrades or updates needed to be made to your home, try to follow the $500 rule. The $500 rule indicates that any small issues with your home (that would cost less than $500 to fix) could result in $500 worth of hits in the home’s total value. Is there an outdated bathroom vanity? Old, peeling wallpaper that should be replaced? A broken door? If the appraiser finds several of these smaller problems with your home, it could result in a loss of thousands of dollars from your home’s value. So if you can make some of these minor fixes and updates prior to your appraisal, it could greatly increase your home's value.

5) Big Remodels Take Priority

If you do have some larger remodels or upgrades to make in your home, it’s important to consider which ones will give the biggest return on your investment. According to research from the National Association of Home Builders and extensive surveys of real estate agents, some of the most valuable home upgrades include converting/adding a home office, opening up your floorplan, and adding a front/back porch.

6) Note Essential Home Updates

If you’ve made any essential updates to your home, make sure to mention those to the appraiser. After all, those updates will help increase your home’s value. We recommend creating a list of updates, including invoices for the work completed. Give that list and information to the appraiser and let them take it with them. Some of the things you should mention include:

  • Recent kitchen/bathroom remodels
  • New roof/solar equipment
  • New HVAC equipment
  • New water heater
  • Interior/exterior paint jobs that covered 50% or more of the home
  • Enclosed garages
  • Fireplaces
  • Pools

It’s important to note that the things worth mentioning here are updates that will help increase your home’s value; not a list of minor repairs and upgrades. That being said, if you have made some major repairs to your home, this would be a good place to note them. Some of the repairs you should mention include:

  • Leaky roof
  • Rain gutters
  • Dripping pipes/faucets
  • Loose floorboards
  • Replacing bathroom caulk

These lists are by no means complete and should be treated as guidelines to help you create your list.

7) Note Neighborhood Updates

It’s important that your surrounding area is also factored into your home appraisal.
Have any improvements happened since you first moved in? Is there a new school, restaurant, or community park built? You also want to note if neighborhood roads have been recently re-paved.
What is within 10 miles of your home? A luxury shopping center, university, or sports stadium can all affect the perceived value of your home.

8) Ensure Safety Equipment is Working

It’s important to verify that all your safety equipment is installed and working properly before your home’s appraisal. This includes smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and home security alarms. Make sure to check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher too!

9) Pay Attention to Your Yard

We’ve already talked about deep cleaning and decluttering the inside of your home, and it’s equally important to take the same approach with your yard. If you have a lawn, mow it. If you have trees and bushes, prune and trim them. Make sure to remove clutter from your front and back yards, including kids’ toys and any garbage or debris present. Homes with high curb appeal always receive better appraisals.

10) Be an Observer

If you decide to be home during the appraisal, make sure you practice being an observer. The appraiser knows what to do and does not need you to take them on a tour of your home. Be courteous and let the appraiser do their job. They will come to you if they need anything or have any questions!

Ready to Put Your Home on the Market?

Our team has more than ten years of experience benefiting buyers and sellers. If you’re looking to buy or sell in Bonney Lake, Buckley, Orting, and Spanaway in Washington state, then we’re the regional experts to help you! We’re here to answer any questions about figuring out your home’s value. Connect with one of our agents by calling (253) 363-2450 or emailing: info@presgrouprealty.com. We can also provide you with a FREE CMA! We look forward to helping you in your home buying/selling journey!