Home Appraisal Checklist: Complete Guide for Homeowners


|10 min read

In most cases, the appraisal will be a standard part of the home selling or refinancing process. Buyers are required to schedule appraisals when they secure financing from mortgage lenders, and homeowners need to get their home reappraised if they want to refinance their mortgage or change their home insurance provider. 

During the process, an objective third party (the appraiser) evaluates the condition of the house and compares it to similar properties that have sold in the area. This gives the buyer, seller, and mortgage lender a clear idea of what the property is worth. 

Whether you are a homeowner hoping for a favorable selling price or simply need to refinance your loan, there are steps you can take to prepare for the appraisal appointment. Use this home appraisal checklist to maximize the impact on your home’s value.  

Preparing for a Home Appraisal: Complete Checklist

Some homeowners prepare for several weeks for a home appraisal to make sure their house is in the best condition possible. However, many home offers from buyers come with limited timelines to schedule appraisal appointments. This benefits both the buyer and the seller by keeping the process moving so they can reach the closing date on time.  

Use this checklist to prepare for the appraiser to visit your home, whether the appointment is within a few weeks or a couple of hours. 

Get a Home Value Estimate

Before the appraiser arrives, it helps to have an estimated idea of what your property is worth. This can prepare you for the appraisal report and help you decide which improvements you want to make ahead of the inspection. 

There are multiple ways to get a home value estimate depending on the time and resources you have. First, turn to online tools. These apps will ask for your address, square footage, and other features to run a comparative market analysis on your property. Essentially, they will look at similar homes that have recently sold within your area. 

The next step is to talk with real estate agents. These agents can evaluate your home using their personal experience and provide a value estimate. If you can secure multiple estimates (at least three), you can get a fair idea of your home’s value before the appraiser arrives. 

Make Repairs

The next step is to decide which repairs you want to make to your home. This is the most time-consuming part of the home appraisal checklist. Sellers usually spend around $5,400 to fix up their homes before listing them in order to secure favorable values. 

The condition of the house will impact its value. If a house has several broken fixtures, worn-out appliances, and other problems, then its value decreases. Oftentimes, homeowners will try to make repairs ahead of time so they don’t receive a lower appraisal due to poor property conditions. These repairs often include roof replacements, electrical upgrades, and new appliance investments. The process to complete these projects can last a few weeks. 

One major expense that homeowners turn to is landscaping. Improved curb appeal can attract buyers by creating positive first impressions while also increasing the appraised value of the property. 

When done well, these repairs can pay off. Experts estimate that well-maintained homes sell for 10% more than properties in need of repairs. 

Tidy Up Your Home

Even if your house is in good condition, cleaning the property is a key aspect of your home appraisal checklist. Clean houses create positive first impressions and are more appealing to buyers – which can lead to more bids and offers that arrive sooner. Clean houses seem bigger, which can help the appraisal and make buyers more willing to accept your listing price because of the perceived value of the property. 

Consider scheduling a cleaning service to arrive the day before your appraisal. You can build this expense into the appraisal cost if you need to refinance or consider the cleaning fee part of the costs that come with selling your home. Professional cleaners can deep clean each room and prepare it for a showing or inspection.  

Also, make sure you declutter ahead of an appraisal. This will create more open space in your house and make it seem bigger. It will also reduce the number of distractions so buyers focus on the structure of the home. 

Secure Pets

Ahead of the appointment, make sure you have a plan for where your pets will be during the appraisal process. Not everyone loves animals and many people have allergies to dogs and cats. Plus, pets can create odors that undo all of your hard cleaning work. 

Even if your appraiser or buyers love your pets, keeping them in your home is a liability. Someone could leave a door open and your pet could escape. Even a normally calm animal could bite the appraiser or real estate agent if they feel nervous. 

Consider taking your dog to the park during the appraisal or schedule a sitter to watch your pets at their house, not yours. This is only for a few hours until the home appraisal is complete. 

What an Appraiser Looks For: A Breakdown

One of the best ways to prepare for your appointment is to get a feel for the appraisal process. This will give you a clear idea of what the appraiser is looking for before they make their report.

Before the home appraiser even visits your property, they will look at comparable properties. They want to see similar homes that match the size and location of your house. This will provide them with a range of values that your home will likely fall into. Then, during the appointment, they will evaluate the condition of the home to confirm the fair market value. Here are three things your home appraiser checks for. 

External Characteristics

The first step is to evaluate the exterior of the house to make sure it is in good condition. The house needs to be structurally sound and have a quality roof that is free of holes and leaks. The appraiser will walk around the entire house and check for signs of damage that could negatively affect the home. 

During this inspection, the appraiser will also take your curb appeal into account. They will notice if your lawn is well-maintained and the trees and shrubs are cut to a reasonable height. A well-kept lawn creates less work for future buyers and increases your overall home values. Good landscaping can increase a home’s value by 15-20%.    

Additions and Updates

After looking at the exterior of the home, the appraiser will move inside. They will compare your current home with the existing information they have on the property. These are provided by city and county records and former appraisal reports. 

During the inspection, the home appraiser will evaluate any additions, improvements, and updates you made to the house. For example, if you added an extra bedroom to the property which expanded its square footage, the appraiser will adjust his report on the house. 

Structure, Condition, and Size

The final aspect of the appraisal is the evaluation of the condition of the house. If the structure is good and the size hasn’t changed, then the main driver that can increase or decrease property values is the condition. For example, a home with old carpet that smells of pet urine and cigarette smoke will have a lower perceived value than a house with new wood floors. A house with a new water heater and updated appliances will have a higher price tag than one where the appliances are more than a decade old. 

You can’t impress the appraiser with your paint colors or interior design, but you can prove that you kept the house well-maintained and in good working order from the moment you bought it. Any upgrades and improvements you made have the potential to pay off.  

During the Appraisal: Best Practices & Questions to Ask

Advice on how homeowners should behave during the home appraisal, including being available but not intrusive and avoiding discussions about the desired outcome of the appraisal.

Include details here that gives homeowners a list of pertinent questions to ask the appraiser during the home appraisal process. This can include questions about the appraiser’s certification, the process, the factors that might affect their home’s value, and how to dispute the appraisal if they disagree with it.

The FHA and VA Home Appraisal Checklist

The process to secure a home appraisal is different for FHA loans and VA loans as opposed to conventional loans. However, this typically will not affect the seller. As long as your home is in good condition, it shouldn’t matter what sort of loan processing the buyer needs. However, here are a few resources for buyers who are approaching the home appraisal process and need to secure these specialized loans.  

The FHA Home Appraisal Checklist

There’s a common misconception that buyers need to secure two appraisals if they want an FHA loan. However, this is false. Two appraisals are inefficient and they can frustrate the buyer. One should suffice as long as the appraised value seems reasonable for the home. 

A professional appraiser will know how to evaluate a home that a buyer wants to purchase with an FHA loan. They will go through the same process as any other appraisal but might have their own checklist to send to the lender. For example, there needs to be a functioning sewer system, there should be no evidence of termites, and there cannot be any lead-based paint. These are all elements that a responsible homeowner would look for anyway. 

The VA Home Appraisal Checklist

Similarly, there are also guides for buyers who plan to use a VA loan to buy a house. The VA has Minimum Property Requirements (MPRs) that are similar to the FHA guidelines for safety and livability. Essentially, they want to make sure that the buyer can use the home without the risk of the asset breaking down or damaging their health. 

As a seller, your main concern is that the appraisal price is too low for what you are asking. If your listing price is too far above market value, your buyer might come back with a negotiated price and you can decide whether you want to take it or not. An experienced real estate agent can help with these negotiations and guide you to reach a fair agreement that works for everyone. 

As long as the appraisal value is close to the asking price and the MPRs are met, you should be able to move forward with the home purchase with a VA loan. 

After the Report: What’s Next?

The next steps after an appraisal will depend on the market value determined by the report. Your Realtor should walk you through the findings by the appraiser and offer advice on what to based on the information. 

The first step is to make sure the written report is accurate. If you do not have an accurate appraisal (which means the square footage or other data is wrong), you need to request a correction. When all of the information is correct, it is up to the lender to give final approval for the home sale or mortgage refinancing. 

If the appraised value is too low, the lender will not approve the loan for the buyer or the mortgage refinance for the homeowner. The owner might agree to make minor repairs to increase the home’s value or they might reprice the home. The results of an appraisal or home inspection often open up negotiations once again until all parties reach a pricing agreement.    

If you aren’t sure what to do after an appraisal, talk to your Realtor. They can provide advice on the real estate transaction and give you a path toward the next steps you should take. An appraisal is not a pass or fair report. It is simply a document about the state of the property. You have the power to adjust the value of the home before you move forward with your real estate decisions. 

Let Quality Real Estate Agents Prepare You for the Appraisal

If you have never been through the appraisal process before as a homeowner, you might not know how to prepare your home. This could cause you to make beginner mistakes that affect your home values. You want the appraiser to have the most accurate estimate possible to appease the buyer, mortgage lender, and everyone else involved in the transaction. 

Talk to your real estate agent and see how they recommend preparing your home for the appraisal. They might suggest a variety of improvements from upgrading your air conditioning to improving your home’s curb appeal. They want your house to be in the best shape possible so you can find a home buyer that accepts your asking price. 

To find a Realtor in your area, turn to the professionals at FastExpert. You can find a real estate agent who specializes in your home style and neighborhood. With the right resources by your side, you can sell or refinance your home with confidence. Check out FastExpert today and see how we can help you. 

Amanda Dodge

Amanda Dodge is a real estate writer and expert. She has worked in the field for more than eight years. She spends her time writing and researching trends in real estate, finance, and business. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Communications from Florida State University.

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