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What hurts a home appraisal: five factors to be aware of

Getting a home appraisal is a necessary step for all parties involved in a real estate transaction. An appraisal helps estimate the value of a piece of property and influences the progression of its sale. Although there are factors that can hurt your home's appraised value, there are things you can do to prepare.

What is a home appraisal?

A home appraisal is when a licensed professional comes to your house to assess its value. The appraiser determines home value based on market conditions, home amenities, curb appeal and more.

As a seller, you may want to get a home appraisal before listing your house for sale so you can figure out how much your home is worth and use that information to price it competitively. As a buyer, your lender usually requires a home appraisal while processing your loan application, so they don’t lend you more than the home is worth. Either way, you’ll want to get an appraisal before closing to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Things that can hurt a home appraisal

There are a few things that can hurt a home appraisal, so before your mortgage appraiser comes by for an evaluation, here’s what to look out for:

  1. Lack of curb appeal. Your curb appeal is what a potential buyer sees when they arrive at your home. A cluttered yard, bad paint job, overgrown grass and an overall neglected aesthetic may hurt your home appraisal.
  2. Broken appliances and outdated systems. By systems we mean plumbing, heating and cooling, and electrical systems. If any of these items are extremely outdated, functioning improperly or both, this will hurt your home appraisal.
  3. Market conditions. The state of the housing market will influence your home appraisal value. If it’s a buyer's market, meaning there are more houses on the market than there are buyers, then you might receive a lower home appraisal based on recent sales near you. If it’s a seller’s market, meaning there are more buyers than there are properties, you may receive a higher home appraisal.
  4. Location. The location of your property is one of the biggest influences on your home value. A home located in a safe, quiet neighborhood in a good school district will receive a better appraisal value than the same home located on a main road by a train station, for example.
  5. Overall aesthetic. The appraiser can’t judge your home based on their opinion of your décor, but they can take the cleanliness and use of space into account. A tidy, aesthetically pleasing home that optimizes its space will likely perform better than one that’s unkempt.

How to prepare for a home appraisal

As a buyer, your lender sets your appraisal appointment. After that, the appraiser will go into the home and report back with their findings and estimated home value. As a seller, there are several things you can do to prepare for your home appraisal and avoid anything that may damage its score.

Tidy up the inside and outside of your house

A home appraiser’s job is to be extremely critical. Although the tidiness of your closet won’t directly affect the value of your home, it will affect the appraisers' experience in the space and how they might value the functionality of the space overall, which does affect its value.

For example, a home with small, cluttered rooms probably won’t perform as well as the same home whose small spaces are optimized. You can tidy up the inside of your home, do a deep clean and even throw a fresh coat of paint on some of the walls. Whether you do this on your own or hire someone to help is up to you.

As we mentioned earlier, curb appeal is the first thing a home appraiser will see. For starters, break out your lawnmower and pull those weeds. If your front or backyard is cluttered, try to find space for it in the garage, if you have one, or take time to give away items.

Check out home systems

Before your home appraiser comes, it may pay to have a professional assess your plumbing, heating/cooling and electrical systems, so you know where they’re all at in terms of functionality. That way, there are no surprises during your appraisal. You may choose to update or fix one of your systems if you’re confident it will pay off financially.

Getting a home appraisal is a necessary step as a homeowner for both the buyer and seller. As the buyer, a home appraisal will help determine how much the lender gives you and will help navigate a fair deal. Home appraisals help determine the value of a house, which can help determine a listing price and help prepare a house for sale. Keep these five factors in mind when preparing for your home appraisal.

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