If you’re due an appraisal and are asking yourself, “what do home appraisers look for?” the answer can be a bit complicated.
Home appraisers follow different checklists depending on factors like location, property size and age, and the mortgage lender’s requirements.
If you want to be ready for the process and ensure the appraised value of a home is as high as it can possibly be, knowing what the appraiser will look for can help.
What does Appraisal Mean?
What is appraisal? It is an assessment of a property and its surroundings to determine its true value. There are many ways to approach an appraisal. Most mortgage lenders require a full, comprehensive appraisal that includes a walk-through of the property. If you just wish to know the approximate value of your home, you can request a desk appraisal or a drive-by appraisal.
The primary purpose of an appraisal is to determine a property’s value. A report’s accuracy depends on the method your appraiser uses. A full appraisal usually provides the most accurate number.
» Home Appraisal: Know everything there’s to know about home appraisals in general.
Who does Home Appraisals?
Home appraisers are state-certified professionals with skill, knowledge, and experience under their belt. All appraisers must be certified by the state they are operating in, but every state has unique requirements.
An appraiser in New York may not be able to operate in California. When hiring a professional, make sure they are certified to work in your state.
Appraisers are usually certified by dedicated department. For example, professionals in California are supervised by the California Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers. You can look for the department overseeing appraisers in your state and find a suitable expert for your property.
How Much Does a Home Appraisal Cost?
Home appraisal cost depends on several factors, including the size of the property, location, type of appraisal, and more. In general, the cost ranges from $313 and $421, with the national average being around $350.
However, getting a house appraised can cost up to $3000 in some cases.
We have a post exploring the cost of home appraisal in detail so you can make an informed decision. Most appraisers are transparent with their pricing and may provide a free cost estimate upfront.
What Do Appraisers Look For?
What do house appraisers look for? It depends on several factors! In the case of conventional loans from private mortgage lenders, a home appraiser will look at the factors mentioned below:
1. Home Location
A property’s location has an impact on its overall value. A house in a good neighborhood will fetch more than a house with the same look and design in a bad neighborhood.
Most appraisers will do some preliminary digging to understand the neighborhood and its overall market appeal.
2. General Exterior Condition of Your Home
A property’s external appearance and curb appeal has an impact on its overall value. Few people are willing to pay top dollar for a house that doesn’t look pretty on the outside, not unless they are willing to spend money on flipping it.
A home appraiser will consider the exterior condition of your home carefully during their assessment.
3. General Interior Condition of Your Home
Interiors matter too! A home appraiser is likely to inspect the interior of your home very thoroughly during an assessment. They will make note of any key issues like visible damage, layout, quality of vital fixtures and elements like support beams, flooring, cabinets, etc.
4. Age of the Property
In most cases, the age of a property has an impact on its value. However, being old doesn’t always mean a low valuation.
Some old properties have special characteristics, are located in historically significant areas, and are maintained well. For example, an old craftsman house in relatively good condition will be more valuable than some modern properties.
Newer properties usually have a higher value, especially if the house has been newly constructed.
5. Home Design and Layout
If your house design is dated and stale, it will have an impact on the property value. A house appraiser knows that means the buyer will have to spend a significant amount to modernize the place. The buyer may end up deducting the amount needed to modernize the property from their purchase price.
Naturally, this ends has an impact on the home evaluation. Sometimes it is worth the price to modernize your home before a sale. It may be a good idea to explore your options before making a decision.
6. Size of the Property – Including Lot Size
A home appraiser will look at the size of your home and the lot size during an assessment. They will also look at the square-footage of properties in the area along with the average lot size.
They will also consider the number of bedrooms and the capacity of your garage.
7. Signs of Water Damage
Mild water damage isn’t concerning but substantial damage will have an impact on your property’s overall value. It is one of the first things a home appraiser will look for when they enter your property.
Water damage can lead to mold infestation and cause serious structural damage as well.
8. Signs of Infestation
When professionals appraise a property, they also look for signs of pest infestation. They will look for traces of termites, damage by rodents, presence of mold and mildew, and even check to see if the shingles of your roof has moss.
Any visible sign of infestation will have an impact on the property’s overall value.
9. Recent Home Improvements
Recent home improvements will improve the value of your home, especially if these improvements are practical and not just cosmetic. For example, if you have replaced the flooring or upgraded your kitchen, you will see a significant improvement in property value.
Improvements like replacing old bathroom fixtures and beautifying the backyard can also affect the valuation.
10. Features and Fixtures that Add Value
Some features and fixtures will add value to your home. For example, a granny or in-law apartment, a fully-finished basement, a three or four-car garage, etc, will all improve the property’s overall value.
We recommend keeping receipts and invoices of these upgrades on hand during the appraisal.
What do Appraisers Look For in a Refinance?
Home appraisal for refinance isn’t different from the process for conventional loans. The appraiser will look at factors like property size, location, and general condition.
What do FHA Appraisers Look For?
Government-backed loans have different requirements compared to conventional loans. Unsurprisingly, the home appraisal process is also different. In addition to the points mentioned above, the FHA appraisers will also look at the following factors:
1. Condition of Appliances Included in Sale
The home appraiser will check appliances like refrigerators, ovens, HVAC systems, laundry machines, stoves, and more. If these appliances are up-to-date and in good working condition, your home’s value will improve.
2. Condition of Attic
FHA home appraisers are also required to check the condition of the attic. They will look at the attic insulation, structural integrity, and ensure it is well-ventilated.
3. Crawl Space
The crawl space should be dry and free of any standing water. If your home has recently experienced any sort of flooding, it may be a good idea to look at the crawl space to ensure it is clean.
4. Land Grading
Water should flow away from your property instead of flowing towards it. Good land grading is essential for that to happen as grading ensures the ground slopes toward the outer reaches of your property.
5. Solid Foundation
FHA and VA are particular about the foundation and its structural integrity. The foundation walls shouldn’t have any cracks or water damage at the time of the appraisal.
6. Electrical System
Your home’s electrical system should be up-to-date and undamaged. It should live up to modern safety standards set by the local building department.
7. Plumbing System
Like the electrical system, your plumbing system should also live up to modern safety and construction standards. Outdated systems with damaged or degrading pipes will have an impact on the overall value of the property.
8. Chipped and Flaking Paint
The home appraiser will make a note of any chipped and flaking paint, especially if the paint has traces of lead in it. If your home was built before 1978 and has old paint in some areas, it is likely to have some lead. This will also impact the home’s value.
9. Age of Roof
The FHA and VA require the roof to have at least two years of life expectancy left. If your roof is too close to the end of its lifespan or warranty period, the FHA may not approve of the mortgage.
10. Termite Infestation
The FHA home appraisers will also look for signs of termites and other destructive pests. They will study the wood beams and support systems in your property to see if there is any sign of damage.
What do VA Appraisers Look For?
The Department of Veteran Affairs has similar requirements to the Federal Housing Association. A VA home appraisal checklist will also include the items on the conventional loan and FHA loan list.
» Home Appraisal Checklist: We recommend reading this post for a more detailed look at the different home appraisal checklists,
What Appraisers DON’T look for during House Appraisal?
It is tempting to ensure your home looks absolutely flawless before the appraiser comes in but that’s not always necessary. Let’s look at what an appraiser won’t consider during their assessment:
1. Decorative Features
Decorative features are transient and don’t have a lasting impact on home value. Most new homeowners will change the decor to better suit their tastes. You don’t need to spruce up the blinds, furnishings, and other such decorative items before the assessment.
2. Moveable Personal Items
Furniture and moveable items aren’t important and won’t impact the house valuation either. While chairs and sofas give a property a lived-in feel, they don’t contribute to its value. Most home appraisers are trained to ignore these factors during their assessment.
3. General Cleanliness of the House
You don’t need to go on a cleaning spree and worry about the mess in your closet during a home appraisal. While it is nice if your home is clean and not cluttered, it won’t have much of an impact on the appraiser’s observations. They are trained to look beyond the mess.
What Affects a Home Appraisal?
Worried about what affects home appraisal? You’re not alone! Most sellers and homeowners are concerned about their home’s value and don’t want anything to jeopardize it. Let’s look at some of the more common questions related to this subject:
1. Does Lot Size Affect Appraisal?
Yes! An appraiser will look at the lot size and the size of your home in comparison during their valuation. A larger lot size will have a positive impact on valuation.
2. Does Unfinished Projects Affect Appraisal?
Yes, unfinished projects do have an impact! If you have an unfinished basement or playroom, the appraiser will make a note of it and reduce their valuation accordingly.
3. Does Home Inspection Affect Appraisal?
If you notice any big defects during a home inspection, they can have an impact on the overall valuation of your home. Sellers are required to disclose any defects they know of to a buyer.
4. Do Foundation Problems Affect Appraisal?
Yes, particularly with VA and FHA loans. If your foundation has problems, the VA and FHA won’t approve of a mortgage.
5. Does Carpet Affect Appraisal?
It depends on the trend in your neighborhood. If all of your neighborhood properties have a carpet, the absence of one in your home will affect its value.
6. Does a Bad Roof Affect an Appraisal?
Yes! The roof is one of the most important parts of a house and it is very expensive to replace! If your roof is damaged, you can expect the appraiser to shave off a few thousand dollars from the valuation.
7. Does the Number of Bedrooms Affect Appraisal?
Yes, the number of rooms does affect the appraisal but it depends on factors like home and lot size. If your house is small but has many rooms, the home appraiser may actually lower their valuation.
8. Do Appliances Affect Appraisal?
They do affect appraisal house value. If your appliances are dated or malfunctioning, you can expect your home to be a few thousand dollars cheaper. But this is only with fixed appliances like HVAC, stoves, refrigerators, and ovens. The condition of your blenders or microwaves doesn’t matter.
9. Does a Clean House Affect an Appraisal?
Not really! Most home appraisers will look beyond the mess to see the true value of your home. However, it is a good idea to clear the clutter just in case.
10. Does Landscaping Affect Appraisal?
Surprisingly, yes! In fact, if you have a few good trees in your backyard, the price of your property will shoot up by a few thousand dollars.
» What Hurts a Home Appraisal: We explain what can have a negative impact on your home appraisal.
How to Find an Appraiser?
Finding a reliable appraiser is necessary if you want a good valuation. Fortunately, it is easy to do so now. You can either visit your local department of home appraisers to find a certified professional or simply search online.
If you’re looking for good ‘home appraisers near me‘, we have a handy list for you! Just find your state and see if there’s a pro near your location.
How Long Does a Home Appraisal Take?
A home appraisal can take anywhere between 30 minutes to a couple of hours. The duration depends on the size of your property and the complexity of their checklist.
How Long is an Appraisal Good For?
An appraisal is good for 90 days in most states. After 90 days have passed, you need to get a new appraisal done. You may also need a new appraisal done if there has been some significant change in the local real estate market.
A home appraiser looks at the physical condition of your property, its location, and the general real estate market trends before preparing a report. These factors will have a big impact on your property’s value. Knowing about these factors in advance can help you plan for an appraiser’s visit.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long do home appraisals take?
Home appraisals can take anywhere between 20 minutes to a couple of hours. The duration depends on the size of your property and the complexity of the appraiser's checklist.
2. What negatively affects home appraisal?
Structural damage, bad neighborhood, real estate market trends, and severe cosmetic damage can negatively impact your home's valuation.
3. What does a VA appraiser look for?
A VA appraiser will look at your roof, foundation, HVAC system, appliances, and grading during the appraisal.
4. What does an appraiser look for?
The appraiser will look at your property's interior and exterior condition, neighborhood, market prices of similar properties in the area, and signs of damage from water or pests.
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