The buyer has made an offer, the seller has accepted, and it’s time for next steps. And one of those is, of course, the appraisal. Even though this is an expense that the buyer pays, the seller is basically in control of the outcome. So as a Realtor, it’s your responsibility to assist your seller in having the best possible result when the appraiser comes to call.
Here’s the best advice you can give: Instead of waiting until the sale is in process, start getting ready for the appraisal the minute the home is listed. This will accomplish two things. Not only will you be ready when the appraiser shows up, you have an opportunity to get the home into the best possible condition early, thus attracting more buyers and higher offers. You can’t lose. Here are six important steps you can take, before and during the appraisal process.
- Make cosmetic improvements
- Compile comparable sales
- List upgrades
- Put out the welcome mat
- Do the disappearing act
1. Make cosmetic improvements. This is something every homeowner should do when getting ready to list the home. Not only will this attract prospective buyers, it will let the appraiser know that there is pride of ownership in the property and that it’s been well maintained. Think about things like caulking around tubs and sinks, regrouting tile or cleaning existing grout. Power wash the home exterior. Touch up paint, both interior and exterior, that’s showing wear, or repaint entire rooms if colors are outdated. If your teenager has plastered walls with hip-hop posters or sprinkled the ceiling with stars, neutralize these items before other Realtors, buyers, or appraisers show up.
2. Compile comparable sales. Of course much of this information is available online, but make sure it is complete and up to the minute. Some homes may have been private sales (FSBOs), for example, and this information should go into whatever material you provide for the appraiser. Add community information as well. For example, if the community pool was recently upgraded or new playground equipment was added to the local park, that affects overall values in the neighborhood.
3. List upgrades. A homeowner who cares about his or her property has doubtless taken steps to improve it, and some of these improvements may not be visible. For example, if you’ve recently had your gas log fireplace and chimney cleaned and old parts replaced, mention it. If you’ve have the driveway resurfaced, repaired the foundation, or cleaned the gutters, add those items to the list. New landscaping, tree trimming, or sprinkler system additions will make a difference to some buyers and certainly add value to the bottom line. Anything the seller does that saves work and expense for the buyer after the sale is well worth mentioning.
4. Put out the welcome mat. You don’t necessarily have to greet the appraiser at the door with a cup of coffee and a warm muffin (although some would probably find that to be a welcome change!) However, you do need to do whatever it takes to make the appraiser’s job as easy as possible. If it’s winter, make sure the home is warm and inviting, and if it’s a hot summer day, turn on the air conditioning. This not only keeps the appraiser comfortable, it assures him or her that all systems are in working order. If your attic, basement, or crawl space is awkward, do what you can to provide easy access.
5. Do the disappearing act. As a Realtor, you should be available during the appraisal, but certainly not intrusive. The homeowners don’t need to be present, but if they are, they should stay well out of sight and only be seen if there are questions that need to be answered. Disappear the kids and pets as well. Bikes and Hot Wheels lying in the yard or Legos scattered across the living room floor can indicate carelessness in other areas and that’s not the impression you want an appraiser to have.
A good appraisal is important to all the parties involved in a home sale. The lender wants to be sure that the home is worth at least as much as the loan amount they are providing. Your sellers want to know that they’re getting a fair price for their property, and the buyers want to be sure that they’re not overpaying. The appraiser, who is an unbiased third party, needs all the appropriate information that will allow him or her to provide all three parties with a realistic picture of the home’s true value. Follow these guidelines and you’ll create a win-win-win for everyone involved.