Whether buying or refinancing a home, when obtaining a mortgage it can be expected that an appraisal will be required. I talked in a previous post about how we are able to use appraisal waivers in certain instances, but still, most residential real estate transactions that involve a mortgage also involve an appraisal. An appraisal is a professional opinion of value, completed on a standardized report by a licensed appraiser. Are there steps the buyer or homeowner can take to assure that this value comes in as favorable as possible? Here are a few tips from the experts:
- Choose a lender that uses an appraisal management company (AMC) with access to local appraisers. At Guaranteed Rate we place a high degree of importance on contracting with appraisers that know any area first-hand. This has the obvious advantage of bringing “boots on the ground” perspective to the property being appraised. But let’s not forget too that local appraisers are also often well-known appraisers to local real estate agents and these relationships are valuable.
- Clean the house and yard. The cleaner the home the better it shows, and the higher value you will get.
- Prepare a list, including cost estimates, of improvements completed to the property in the last year. If any updates have been done to the kitchen and/or bath within the past 15 years, include them on this list as well.
- If you, or your Realtor, know of a good sale (or two) in the area within the last six months, you can give the address and sales price to the appraiser.
- If refinancing, tell the appraiser the predominant feature of your home — the reason you bought it and the characteristic a future buyer may find most important and desirable. This may seem everyday obvious to you, but could easily be lost on even the best appraiser — who doesn’t live in the home each day.
- Be mindful of “health and safety” issues, regardless of how minor. An opening in a wall, water stains on the ceiling, a disconnected faucet, peeling paint or a missing handrail on a staircase may all seem trivial, but they could require further notation in the report, potentially stalling your transaction. Make the small repairs in advance (or have the seller do so), even if it means hiring a handyman.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors because in many areas (if not all!) it’s the law. Also, here in California, if you have a water heater, it must be double-strapped for earthquake safety.
Stacking the deck in your favor using the tips above, and working together with us before and after the appraisal is complete, you can maximize your potential to attain the highest value. This can then open up financing options and opportunities, and even factor into the interest rate you’re able to obtain. When you are refinancing a home, the home’s value relative to your existing loan balance determines your eligibility. When you are buying a home, you and your Realtor will want to know the appraised value supports the contract price. In both instances, if you have questions about the appraisal process, and especially if you have concerns about the subject property’s value, we are here to help.
Robert J. Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending
Marin Office: 324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA 94960
Berkeley Office: 1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA 94709
*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate. In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.
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