What Hurts a Home Appraisal?

By Sheryl Nance-Nash · May 20, 2023 · 7 minute read

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What Hurts a Home Appraisal?

The main factors that can hurt a home appraisal include needed updates, comparable properties, market conditions, your home’s location, and whether you hired an inspector to flag issues or necessary repairs. By getting ahead of the factors within your control before an appraisal, you may get a more favorable answer to the all-important question of what your house is really worth.

The more you know and understand about the home appraisal process, the better. Here’s a crash course of sorts on the process and what negatively affects home appraisal.

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A Primer on Home Appraisals

A home appraisal reveals the fair market value of a home, which is important whether you’re buying, selling or refinancing a mortgage. An appraisal can also be used to determine property taxes. Lenders require appraisals because they ensure that the lender won’t offer you a loan that’s more than what the home is appraised value is worth.

So, what do appraisers look for when they do a home appraisal? A real estate appraiser, who is a third party licensed or certified by the state, will review a home inside and out, looking at a home’s age, size, foundation, appliances and neighborhood, among other things. They will then compare the house to similar homes in the area to assess its value.

An appraisal is usually required by a lender when a buyer is getting a mortgage or when someone is refinancing their mortgage. If an appraisal is for a home sale, neither the buyer nor the homeowner can be present. When someone is refinancing, on the other hand, the homeowner is permitted to attend. That no doubt is a plus as it’s an opportunity for the homeowner to ensure the appraiser takes note of any upgrades and new features that could increase their home’s worth.

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Things That Can Hurt Your Home Appraisal

Much hinges on the home’s appraisal itself, so you’ll want it to go as smoothly as possible. Start by knowing what hurts a home appraisal so you can avoid any hiccups that could prevent you from getting the highest value for your home.

1. Much-Needed Updates That Never Happened

If you’ve been putting off any needed upgrades, this is when it could come back to bite you. Let’s say you’ve been meaning to renovate your kitchen and somehow just didn’t get around to it. A kitchen that looks pretty much like it did 30 years ago isn’t going to wow anybody, least of all an appraiser who will wonder what else is in decline.

While it can be helpful to take care of some common home upgrades that can net you a return on your investment, you don’t necessarily want to go crazy updating either. Not only could it be tougher to recoup all the money you put into home improvements, you may find that while you love the changes you’ve made, your taste may not have universal appeal. It’s a delicate balance to make upgrades that will get two thumbs up from the appraiser and the potential buyers.

2. Comparable Properties

When it comes to housing, you do kind of have to keep up with the Joneses. With appraisals, it’s all about sales of comparable homes over the last 12 months. What are homes similar to yours on your street or a few blocks over selling for? If they are getting top dollar that will push up the price of your home. On the flip side, if those homes are hanging around on the market for months and selling at prices below expected, that could put a drag on what you can get for yours.

Comparable sales help determine the market, which is why both your real estate and your appraiser will look at them. Ideally, the appraiser, as much as possible, is comparing apples to apples so you get a fair appraisal. The other properties should be similar in size, age and amenities, among other factors. It’s a losing proposition for you if the appraiser goes for the extreme, say a house that sold at a bargain because someone was in a hurry to bail for whatever reason.

3. Skipping a Home Inspection

When it comes to your house, ignorance is not bliss. While you may know when you need to make a repair to a leaky roof, for instance, there can be plenty wrong that’s not obvious to you. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a home inspection before you put your house on the market.

A home inspector can suss out all manner of malfunctions that could be plaguing your house, particularly things you may be clueless about. If you get bad news, think of it as good news since you’ll now have the opportunity to make necessary home repairs before you put your house on the market and an appraiser comes with a magnifying glass of sorts looking for signs of trouble.

4. An Undesirable Location

Few things matter more in real estate market than location. If you’re in a neighborhood that’s seen as flawed or your house is on a busy or noisy street, that could all come into play when it comes to the value of your property.

Location also counts within your home. If your layout is dated — say it’s old-fashioned and highly compartmentalized instead of today’s more in-demand open layout concepts — that could be less attractive to buyers. Or, they might only be interested in knocking down walls and reconfiguring the space, which likely means they’ll want to pay less for the house if they are going to have put money into it to bring it in line with what they’re looking for.

4 Ways to Prevent Low Home Appraisals

Just like there are some things you can get out ahead of before they hurt your home appraisal, there are also some moves you can make to prevent your home appraisal coming in lower than you’d like.

1.   Hire your own appraiser: Typically, the lender hires the appraiser. However, there’s no reason you can’t hire your own appraiser before the sale. Your realtor should have a handle on someone who is experienced and has a reputation for giving fair estimates. You then can ask the buyer or lender’s appraiser to review what your appraiser produced.

2.   Provide records: If you have records of repairs and upgrades that’s the kind of proof that works in your favor. It also doesn’t hurt to have documentation like photos — before and afters aren’t just for an Instagram post of your new haircut.

3.   Prepare for the appraiser’s visit: Don’t dismiss the importance of maintaining curb appeal. Your home should be clean inside and outside before the appraiser comes over. Strive to get as close to an interior design catalog as you can.

4.   Dig up property comparables on your own: You don’t have to leave it to the appraiser and real estate agents to do all the homework. Go the extra mile and consider calling real estate agents with homes in escrow to get the sales prices. Create a list that you can pass along to the appraiser.

Checking Your Home Value Without an Appraisal

You can get a sense of what your home is worth even if you don’t get an appraisal. There are several websites that can give you valuable insight into your home’s potential value, including Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Realtor.com and Eppraisal, among others.

Another option is to use a house price index (HPI) calculator , which relies on data from mortgage transactions over time to estimate a home’s value. Projections are based on both the purchase price of the home and the changing value of other homes nearby. This tool can help you see how much a house has appreciated over time. You’ll also get a glimpse of estimated future changes in mortgage rates.

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The Takeaway

Because appraisal value of your home is likely your biggest asset, it’s worth putting the time and effort into the appraisal process. The payoff could be huge if you tend to the major factors that hurt an appraisal or get proactive about preventing a low appraisal.

If you’re worried about budgeting for any necessary updates or repairs, a tool like SoFi can help you track your spending in different categories.

Stay on top of your budget as you get your house appraisal ready.

Photo credit: iStock/ucpage

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