7 Top Tips for a Great Home Appraisal | Pennymac (2024)

Whether you’re selling your home to begin a new adventure or refinancing your existing home loan, getting an appraisal with the value you want is an important hurdle to clear. You may feel that the appraisal process is out of your control, but there are many easy and inexpensive ways to get both yourself and your home ready.

We put together a checklist of our top tips below. But first, let’s quickly cover the basics of home appraisals.

What Is a Home Appraisal and Why Is It Important?

A home appraisal is an unbiased report on the value of your home performed by a trained and state-licensed individual. Appraisals are an essential part of the home financing process, ensuring the homebuyer, seller and mortgage lender each have an impartial, consistent and accurate assessment of the value of the property under consideration.

The lender is responsible for ensuring that your home provides adequate collateral for the mortgage. For most loans, the lender obtains a signed and completed appraisal report that accurately reflects the market value, condition and marketability of the property.

It’s the appraiser’s job to provide a factual, unbiased and detailed description of the property and the neighborhood. They must take into account all factors that influence a home’s value when developing the market value opinion in the appraisal report.

Home Appraisal Cost

While home appraisal costs can vary by state and property size, the fee can range between $300 and $1,200. Most fall somewhere around $600-$1,000, with costs based primarily on the geographical area of the home.

How Long Does a Home Appraisal Take?

From start to finish, the home appraisal process usually takes approximately 7-10 days to complete.

The required in-person visit by a home appraiser can take over an hour, depending on the size of your home. However, several other steps are involved in making an unbiased and professional assessment of your home's value. Your appraiser will research trends, local county records and recently sold comparable homes in your area, known in the industry as "comps."

Once your appraiser compiles and analyzes all the information and data, they will present a final report of your home’s value.

What Do Home Appraisers Look For?

A home appraiser uses several sources of information to determine a property’s value. As part of the assessment, the appraiser will visit the property in person and review recently completed sales of comparable homes. Common factors examined during home appraisals include:

Property size — In real estate appraisals, size significantly affects the final number. In general, the higher the square footage of a home, the higher its value. An appraiser will also look at the kitchen, number of bedrooms, bathrooms and closets.

Exterior condition — When assigning a value to your property, the appraiser will consider not only the exterior appearance of your home but also its condition. They will check the following:

  • The condition of the roof, foundation, siding, gutters, chimney and walls, looking for signs of leaks, mold and other safety hazards
  • Lot size, including front and backyard square footage
  • Pool, outdoor kitchen, deck, porch and other amenities

Interior condition — Again, this refers not only to the appearance of the interior but also to the working condition of standard household assets, such as:

  • Plumbing
  • Electrical and HVAC systems
  • Doors and windows
  • Light fixtures
  • Any kitchen appliances to be included in the sale

Attic, basem*nt and foundation — A finished basem*nt or attic may impact a home's value, but these areas must meet specific requirements to be considered part of the Gross Living Area (GLA). An appraiser will also evaluate your home's foundation and its condition.

Home improvements and renovations — Tell your appraiser about any work or upgrades you have done to spruce up your home. This can include anything from the central air system you installed 10 years ago to the kitchen flooring and countertops you just renovated (along with the new oven and fridge to match, of course).

What Hurts a Home Appraisal?

If an appraisal is in your future, it's essential to understand the factors that could negatively impact it, such as the following:

  • Low-value comps and decreasing neighborhood property values
  • Poorly maintained interior or exterior
  • Age of the home
  • Location, such as a flood zone or busy road
  • Signs of mold, insect infestation, leaks or other safety concerns
  • Issues with the home’s systems, such as plumbing, electric or HVAC
  • Lack of parking
  • Hazardous construction materials like lead paint or asbestos tile
  • Outdated or faulty plumbing, electrical and heating systems

Some issues are in your control and some may not be. Whether you choose to address the correctable concerns or not, being aware of crucial appraisal criteria can help you avoid the potential unwelcome surprise of a lower-than-expected home value.

Top 7 Tips Home Appraisal Checklist

How does one best prepare for a home appraisal? We put together a checklist of common (and not-so-common) tips to help you get a high valuation from your appraiser.

1. Do Your Own Appraisal

Imagine that you are the appraiser. Walk around your home’s interior and exterior and really scrutinize it as if you were going to complete the appraisal report yourself. Take note of any obvious damage or deferred maintenance that needs your attention. Leaks, broken systems and damaged surfaces should all go on your list of things to repair.

Thoroughly inspect safety equipment like smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms and home security systems. Are they all functioning, or do parts or entire systems need to be replaced? Make a plan to repair these issues and clean up any cosmetic issues that may have occurred as a result.

2. Investigate Comps

Check out recent home sales in your neighborhood. What has the price range been for homes with features and updates similar to yours? The values of these comparable homes should be similar to what your home will appraise for. This information can help you know where to focus your time, efforts and funds.

If you know a neighbor (or real estate agent) who recently sold a home in your area, contact them to find out if there were any appraisal issues or insights that they can share.

If you’re working with a real estate agent, you can request that they collect some comps for you and your appraiser to review. Particularly if your home has unique or uncommon features, your agent may need to get creative while staying within the guidelines for selecting comps.

A quick way to get a rough idea of how much your home is worth is to use a home value estimator calculator. Add some basic information to gauge your home's current value and view recent home sales in your area.

3. Get Superficial

Clean your house from top to bottom and remove extra clutter. Once you’ve scrubbed and straightened up everything possible, consider making some easy, low-cost cosmetic updates that can have a big impact, like the following:

  • Paint or touch up existing paint
  • Hang updated window treatments
  • Replace worn faucets, doorknobs and cabinet hardware

If you’ve been planning to update your decor after you move, consider bringing in a few of the newer pieces to make the old house look fresh and modern. Downsizing or packing for a long-distance move? Ask your real estate agent if they have staging furnishings you can borrow or recommendations for a service you can use.

4. Make Your Outdoor Areas Truly Great

Now that your home's interior looks fantastic, it's time to pay attention to the exterior. Make sure that your landscaping is looking its best by doing the following:

  • Mow your lawn, trim your trees and bushes
  • Remove weeds and dead vegetation
  • Add color with inexpensive, seasonal flowers in the spring, summer or fall, and ensure that snow removal is neat and tidy in the winter

You’ll also want to:

  • Remove outdoor clutter, like yard tools and stray toys, from everywhere on the property
  • Consider staging any outdoor living spaces with new furniture or accessories
  • Power wash your home’s exterior, as well as your driveway and any deck or patio surfaces
  • Ensure your pool is well-maintained and in safe operating condition

Most of this can be accomplished in a weekend, and the increased curb appeal will be worth it.

Check out expert tips for outdoor home renovations — you may find just the right improvement to increase your value!

5. Be Sure To Share Your Upgrades

Tell your home appraiser about the improvements you’ve made to your home. Inform them of upgrades like the following that will positively impact your appraisal value:

  • New features that you have added, like a security system
  • Updated HVAC units
  • Exterior improvements like siding, gutters or a new roof
  • High-value room remodels like kitchens and bathrooms

An easy way to make sure that your appraiser remembers all of these improvements is to create and share a short, one-page list detailing each. You should have this list ready in advance and include any applicable permit information.

6. Know Your Neighborhood

Make your appraiser aware of any recent improvements in your overall neighborhood. It’s worth mentioning things like:

  • New or highly rated schools
  • Parks
  • Transportation enhancements
  • Shopping
  • Other beneficial amenities

These kinds of changes can add significant value to your home, and if your appraiser is not a local resident, they may not be aware of them. Appraisers are often familiar with the general area, but you probably know your specific neighborhood better than they do.

7. Stay Focused

While you are working your way through the tasks and updates listed above, it’s important to remember not to go overboard and take on too many projects. Invest your time, money and effort only on issues that clearly need attention. If you’re getting an appraisal for a home you’re selling, you most likely already have a buyer who liked your home enough in its current state to make an offer on it. Making unnecessary major changes could end up being a waste of your time and resources.

Your home’s selling price is affected by more than just the appraisal. Find out how the time of year can increase your sale price.

Although it’s not possible to change your bungalow into a country estate overnight, taking the time to tackle a few strategic projects before your appraisal can help put you in a better position to get the outcome you want.

If you’re ready to move or refinance the home you love living in, a Pennymac Loan Expert can answer your questions and help guide you through your home loan journey from the first step to your closing day. You can also get a quick custom rate quote online based on any scenario you’re considering.



buying a home selling a home appraisal fundamentals

7 Top Tips for a Great Home Appraisal | Pennymac (2024)


7 Top Tips for a Great Home Appraisal | Pennymac? ›

As a realtor or a homeowner, you should avoid saying things like: – Is it going to come in at this “value”? – I'll be happy as long as it appraises for at least the sales price. – Do your best to get the value as high as possible.

What do appraisers look at the most? ›

The Key Components Addressed In An Appraisal
  • The Site: Location, view, topography, lot size, utilities, zoning, external factors, highest and best use, landscaping features…
  • Design: ...
  • Condition: ...
  • Health & Safety: ...
  • Size: ...
  • Neighborhood: ...
  • Functional Utility: ...
  • Parking:
Mar 29, 2010

What is the biggest factor in a home appraisal? ›

Here are 15 Factors That Influence Your Home Appraisal Value:
  • Location. First, your home appraisal value is based on the location of the home. ...
  • Structural Construction Materials and Updates. ...
  • Age of the Home. ...
  • Design Style of the Home. ...
  • Curb Appeal. ...
  • Number of Bedrooms. ...
  • Number of Bathrooms. ...
  • Square Footage.
Nov 19, 2019

How to get the most out of your appraisal? ›

Here's how to get the most out of your performance appraisal.
  1. Prepare in advance. ...
  2. Highlight your strengths. ...
  3. Examine areas for improvement. ...
  4. Detail your intended career progression. ...
  5. Follow up. ...
  6. Ask for regular feedback.
Dec 10, 2019

How to make a house look better for appraisal? ›

Increasing Your Home's Appraisal Value
  1. Improve your house's curb appeal. ...
  2. Mow and clean up your yard. ...
  3. Examine the exterior of your home. ...
  4. Document all of your home upgrades. ...
  5. Give your home a deep cleaning. ...
  6. Patch up any imperfections. ...
  7. Let the appraiser do their job. ...
  8. Be open to the appraiser's questions.
Apr 1, 2024

What not to say to an appraiser? ›

As a realtor or a homeowner, you should avoid saying things like: – Is it going to come in at this “value”? – I'll be happy as long as it appraises for at least the sales price. – Do your best to get the value as high as possible.

What increases appraisal value the most? ›

List of upgrades to increase appraisal
  • Fresh paint. ...
  • Install new garage door. ...
  • Spruce up front door and porch. ...
  • Kitchen and/or bathroom update. ...
  • Freshen up walls. ...
  • Make minor repairs. ...
  • Install shutters. ...
  • Check that everything works. Turn on every appliance and switch to make sure it all works properly.
Nov 13, 2023

What negatively affects a home appraisal? ›

Extreme clutter or signs of neglect

A severely cluttered home may prevent an appraiser from accessing certain parts of the home, affecting the appraisal. Additionally, signs of neglect such as peeling paint or mold may negatively affect your home's value.

How do I get the most value out of my appraisal? ›

Read our seven tips to help.
  1. Look at what can be done better. You have listed your performance over the past year and have come up with concrete examples. ...
  2. Map your ambitions. ...
  3. Prepare for a compromise. ...
  4. Know what you are worth. ...
  5. Establish your goals. ...
  6. Stay professional. ...
  7. In the meantime, ask for feedback.

What are the mistakes during appraisal? ›

Many managers make the mistake of providing either no feedback or feedback that's too vague to offer any true insight or direction to their employees. Constructive feedback offers clear, actionable, and balanced feedback that provides employees the opportunity to improve, as well as understand their key strengths.

Does yard affect appraisal? ›

Curb Appeal

Some of the most surprising factors that can affect a home appraisal can be found in the small details of a home. Your curb appeal comprises your driveway, house exterior, and any plants (trees, bushes, and flowers) that grow in your yard.

Do appraisers look under sinks? ›

Do Appraisers Look Under Sinks? Yes, you can expect a home appraisal to check under the sink to make sure there isn't any water damage, mold issues or problems hiding.

What do appraisers look for to add value? ›

The appraiser will look at factors such as square footage, materials, amenities, and condition, and evaluate these factors against comparable properties, or “comps,” that have recently sold in the area.

What are the top things an appraiser looks for? ›

Appraisers look at the general condition of the home, the home's location, the age of the house, the size, unique features and any improvements made to the home. Many of these aspects, such as the location, age and size, you can't change. However, the general condition and improvements are within your control.

Do appraisers care about cleanliness? ›

No. Appraisers are not influenced by the cleanliness of the home they are appraising. Only the material elements of the home and property are appraised, not its cleanliness or attractiveness. Material elements include the home's location, lot size, interior square footage, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.

Do appraisers look in showers? ›


Similar to kitchens, bathrooms are inspected for quality, condition and materials. An appraiser looks at whether it's a full or half bath, whether it has a decent shower, updated lighting, quality counters and looks for signs of mold.

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