When you plan to sell your home, you will most likely want to get as much money out of the sale as possible. 

But how do you do that? Your buyer’s mortgage lender orders a home appraisal, which is the part of the process that determines the fair market value of your home. 

You can prepare for a real estate appraisal by making sure everything in your home is in working order and maintained well. In this article, we’ll give you a full checklist and explain what a home appraiser looks for.

At Morty, we want you to have a smooth home appraisal experience, so let’s get started.

How to Prepare for a Home Appraisal

First, let’s go over how home appraisals differ from inspections. An appraisal determines a home’s value and an inspection determines its condition. A home inspection gives you an indication of how well parts of your home are functioning, such as major home systems, the roof and foundation.

An appraiser, the individual who carries out your appraisal, will not test every switch in your house or go into the attic with a flashlight. Instead, an appraiser does a less “invasive” property inspection. 

Appraisers also evaluate local comparable homes, called comps, to determine the fair market value of your home against the local real estate market. They typically use at least three comps, usually from the multiple listings service (MLS) to get the most recent comparables to determine an accurate home value for your home. They use a comparative market analysis (CMA) tool to estimate the value of a specific property by comparing similar properties that have recently sold in the same area.

What Does an Appraiser Look for?

Appraisers usually complete on-site inspections. After they evaluate your property and comps, they write up a report. The appraisal report outlines what the bank or lender can loan for someone to purchase your property. 

An appraiser will look into the following during the appraisal process:

  • Condition of the home: Appraisers will look for indications that signal the overall condition of your home — they will look for cracks, damage, leaks and other positive and negative characteristics.
  • Size of the home: Appraisers will use the square footage to determine fair market value.
  • Quality of landscaping: They will also get a sense of your home’s curb appeal. The better the landscaping, the higher the positive impact it will have on your home’s appraised value.
  • Quality of roofing and foundation: Appraisers will look for signs of missing or loose shingles that could indicate a bad roof. They’ll also look for diagonal cracks on interior walls or exterior stair cracks that can indicate a faulty foundation.
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms: The number of bedrooms and bathrooms can influence the fair market value of your home.
  • Quality of lighting and plumbing: Poor quality fixtures, leaky faucets, low water pressure and slowly draining sinks can show signs of issues with the lighting and plumbing in your home.
  • Number of fireplaces: Fireplaces can boost home value by thousands of dollars in some locations.
  • Condition of the swimming pool: If you have a swimming pool, an appraiser will want to check for cracked walls, peeling plaster, broken lights and more.
  • Quality of the basement: An appraiser will take a look at the walls and floors of your basement to check for cracks, rotten wood and beams, expansion joint separation and more.
  • Finishing details in the home: An appraiser will also want to see the finishing details in your home, which include trim, doors, appliances, crown molding, cabinets, lighting and countertops.

Not sure about other things you should fix up based on your personal situation? Your real estate agent can help you.

Your Home Appraisal Checklist

If possible, make necessary repairs to your home prior to the home appraisal. You may have to make these repairs anyway if the buyer chooses to do a home inspection and the home inspector finds issues with any one of the following areas of your home. 

You can get your home ready for appraisal by checking the following items:

  • Plumbing: Check for rattling pipes, brown spots on the ceiling, gurgling toilets or other plumbing issues. 
  • Roof: Make sure your roof is free of any leaks or damage.
  • Garage doors: Confirm that your garage doors work and the openers operate correctly.
  • Foundation: Check for cracks, water intrusion or damage and other issues.
  • HVAC system: Confirm that your heating and cooling system works properly. You may want to hire a professional to test it.
  • Doors: Make sure doors fit securely in their frames. Things to look out for are warped doors, misaligned bottom wall plates, hinge problems and more. 
  • Handrails: Secure handrails along all steps.
  • Walls and ceilings: Confirm that walls and ceilings don’t sag and are free of cracks, which could indicate possible structural problems.
  • Add curb appeal: Add landscaping around your home, fix cracks in the sidewalk, pull weeds and mow the lawn. You can do a lot to brighten up your house’s exterior prior to an appraisal!

The FHA Home Appraisal Checklist

Are you getting an FHA loan, a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration? An FHA appraisal must confirm that the property meets the minimum standards set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Federal Housing Administration is a department under the jurisdiction of HUD. 

FHA home appraisals require a site visit, in which FHA appraisers visit homes in person to take notes and photos. They check the interior and exterior condition of a home, the state of fixtures and systems and structural quality. They also research selling prices for comps that closed in the same general area, typically during the past six months. They use these findings to determine the market value of the home.

Unlike with conventional loan, the following repairs are optional optional, whereas homes must meet the following appraisal requirements and repairs to be approved for an FHA loan:

  • Signs of water damage
  • Damaged driveway or sidewalk
  • Siding damage
  • Exposed floorboards
  • Grounded plugs
  • Leaking roof
  • Peeling paint
  • Unsecure wall studs

Ready to buy a home or thinking about selling your home? Learn more about mortgage and homebuying topics on the Morty blog, from refinancing your mortgage to VA loans to mortgage brokers and more.