How to Update Your Home and Gain Value for an Appraisal

An article in the Wall Street Journal was published on October 11th titled “Ten Tips to Up Your Home’s Value During an Appraisal,” and we thought these were excellent tips — not just for an appraisal, but also for getting your house ready to sell and helping to maintain your home’s value while you are still living there! Too good to not pass along, here are ten ways to update your home and gain value:

  1. Spruce the house up. Make your house broom clean and try to clean up the toys and dirty dishes and much as possible. For valuations and appraisals, its what is on the outside that really counts. In other words, don’t worry about dust bunnies under the couch, but rather what is visible should be orderly and clean.
  2. Curb appeal matters. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, pull the weeds, paint the front door (if needed), plant flowers, sweep away dead leaves, etc. (This will also help set your house apart from any foreclosures that may be lurking down the street!)
  3. Keep a list of all the updates. This is huge. A simple, yet often overlooked step in home ownership is maintaining a list of all the updates you have completed, and when you did them. (I.e. painted living room in 2008, new hardwood floors in 2009, new appliances in 2010.) Not only will this help your appraiser, it will also be a wonderful tool in selling your home because buyers love recent updates.
  4. Have comps on hand. “Comps” are comparisons of properties similar to yours and within close proximity. You want to provide recently sold comps to get to the closest value. Listed properties don’t really carry much weight in valuations because they haven’t sold yet, which means a buyer hasn’t put an amount on it yet. This is technically the appraiser’s job — to get the comps — but if you provide some, it will help tremendously, especially if you know of a similar house that sold recently without the help of a real estate agent.
  5. Be mindful of peeling paint. Houses built prior to 1978 adhere to loan laws (like FHA and veterans’ loans) requiring that peeling paint be removed from the house. If there are marks on the walls, though, no worries about affecting the appraisal report.
  6. Focus. Spending money on things that don’t improve or affect value isn’t worth it. Focus on updating light fixtures, carpet, paint, plumbing fixtures, and things of that nature.
  7. Location still matters. New amenities that have come to the area within close proximity to your house are worth mentioning. Think new parks or playgrounds, new grocery stores, shopping centers, restaurants, etc.
  8. Keep the $500 rule in mind. Appraisers often value homes in $500 increments. Repair items that could easily cost $500 or more, like leaky faucets, cracked windows, broken railings, and structural damage. Don’t let those go by the wayside because they will count against you!
  9. Also remember the concept of “effective age.” The age the appraiser can assign to a home after taking into consideration updating and condition. “Say you have a cracked window, thread­bare carpet, some tiles falling off the shower surround, vinyl torn in the laundry room, and the dog ate the corner of the fireplace hearth, these items could still add up to an overall average condition rating as the home is still habitable, however your effective age will be higher resulting in comparables being utilized which will have the same effective age and resulting lower value,” says Ms. Zimmerman, who wrote the book “Challenge Your Home Appraisal” and runs a web site by the same name. [source: WSJ]
  10. Lock up Fido and Fifi. Appraisers don’t like being followed around by growling dogs and clingy cats. Simply for keeping the appraiser happy, put the pets away. Also, if it is hot outside, turn on the air conditioning (likewise with cold weather and heat) so the appraiser knows your HVAC system is working in proper order.

There you have it. Simple ways to update and/or maintain your home to up the value. Keep these tips in mind when you have a valuation/appraisal coming up, or if you are getting your house ready to sell. For other selling tips, check out our staging advice!

* Author of WSJ article: S. Mitra Kalita

About Lisa Oates

Lisa is the creative mind behind The Harrisonburg Homes Team, providing streamlined content management, quality authorship, and graphic design for Harrisonblog. She's passionate about blogging, enjoying life, and a good cup of coffee.