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Appraisals - Dont Sell Yourself Short

Feb 3, 2008
If you are selling your home with OR without a real estate agent you should get an appraisal before you decide on the selling price. An agent's market analysis will get you in the ballpark, but do you really want to stumble around in the dark with your hard earned equity? I remember a retired couple that set their selling price based on the agent's analysis. Their home sold in three days! When the appraisal came in it was $20,000 above the selling price. That was a terrible shame but it can be just as bad if you price it too high and it just sits on the market. An upfront appraisal will protect your equity and be well worth the cost.

Having an idea about what is involved in appraising a piece of property can greatly help in maximizing the appraised value. The following major steps are in the sequence normally followed by appraisers:

1. Research the subject property as to size, bedrooms, baths, year built, lot size and square footage.

2. Gather data of recent sales in the neighborhood. The appraiser needs to locate at least 3 similar-sized homes that have sold in the neighborhood with in the last six months. The homes also need to be within one mile of the subject property. These homes are called the "Comparable Properties" or "Comps" for short.

3. The field inspection consists of two parts: a complete inspection of the subject property, and the exterior inspection of the comparable properties.

The subject property inspection consists of taking photos of the street scene, front of the home and rear of the home, which may include portions of the yard. The appraiser will make an interior inspection for condition, noting any items that would detract from or add to the value of your home. He will also draw a floor plan of the home while doing the inspection.

The inspection of the comparable properties is limited to an exterior inspection. For features that cannot be seen from the street, the appraiser uses: reports from Multiple Listing Services (MLS), California Market Data Cooperative (CMDC), county public records, and appraisal files to help determine the condition.

4. After the field inspection has been completed, the appraiser must determine which comparable properties most resemble the subject. Then he/she makes slight adjustments in value for any differences. After making the required adjustments, the appraiser must go through a reconciliation process with the three comparable properties to determine a final estimated value of the subject property. This method is called the "Direct Sales Comparison Approach to Value", and it accounts for nearly all of the considerations in determining value of a single-family property.

It is important to remember that the appraiser will be taking photos of the street scene and the front and back of the home. The street scene gives the lenders some kind of idea as to the type of neighborhood in which the home is located. The photo of the front of the home gives the lender an idea of its condition and its curb appeal. Lastly, the photo of the back of the home and part of the rear yard is another indicator to the lender of the home's care and maintenance.

In most cases, (over 90% of the time) what you see in the condition of an exterior home will be repeated almost exactly in the interior. So one of the most important things you can do to enhance the value or perceived value is to improve the curb appeal of your home, ... and don't forget to clean up the back yard.

An appraiser will call in advance to set up an appointment to inspect your home. At that time offer to supply any information about the home size, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, pool, enclosed patio, etc. The more that is known about the property prior to inspection, the better the appraiser can focus on researching the most similar comparable. Doing your homework will maximize your chances of having a good appraisal.

While your home is being inspected don't follow the appraiser from room to room causing distraction. Instead, allow the inspection to go smoothly. In case the appraiser has any questions, be close by to answer them. The time to mention the things you think are important is either before or just after the inspection.

In conclusion, the best thing you can do to increase the perceived value of your home is to get it ready before the appraisal. Clean it, put fresh paint where needed, and clear the clutter inside and out. You should also make any minor repairs needed and be sure to manicure the front and back yards!
About the Author
Author: Connie Sanders has been in the real estate and mortgage industry for many years. Connie believes knowledge is power. She owns a Free For Sale By Owner web site, and an information site at Mortgage Underwriting Guidelines.
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