House Appraisal: What to expect?

3 Replies

Hello everyone!

I purchased my first house in 2015 in a semi-rural area south of Houston that is developing quickly and expected to grow considerably over the next 10 years. I purchased the house for 147,000 in 2015, and the house appraised for 159,000. Since then, I put on a new roof and plan to do some other small improvements to add value.

I want to refinance my house and have already spoken to a lender that I have a good relationship with. So that's in place, but I'm not sure when I should approach the appraisal. When I do my own limited research online the estimated value of my home is about 205,000 (Zillow), Chase is a little higher. Zillow's private estimate is about 215,000

I know these are rough, general numbers, and wanted advice on how to estimate the appraised value of my house before I spend $400 on getting it done professionally.

I plan to repaint the house, add some basic landscaping in the front, sand and stain my cutting board countertops and replace the rotted wood on my fascia and soffit outside. I'm assuming the value of the house and especially the appearance and curb appeal will greatly help with the official appraisal.

Is there an educated way to assess the appraised value before I make these fixes and repairs? If so, and it's favorable, then I can refi-cash out and use hat money for the repairs. If not, then I could do the repairs with the little money I have and can then look to refinance after all repairs are done. Thoughts??

Thanks for any help, this is my first post so I apologize if I'm missing pertinent info or am not clear.

First, can I complain about how much " zestimates" (and Zillow in general) are the bane of my existence? They take nothing into account that a real appraiser would. If you crashed a car into your front window and left it there, would that hurt your appraisal? Yes. Would Zillow know that? No. Okay, so everyone, please ignore it and please tell everyone you know and love to ignore it. Seriously, like go to the grocery store and tell strangers to ignore it. lol, okay, I'm done... For now... ;-)

So what appraisers in our area do is pull up 3 active comps. Similar bed/bath/square footage/area/style. And three sold comps (has to be within 6 months here) under the same criteria. Now, I have something pretty spectacular. There's someone in our area who created a cheat sheet for us but you can sometimes find something general online. It says stuff like "if comparable property has X, subtract 100-350" so they use things like this to come up with your value.

I've heard (I don't know if it works or not!) that you can help the person out by pulling up these numbers for them. For us, most of our appraisers are not local, so it could benefit us to do that since they don't know that you can go down the block and be in a terrible area, or vice versa. So to pull things that make sense for your area, does seem like a good idea. So that way, you can pick stuff that makes it higher. Another point, you can fight these things. You can pay someone different to come out, or you can ask them to adjust it (you'll get the list of comps and their notes) so if you see something that doesn't make sense, then point it out! Also, know your area. Here, I've had some appraisal issues since those split level type houses (with say the family room half below grade and half above) don't count and the bathrooms don't count because they are viewed as "basement". It can really kill. So knowing these details are really crucial! 

Also, look for those lists I talked about (or even see if you can hook up with some appraisers and create a relationship and see if they can give you an idea or a similar list) so you know what repairs will give you the most bang for your buck. But honestly, just having it nice and clean, good curb appeal will be fine, I don't feel like they go too much off exterior alone. Most of it is more bed/bath/sqft/general condition. Make sure there's not chipping paint and stuff like that but otherwise, no need to drop a ton into it! 

Thank you for your response! Really helps.

I didn't think we could influence the appraisal process that much, considering they have laws to ensure that buyers/sellers do not have an unfair advantage influencing it.

Having said that, the previous owner of my house, and also a friend, knew everyone (lender, realtor, appraiser) personally. So clearly there are holes in the process. Anyway, I'll give an update once I've gone through.

If anyone else has any advice they'd like to give I'm all ears. Thanks!

@Travis Shelburne - To my knowledge, that isn't considered influencing and isn't breaking the law or illegal at all! I believe I've heard appraisers say it directly (though my memory is garbage so I wouldn't swear to it!) but I've never heard of it in a negative way, only that it was like a secret that people didn't realize and that they encouraged the help on what people though was similar to their home.