Home Appraisal: 9 Tips to Get a Higher Valuation (& Appeal a Too-Low Assessment)

30
So you need to get a home appraisal — and a too-low valuation will completely tank your ability to get a mortgage or refinance for the right amount. To get the best possible assessment of your property (and to appeal a not-so-great valuation), follow these easy tips.

You’ve decided to refinance your house. Or maybe you’ve decided to sell it altogether. You want it to appraise for top dollar, but how can you make sure that happens? Maybe you’ve heard a horror story about a low home appraisal or you really need to refinance for a certain dollar amount to get back all of your downpayment on your BRRRR deal.

How do you make the most of your home appraisal?

How to Purchase Real Estate With No (or Low) Money!

One of the biggest struggles that many new investors have is in coming up with the money to purchase their first real estate properties. Well, BiggerPockets can help with that too. The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down can give you the tools you need to get started in real estate, even if you don’t have tons of cash lying around.

Click Here to Download

6 Home Appraisal Tips to Get a Higher Valuation

Ask if they’re local.

When the appraiser calls to make the appointment, ask if they’re local. Real estate is local, and an appraiser from out of town may not be as familiar with the local real estate market. You want your house to be appraised relative to its location, not in relation to the local market of the appraiser from 60 miles away.

Requesting specific appraisers is no longer allowed, thanks to all those shenanigans around 2005-2007.

“Lender’s select Appraisers today by sending out an email blast to all appraisers on a lenders list. The appraiser who gets the appraisal is the one who hits the “accept” button the fastest AND who agrees to the fee the lender wants to pay. The current paradigm is: who is the fastest and the cheapest?” says John Carlson, a California Certified General Real Estate Appraiser with JCCREA.

“If you get an out-of-the-area appraiser, you can try to ask for another appraiser from closer to your area, but from what I have been told on the expert panel to which I belong, that almost never works. The lender would have to send out another email blast in hopes that a local appraiser hits the accept button first.

If a borrower does get an out-of-the-area appraiser it makes it even more important to follow your suggestions about knowing your market, most likely, better than the appraiser who is coming out.”

(Thank you John, for the correction!)

Tidy up.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The appraiser is only going to be in your home for a very short time — maybe an hour if you’re really lucky. Remove clutter and make the inside shine bright. Prepare it like you would for a showing — put everything away and make sure the whole house smells nice.

This is technically not supposed to help the home appraisal; however, your appraiser is going to notice if the house is a disaster. You don’t want them to walk into the property and have their first impression be “what a dump!” If the property is rented and you’re trying to refinance, make sure the tenants know to have everything as clean as possible.

If you’re selling or refinancing a property that is not tenant-occupied, the only thing to do differently than a showing is to stay put. You want to be at the home when the home appraisal is happening. You DO NOT want to follow the appraiser around like a puppy, but definitely ask if they need anything, and let them know what part of the house you’ll be in should they have any questions.

home appraisal

Look outside, too!

The exterior of your home should be clean and neat. If you are being appraised during grass-growing season, make sure the lawn is mowed and clean up dead leaves or plants. If you are being appraised during snow season, make sure the driveway and walk are shoveled.

Related: Why Appraisals Don’t Necessarily Value Homes From an Investor’s Point of View

Pick up toys, trash, and debris. Do you have a dog? Remove all that evidence, too. The last thing you want is for the appraiser to think your house is gross before they even walk in the door.

Have a list of improvements.

Home appraisals are based on recently sold homes — and what better comp is there than the exact house?

If you’ve made any improvements in the property, have a list of what you’ve done, how much you spent, and when the improvement was made. Significant improvements on a property that was purchased recently can help the appraiser understand the scope of work and encourage them to appraise higher than the recent purchase price.

Make a cheat sheet.

Measure the rooms ahead of the home appraisal and have a sheet to give to the appraiser. They will most likely still take their own measurements, but having a page from you can help them make sure they don’t miss a room.

Give an overview of the entire home, of course highlighting the positives. No feature is too small to mention, and some upgrades may not be readily apparent. Who can tell if the plumbing or electrical has been upgraded by looking at the walls?

Explain the comps.

Have your real estate agent pull comparable properties that have recently sold and those that are currently on the market. You should be staying on top of your local market anyway — seeing comparable properties to get a feel of what is selling and for how much — both before and after rehab.

Your appraiser isn’t going to be able to go into the sold houses to see what they look like — they won’t know if the home had really cheap carpeting or stunk of cats. Be prepared to give explanations of each property that has recently sold, especially those that have sold for a lower price than you are hoping for.

My neighbor was trying to cash-out refi her home not too long ago. Recently sold houses on our street had issues that weren’t disclosed on the MLS. One home sold for $45,000 less than what it should have because it had undisclosed sewer issues. Undisclosed on the MLS, anyway. The buyers were told of the issues before closing, but it wasn’t advertised on the MLS, which is where the appraiser gets their recently sold information.

Another home on my street sold for $100,000 less than its true value because the prior owner had passed away in the bathtub and went undiscovered for 12 days in August. That wasn’t shared on the MLS, either.

We typed up a sheet that played up the problem issues for each property that recently sold and shared it with the appraiser. Her home appraised for what she needed it to, and the appraiser thanked her for the additional information.

FHA Home Inspection Checklist

3 Tips to Fight a Low Home Appraisal

Appraisers are human and make mistakes just like everyone else. If your property appraises for significantly lower than you are expecting, you may be able to challenge the results.

Double check figures.

First check to make sure the property stats are accurate. Did the appraiser include all the bedrooms and bathrooms? Is the square footage correct? Did they forget the basement or misjudge the size of the lot? If you find an error, provide evidence to the appraiser and ask that they reevaluate the property based on the additional information you have provided.

If your home appraisal is slightly lower than you are hoping for, your chances aren’t as good to fight the appraisal. Again, make sure the information is correct, and you can certainly ask the appraiser to reevaluate the property. Having comparable properties to share with them can help your cause as well.

Know your neighborhood.

Even if your appraiser is local, they may not be intimately familiar with your neighborhood. School districts can change valuation significantly. If you’re located in the better school district, make sure the appraiser knows that — and included that into the valuation.

Examine comparable properties.

MLS listings on recently solds don’t always tell the whole story. If you didn’t share the backstory with the appraiser before and you have a low comp dragging down your home appraisal, make sure they understand the reason the home sold for such a low price.

Related: Is an Appraisal an Accurate Representation of Market Value?

Also make sure the comparable properties are actually comparable. Same neighborhood, sold recently, etc. It’s easy to mistype and get an entirely different location. Being off by even just a mile could drastically change valuation.

The Mortgage Hinges on the Home Appraisal

A traditional mortgage will not go through without a home appraisal — and if the home doesn’t appraise, that’s the end of the line. Unless you can prove an error in the appraisal process, you aren’t likely to sway the appraiser’s mind.

Prevent this issue from happening at all by preparing documents ahead of time that portray your property in the best light. TELL the appraiser what you want them to compare your home to by sharing a list of improvements, providing the most favorable comps and explaining the lower sales prices, and creating a home cheat sheet detailing every little thing.

How have you prepared for your home appraisal?

Please share your top tips below.

About Author

Mindy Jensen

Mindy has flipped numerous homes in the past 10 years, one at a time and doing much of the work with her husband. She lives in Longmont, CO, and is always looking for an ugly duckling to turn into a swan.

30 Comments

  1. John C. Carlson

    Lender’s select Appraisers today by sending out an email blast to all appraisers on a lenders list. The appraiser who gets the appraisal is the one who hits the “accept” button the fastest AND who agrees to the fee the lender wants to pay. The current paradigm is: who is the fastest and the cheapest?

    If you get an out-of-the-area appraiser, you can try to ask for another appraiser from closer to your area, but from what I have been told on the expert panel to which I belong, that almost never works. The lender would have to send out another email blast in hopes that a local appraiser hits the accept button first.

    If a borrower does get an out-of-the-area appraiser it makes it even more important to follow your suggestions about knowing your market, most likely, better than the appraiser who is coming out.

    When people ask me what to do when they get what they think is a bad appraisal, I tell them to first, get a copy of the appraisal. Then, get in their car and drive to all of the comparables & make up their own mind whether the property used as a comp is good or bad.

    Then, go to a real estate office, it helps to have a friend who is an Agent. Bring some coffee, donuts, etc. and ask one of the agents to look up the listing data for the comparables the appraiser used. Compare what is in the listing with what the appraiser shows. If there are differences, ask the agent for a “client copy” of the listings so you can present them to your lender and ask for the appraiser to re-examine the data.

    Finally have the agent print out the comps the appraiser should have used in the neighborhood. Again, get copies of the listings to submit those to the lender also.

    Unfortunately, this rarely works also. Appraisers are paid so little these days, and required to get the appraisals back so fast, that they just don’t have time to do a competent job. By the time you ask for a review of the new data, the appraiser has moved on and has no reason to get back into a prior report.

    Thanks for your input, this is good advice for people.

    John C. Carlson

    • I highly recommend having the appraisal done first before a tenant moves in.
      And I totally agree with everything else said.
      We are in a world of appraisers being afraid to give a real opinion. Most of them are not local (meaning they do not really care about the value nor truly understand it either)
      One more tip… If you are working with a lender on your refi over and over again they can create a “preferred provider pool” this is a list of 5-10 appraisers that they send the job ticket out to and only one of them can choose to do the appraisal.. If you work in a program that provides this or if you plan on doing many of these cash out Refis then I would highly recommend creating a preferred pool with your lender… You can find the info on the properties that have appraised on if they came in lower than expected and this can help you to choose the right ones for your pool.

  2. Russell Brazil

    The appraisal is one of the most important and often overlooked aspects of the home sale process (or refinance process). Ive found that appraisers are more willing to work with an agent on the comps for a sale than they are for a homeowner on a refinance. Im not entirely sure why that is, but I suspect maybe it is because they know they may run into the agent again in the market place, while they will never run into that homeowner again.

    One of the things that has helped me get my appraisals high enough (Even when the property isnt worth that much) is understanding the appraisal condition ratings. Fannie Mae has a short description of them in the link below. But I always make the case to the appraiser that the property Im selling is a higher condition than it should be, and always tell them the comps are a condition lower than mine.

    https://www.fanniemae.com/content/guide/selling/b4/1.3/06.html

    • Mindy Jensen

      Russell, your comment, combined with John’s above, reinforces my advice to write up a cheat sheet about your house, a favorable condition report listing all improvements, and an explanatory sheet for any low comps.

      With the appraisers rushed, chances are great that they will forget your house almost as soon as they walk out the door.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Ryan Lundquist

    I appreciate John’s comments. He is a good guy too. I think he’s right about refusing an appraiser access. Nobody gets to choose the appraiser besides the lender in a Dodd-Frank world (except of course during a private appraisal where you can hire any appraiser you want). An appraiser should not accept an appraisal order if he/she is not competent to handle the valuation. Bottom line. This doesn’t always happen though unfortunately, but I wonder if refusing an appraiser access could maybe be seen as influencing the selection of the appraiser, which is off limits under Dodd-Frank regulations. I’m not a lawyer, so I won’t comment about what is legal and what is not, but it’s probably worth considering. If a home owner is concerned, I would say to contact the loan officer or bank before the appraiser comes out rather than turning away an appraiser at the front door.

    This conversation does underscore the need to work with a local bank who has a panel of experienced appraisers. Anyone who uses a “blast” order system as John mentioned is not looking for the best appraiser for the job. When a bank finds the quickest person to click on an order and accept, the bank is probably not looking for quality. If a home owner is concerned about how the appraisal is going to be ordered, ask the loan officer what their ordering process is like.

    One more thing regarding “local”. An appraiser might live next door but still not be a good fit to appraise the property. For instance, just because someone lives in Washington DC does not make that person fit to appraise the White House, right? Or I live in Sacramento, but that doesn’t mean I am going to appraise the Capitol building just because I am within close proximity. So “local” is really not the biggest issue. The most important issue is actually experience, and that is exactly what is needed during the appraisal process. Is the appraiser familiar with the local market (even if the appraiser lives further away)?

    If anyone has questions, let me know.

  4. Bud Wheeler on

    I had an appraisal done about five years ago. Working on a refi. Appraiser would not let me say anything to him about the house. Said he was not allowed to be influenced. Go figure! @#$%^& Didn’t matter in the long run. Wife lost her good paying job and we no longer qualified. Oh well, That’s the way it goes sometimes. Still in the house, but will be on the market shortly. Good info to keep in mind though.

    • Mindy Jensen

      Perhaps the next appraiser will allow you to share with them the “cheat sheet” you make up. Having the square footage, all rooms listed, and any improvements can help a harried appraiser.

      But that’s interesting that the appraiser wouldn’t let you tell them anything about the home. That hasn’t been my experience in the past.

  5. Using a psychological “peg” may help the appraiser coalesce around the desired number. During the initial meeting/walk-through with the appraiser, at some point mention the highest reasonable value you’ve heard any agent mention (or your own reasonable-high estimate). Mention how this (higher) number was brought up several times by skilled agents. A good appraiser will discount this, but still has it in his mind when he’s reconciling his own range of value. If your supplied “estimate” is reasonably close to his number, he’ll very possibly lean his final number in that direction. But don ‘t supply an absurd number. in very hot markets (Seattle, today, my neighborhood) I’m appreciating 2 pct/mo! ($15,000/mo. appreciation!). So be sure the appraiser’s comps are within two or three months of appraised date. We should all be so lucky. kjk in Seattle.

    • Mindy Jensen

      Absolutely make sure the comps are as close to your sale/refi date as possible. I walked away from a property because the most recent sale was only $30k above the asking price, and it was a hoarder/trash-out. If I would have offered asking, it would be mine, PLUS a considerable amount of profit. Sigh…

  6. Sarah Pritch

    Do you have guidance on getting a poor appraisal? I recently had an appraiser make a LOT of mistakes in my most recent purchase and valued it $30K below the offer price! It luckily got straightened out (they meant to put the purchase price on it) but there was so much done improperly and my lender said they likely just copied/pasted from another appraisal and that they likely won’t go back and fix the appraisal verbiage. I was really surprised to hear that I was going to pay for this appraisal and while the bottom line number is what’s most important/correct, why wouldn’t I get the fully correct appraisal that I paid for?

    • Unfortunately there are “LAZY” people out there in every profession. You see this in Realtors and even in investors. The price for the appraisal has not gone up, but the amount of work that is now needed to get it done has. I would recommend being as helpful as possible and having a realtor help out (as mentioned above)
      I would love to hear from an appraiser on this topic; and hear their side of the story. The problem is all the ones i speak to about this tell me the same thing. 1. they are not local. 2. they are Lazy 3. They have a hard time appraising higher because they are afraid to give a real opinion.
      Bottom line Regulation has overstepped here and now has them in fear. Real value is and will always be something is worth what someone is willing to pay.. This used to be the most important factor when valuing a property, (makes sense right?) However regulation has taken over as what is and what isn’t! Fair or not this is the world we live in. Its just our job to do the Best we can with what we have! 🙂

  7. Shellie S.

    Mindy, thanks for this! I’m working on fixing up a duplex I’ll be renting out and will want to refi probably in the next 3-6 months. I started putting pictures together with a description (i.e original water damaged cabinets and new cabinets, with pics next to each other and cost; also old/new HVAC; old flooring/new flooring, etc etc) so that the appraiser can visually see the changes and upgrades along with the list. I figure the appraiser can look at it or not, but it couldn’t hurt to have it available. 🙂

  8. as a former appraiser, 25 year RE investor and hard money lender I have had my share of appraisal pains.

    try these tips:
    1) get your own appraiser to pull up the valid comps BEFORE you buy so that you know that the comps you are looking at are valid and most likely will get used.
    2)try to get the buyer to use you loan broker. ours has his “own pool” of only good appraisers that will be used.
    3) meet the appraiser personally show the comps you used, and a detailed list of the repairs and their costs.
    these things really help

  9. Eugene Ninnie, PE, AIA, LEED AP on

    Your statement of ……………………MLS listings on recently solds don’t always tell the whole story. If you didn’t share the backstory with the appraiser before and you have a low comp dragging down your home appraisal, make sure they understand the reason the home sold for such a low price……………and …………Recently sold houses on our street had issues that weren’t disclosed on the MLS.

    My Questions are:

    So how do you find out about this inside information if it is not displayed on the MLS?

    How do to convince the appraiser that your “inside” information is VALID and with PROOF?

    Even if you get this information if I were an appraiser I would ask where I got it and VERIFY it or else you are just blowing bubbles with me at that point.

    I have constructively discussed issues with their appraisals but for them to change it because I said the adjacent property has various problems that were specific to this properties, the appraiser did not change the appraisal. It was like arguing with a referee AFTER he has made his decision on the call, rarely to do they revoke what they say and change that decision

    Can you kindly expand upon this

    • Mindy Jensen

      Hi Eugene.

      This is where it becomes a little tricky. Let’s talk about my statement, “Recently sold houses on our street had issues that weren’t disclosed on the MLS.”

      The home at the end of the street is commonly called Dead Harold’s house among the neighbors, because Harold died in the home. In August. And went undiscovered for 12 days. Everyone on the street knows that he died in the home. It isn’t a secret among the neighbors, but it was not disclosed on the MLS.

      The house near the front of the street had “plumbing problems” and was being sold as-is. The plumbing problems were not disclosed, but the woman selling the home had lived there for 8 years, so she had friends on the street. The plumbing problems were well known to neighbors.

      I knew both of these issues because I live on this street. But if you don’t know the street’s history, you can almost bet the neighbors do, so talk to the other people on the street if you’re trying to justify a lower sales price. Neighbors always talk.

      I’m a real estate agent, so I have access to the MLS. This is one reason why using the same agent over and over can be beneficial to you – you can ask them to run comps for you when you go to refinance.

      I think presenting the information BEFORE the appraiser has the chance to sit down and run their numbers is the best time. No, you can’t make them look at the proof you have provided, but it’s easier for them to read through the sheet beforehand, than to try to get them to go back over the appraisal after the fact.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Eugene Ninnie, PE, AIA, LEED AP on

        Good response!….It make sense. I buy houses in addition to other properties all over the US so a local broker relationship would help estabilsh this “inside neighborhood” information or just speak to the neighbors by knocking on their doors or perhaps calling them and introducing myself?

        • Mindy Jensen

          If you can get their phone number, sure thing. If you can’t, then perhaps a trip is warranted.
          The local broker will be super helpful.

  10. konstantin ginzburg

    I recently had a cash-out refinance on a 5-bedroom house. Bank’s appraiser used 2- and 3-bedrooms as comps. Naturally, appraisal came in about 30% below what we expected. We appealed the results but the bank used their own non-transparent “appeal process” upheld the original appraisal. What can be done in a situation like that?

    • Mindy Jensen

      That really stinks. I’ve taken a class called “What It’s Worth” where they teach you how to value a house when there aren’t other comps close enough. Where they show you how to determine the value of a bedroom or bathroom, then add or subtract to the subject house to get a good idea of the value.
      I’m sure you had to pay for the bad appraisal, too.
      If you’ve already tried to appeal, I think the next step is to find a new lender and try again.

      • konstantin ginzburg

        Yep, we had to pay for the appraisal so we decided it wasn’t worth it to try to find another lender. I just wanted to know what people do in situations like that so maybe I can do something different in the future. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had this experience. Thanks for the reply!

  11. I really loved that there were tips on how to fight lower home appraisals. Double checking everything might be a good thing to do even if you didn’t have a problem. I’m assuming it won’t take long either. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Leave A Reply

Pair a profile with your post!

Create a Free Account

Or,


Log In Here

css.php