How important is the cosmetic condition of a house in an appraisal?

When selling your home owners are told all the time to work on the “curb appeal” because it will help the home sell. I was asked recently how much painting the home added to its value, or for that matter any other cosmetic type improvement. It was a very good question but the answer I gave was probably not the one they were looking for because I replied “it depends”.

I didn’t mean to be evasive but it really does depend. “It depends” is usually my go to answer because value depends on a lot of different factors, including the one that most people have heard of, and that is location. Where a home is located is probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest factor, in determining the value of a house. How much an improvement contributes to value depends on how important it is to the people in the area. Sometimes pools are important, other times basements are important, and it is the job of the appraiser to determine if the improvement contributes value and how much value it is. Cosmetic improvements are a little more evasive in determining value than things like additional bedrooms, bathrooms, an extra garage, or other similar item.

cosmetic improvements

Cosmetic improvements can include such things as paint, some landscaping, interior trim, small repair items (broken window, damaged gutter,etc), among other things. Unlike the above mentioned home features that are easier to place a value on, cosmetic improvements do contribute to value but the exact amount may be more difficult to pin down. I explain to homeowners that appraisers are required to use a minimum of three closed sales that meet lender time of sale, distance, and adjustment percentage guidelines, in addition to listings and pending sales. These comparables provide a range of value that the appraiser then uses to reconcile a final opinion of value. Many factors are taken into consideration when reconciling this value including current supply and demand, desirability of the area, and condition of the property.

Cosmetic improvements effect the condition of the property so if a home has great curb appeal and has been painted (as well as other cosmetic improvements) then the upper end of the value range may be supported because potential buyers may be more willing to pay a little more for its good condition if everything else is equal. Cosmetic improvements will never be given more consideration than substantial improvements like additional square footage or kitchen and bath remodels, but they do contribute to value in the way I just described. I am finding in today’s market that cosmetic improvements are very important because it has become the norm. In an effort to compete and sell their home many homeowners are going all out to make their home as appealing as possible and this has made it a necessity for home sellers.

Have you found what I described to be similar in your area? What type of cosmetic improvements do you see sellers making? Leave me a message I’d like to hear from you.

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Comments

  1. Well said, Tom. This is a good post. It really depends on the market as the condition of the house tends to mean more or less to buyers depending on how competitive the market is. Buyers are willing to ignore some cosmetic issues an an upward moving market, but these same issues will sometimes warrant a price reduction in a declining market.

    • Good point Ryan. Depending on the type of market we are in buyers will view cosmetic improvements, or lack of, differently. Thanks for pointing that out.

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