7 Appraisal tips for the new year to save money or help the value of your home

Appraisal tips every homeowner can use

Having been a real estate appraiser for over 25 years I’ve ran into situations where homeowners can save money or improve the value of their home by just doing a few simple things. Today I want to share with you some appraisal tips that anyone can use and that are simple to do, so lets get started.

1) Verify with county records the correct square footage of your home- Homeowners are more likely to act on appraisal tips that are easy so I’ll start off with this one. I’ve seen countless times where the county records has incorrectly reported the square footage of a home to be larger than it actually is. One of the criteria that the county uses to calculate your property taxes is based on the living area of your house, so the larger it is the more you propery taxes will be.

There are several ways for you to verify the accuracy of the living area the county shows. You can find out what theyAppraisal tips have by looking it up online or calling your local tax assessor. After you know what the county shows you then compare it to any recent appraisals you may have had through a refinance or when you purchased your home.

If you have not had an appraisal done recently or have lost it you may be able to call the appraiser to get the information if you know their phone number. If that is not an option you can hire an appraiser to measure your home to get the square footage. If there’s a strong reason to believe the county is wrong this may be a good investment.

2) Get a prelisting appraisal if you’re selling- If your home is not priced correctly, and to the market, two things can happen. The first thing is that if your home is priced too low then you can leave money on the table. You may sell it quickly but that should not always be the main goal. Your goal should be to sell it for what it is worth within a reasonable amount of time.

The opposite of pricing it too low is pricing it too high. One of the main reasons a home does not sell within a reasonable amount of time is that it is overpriced. Pricing it too high from the beginning can create issues further down the line. It may stay on the market for an extended period of time and then when the price is lowered it may create a feeling that the seller is either desperate or that something is wrong with the house

A prelisting appraisal will help you determine what the best price is by taking a look at what other similar homes have sold for in addition to comparing it to what other similar homes are currently listed at. After all, potential buyers will be doing the same thing. They will be comparing what your home offers compared to others while at the same time looking at what each is listed at.

3) Consult with an appraiser when making large home improvements to make sure you’re not over building- Many homeowners, in their haste and excitement to make improvements to their home, will not take the time to determine if the renovations they are doing will be a good investment, however of all the appraisal tips I’ve included this is one that can cost you the most money.

The cost of improvements do not always translate to an equal increase in the market value of your home. Many homeowners incorrectly believe that if you spend $10,000 on your home then you will get this much back when selling it.

Some of the larger types of improvements that may not provide a positive return on your investment include building a new addition to your home, adding an inground pool and outdoor living area, or even finishing off a basement into livable space. You could end up spending an excessive amount of money and then find out you only get a small part of that back.

The best course of action to take would be to provide a complete list of of the proposed improvements and drawings, including cost of construction, to an appraiser so that the appraiser can do a subject to appraisal to see how the improvements, as completed, compare to what other homes have recently sold for.

With the appraisal you can see how much the home is worth as of the date of the appraisal, taking into consideration the improvements. This way you can make an informed decision as to whether you want to move forward with the improvements. You may find out that some of the materials or finishes you are using are not typical in your area so buyers will not pay more for them.

4) Keep a list of recent improvements to your home for the appraiser- In order to get the most accurate appraisal it’s important that the appraiser have the most complete and up to date information on your home.

One of the appraisal tips I like to give both agents and homeowners it to keep an accurate list of the significant improvements that you have made to your home. The next time you need an appraisal you can provide this information to the appraiser and they will have the most accurate information on your home to include in their opinion of value.

5) If you must believe in Zillow then at least update your information- Zillow has gotten a bad wrap over the years because of their grossly inaccurate “zestimates”, and rightly so. I’ve written about how to check on the accuracy of Zillow in your area to show you how wild their zestimates can get. Their zestimates are usually wrong because of the inaccurate physical data, such as square footage.

Zillow has quite extensive data on home sales and price trends, however there is a breakdown when they start providing value estimates. It is my opinion that the lack of accurate square footage information and other physical data contributes to their inaccuracy.

My advice is to change your Zillow information with more accurate data that you have available to you. By doing this the value they show will reflect the most accurate information. You can get accurate information on square footage from an old appraisal and the other information to update are things such as bedroom and bath count that you have first hand knowledge of. This should help make your zestimate more accurate, but again just take it with a grain of salt.

6) Invest a little money in cosmetic repairs to improve the curb appeal of your home- Of all the appraisal tips I’ve included this will probably cost you the most but you will still get a good return on your money. Improving the curb appeal of your home will put it in a better light either to an appraiser performing an appraisal for the bank, or to potential buyers if you are selling.

Examples of this type of improvement include painting, repairing broken windows, fixing gutters that may have come loose from your home, or even improving landscaping with some fresh flowers or shrubs. The money you spend will usually be far less than the value you will receive.

7) Appeal your property taxes- If you take my advice with tip #1 and verify the square footage of  your house you may find that the county shows your house to be bigger than it actually is. If this is the case you can appeal your property taxes on the basis that they are taxing you on the wrong amount of square footage.

One way to prove your case to the county is to provide evidence that it is smaller. This can be done either through a floor plan sketch or a full blown appraisal that shows market evidence that the home is not worth what they say it is. A floorplan sketch may be all you need but if your home is overvalued for other reasons as well then a full appraisal would be your best bet. Call me if I can answer any questions about this type of appraisal.

Have any questions about these appraisal tips?

Do any of these appraisal tips sound like they may be helpful to you? If you have any questions about these tips or others leave me a message below and I’ll do my best to answer them for you. If you’ve used these tips to your benefit I’d like to hear your story as other readers may be able to benefit from your story. As always, thanks for reading.

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  1. Tom, Happy 2016 to you. Nice post and tips to give the homeowners things to consider for the New Year.

  2. Happy New Year, Tom. These are good tips. I particularly like the one on not over-building for the neighborhood. Cost certainly does not equal value (though it almost always does on reality TV shows). 🙂

    • Thanks Ryan, I hope this gives people food for thought for the new year. I always wonder how they come up with their amount of return on improvements as well. 🙂

  3. Great post Tom. As an appraiser, I know those are all great tips. I never plan to sell, but who knows what happens in life? Based on your recommendation, I will update my information Zillow. It sounds fun.


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