What Exactly Does An Appraiser Look For?

An appraiser inspecting the interior of a house

A real estate appraisal plays a crucial role in determining the value of a property, particularly in the context of securing a mortgage. Understanding what appraisers consider, the associated costs, and steps to optimize your home’s appeal can significantly influence the outcome of the appraisal process. Let’s delve deeper into these aspects to ensure you’re well-prepared for your property appraisal.

A family meeting with a real estate appraiser

What Are Appraisers Seeking? Tips to Ready Your Home for Evaluation

When you’re in the process of buying a home, you might be curious about what goes on during the appraisal phase. Home appraisals are a key component of the home buying process for both buyers and sellers. When the appraiser arrives at the property, it’s important to understand that their primary goal is to assess and determine the value of the home. This evaluation plays a vital role in the overall home buying experience.

In this article, we’ll delve into the various elements of an appraisal process. The role of an appraiser encompasses evaluating the condition of the property, examining recently sold comparable homes in the vicinity, and considering any home improvements that might impact the property’s overall value. Plus, we’ll shed light on how these factors interplay to determine an accurate valuation.

Appraisers provide their expert assessment to arrive at the appraised value, drawing on a range of factors analyzed within the property. Understanding these key elements is crucial to grasp the appraisal process fully. From scrutinizing the property’s condition to evaluating market trends and comparable sales data, each aspect contributes to the final valuation determination.

When an appraiser determines that the home’s value falls short of the buyer’s offer, it creates what’s referred to as an appraisal gap, posing a challenge for both parties involved. To navigate this situation effectively, seeking guidance from a reliable real estate agent is advisable. They can offer valuable insights and assist in finding a viable solution that benefits both the buyer and seller.

Amidst the fluctuations of the current real estate market, buyers are adopting savvy strategies to shield themselves from potential setbacks. One such strategy gaining momentum is the implementation of appraisal addendums. These addendums serve as a safety net for buyers, providing a layer of protection in case of appraisal discrepancies. In the following sections, we’ll explore the ins and outs of appraisal addendums and how they can be utilized to navigate the complexities of real estate transactions.

An appraiser talking with clients about a property valuation

What Are Appraisers Searching For?

Let’s delve into what appraisers consider when evaluating properties. Beginning with the exterior, it’s standard procedure for appraisers to inspect this crucial aspect of your home. They may even venture into the crawlspace, if available, to assess moisture levels and any potential water accumulation. During this inspection, they’ll also scrutinize the condition of wooden beams for signs of pests, moisture-related deterioration, mold growth, or indications of rodent or cockroach presence.

After completing the crawl space assessment, appraisers typically proceed to inspect the foundation and siding of the house, paying close attention to any signs of cracking or structural damage. It’s essential to keep all locks unlocked during the appraisal process to facilitate easy access for the appraiser. This ensures they can carry out their duties efficiently and conduct thorough due diligence without any unnecessary delays that might affect your timeline.

Appraisers may also take measurements of your property and assess your landscaping. They consider whether your home is situated in an aesthetically pleasing environment or if it faces challenges such as proximity to a busy highway with significant road noise. These external factors can significantly influence the appraised value of your home, either positively or negatively. It’s crucial to understand that the appraisal isn’t solely about the house itself; its surroundings play a vital role in determining its value.

Square footage is a critical factor that strongly influences the appraised value of a home. The appraiser typically arranges an appointment with the seller to gain access to the house for measuring and assessing its interior. It’s essential for sellers to be prepared to accommodate this appointment, as accurate measurements and evaluation of the interior space are crucial aspects of the appraisal process.

After obtaining the necessary measurements, the appraiser will proceed to count the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Additionally, they’ll take inventory of any additional features such as a formal dining room, a screened-in porch, or a wood-burning fireplace in the living room.

All these factors collectively contribute to the final appraised value of your home. While conducting their assessment, appraisers take note of various details within the property. They might observe the type of appliances present, whether it’s a gas or electric stove, and if the appliances are stainless steel or black.

Furthermore, appraisers inspect for leaks from sinks, dishwasher, showers, and tubs, as well as check for any toilet leaks. Any issues identified during the inspection can potentially impact the appraisal negatively. Therefore, if you conduct your inspections beforehand, it provides insight into how well your home will appraise.

Lastly, if your home has an attic, appraisers will inspect it, and they’ll likely assess the functionality of your HVAC systems to ensure they are operating correctly. These meticulous examinations ensure a comprehensive evaluation of your property’s worth.

A person counting money at a desk

How Much Will You Pay for an Appraisal?

The cost of hiring an appraiser can vary significantly depending on your location within the country. Typically, appraisals range from around $800 to $900, influenced by factors such as the size of the home and the complexity of the appraisal process. It’s essential to budget for this expense, as the appraisal fee is typically due before closing. Being prepared for this upfront cost is crucial as part of the buying process.

A person in a blue coat checking his watch

What’s the Duration for an Appraisal Process, and When Will You Receive the Appraised Value?

Surprisingly, the time appraisers spend at a property is often shorter than anticipated, typically ranging between 30 to 60 minutes. However, this duration may vary depending on the size of the house and its condition. Generally, sellers can anticipate the appraiser completing their evaluations within an hour.

Following the onsite assessment, the appraiser will conduct a final analysis and prepare the appraisal report for the lender. The turnaround time for this process typically falls within 7 to 10 days. It’s advisable to consult your lender regarding expected timelines, as these can vary depending on the institution you’re working with to secure your loan.

A couple reviewing the documents provided by the appraiser

What Steps Should I Take to Prepare My Home for the Appraiser?

It’s important for sellers to understand that there are several steps they can take to prepare their home for the appraiser’s visit. It’s crucial to remember that the outcome of the appraisal can impact you negatively if your home doesn’t appraise for the amount your buyers have offered.

When you receive sufficient notice of the appraisal appointment, it’s advisable to start compiling a list of documentation and simple tasks to ensure your home is ready. This proactive approach can help enhance the impression your home makes on the appraiser and increase the likelihood of a favorable appraisal outcome.

To streamline your appraisal appointment, it’s essential to gather the following information and have it readily accessible:

  1. Your recent property tax bill.
  2. A copy of your contract to sell your home.
  3. If available, a copy of the inspection report.
  4. A copy of your survey, if you have one.
  5. Your Title Policy paperwork.
  6. A comprehensive list detailing all upgrades and improvements made to your property; provide specific details whenever possible.

Before your appraisal appointment, it’s crucial to allocate time to complete the following tasks:

  1. Thoroughly clean and organize your home to allow the appraiser to move freely without obstruction.
  2. Conduct a thorough inspection of your home, checking for any issues such as leaky faucets, toilets, bathtubs, or showers, loose door handles, peeling paint, cracked grout or tile, and loose hinges.
  3. Clear any clutter, especially in areas like the attic or crawl space where pests may hide.
  4. Ensure that railings are sturdy and free from any safety concerns.
  5. Test and replace batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors as needed. Confirm that each floor has at least one operational smoke detector.
  6. Enhance your home’s exterior appearance by tidying up the landscaping. Consider laying fresh mulch and fertilizing the lawn to demonstrate proper maintenance and increase curb appeal. A well-maintained exterior can positively influence the overall appraised value of your home.
A minature model house with keys

The Comparable Properties the Appraiser Will Utilize for Your Home

This aspect of the appraisal process is unpredictable because we cannot anticipate which properties will be selected for comparison. Typically, appraisals involve homes that are in close proximity to yours, with similar numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, situated on comparable acreage, and constructed around the same period.

To illustrate, let’s consider an example to provide insight into the appraiser’s approach:

Your home, currently under contract for $400,000, is a three-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom two-story single-family residence with a two-car garage situated on a half-acre lot. During the appraisal process, the appraiser will focus on identifying recently sold three-bedroom properties in close proximity to your home.

Upon investigation, the appraiser discovers that two homes on your street have been sold within the last six months, and both were constructed in the same year as your property.

One comparable property, Comparable 1, is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom two-story single-family home with a one-car garage situated on a quarter-acre lot. It was sold three months ago for $375,000.

The second comparable property, Comparable 2, is a three-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom ranch-style home featuring a two-car garage and located on a three-quarter-acre lot. It was sold five months ago for $415,000.
After reviewing these two comparable properties, the appraiser will assess whether adjustments need to be made to bring the contracted home’s value in line with the offered price. It’s possible that the contracted home could be deemed worth more or less than the offered amount.

This is where the importance of upgrades and home maintenance comes into play. Keeping your home well-maintained, with upgrades and fresh paint, can positively impact its perceived value by the appraiser. Upgrades such as renovated kitchens or bathrooms, updated flooring, or enhanced landscaping can contribute to a higher appraisal value.

It’s important to note that the appraiser won’t solely rely on these two comparable properties. Typically, they will consider a range of three to seven comparable properties, with a minimum of three, to arrive at a comprehensive assessment of the contracted home’s value.

A couple talking with an appraiser

What Are Your Options If Your Home Appraises Lower Than Expected?

When a home doesn’t appraise at the expected value, it can raise legitimate concerns for the buyer. In such cases, reaching a mutually agreeable solution becomes crucial.

If the home consistently appraises below the agreed-upon purchase price, the seller may opt to lower the price to match the appraised value. This adjustment can occur as necessary or may be stipulated in the contract. Appraisal addendums serve as a contingency plan in case of appraisal discrepancies. These addendums outline the terms, typically drafted by the home buyer, to address the situation if the home fails to appraise as expected.

In scenarios where inventory is low and competition among buyers intensifies, a buyer might propose a unique approach to negotiating the purchase price. While traditionally buyers may request sellers to lower the price to match the appraised value, in competitive markets, an alternative strategy may emerge. This approach involves an appraisal addendum where the buyer offers to pay a predetermined amount over the appraised value, with a specified cap. For instance, the addendum could stipulate that if the home doesn’t appraise at the contracted amount, the buyer agrees to pay up to $20,000 over the appraised value.

Pro tip: Sellers often feel relieved when buyers are proactive and inform them in advance that they have the extra funds to reach the closing table. This gesture can ease the process for both parties. Remember this important tip, home buyers! It can make a significant difference in your home-buying experience.


Understanding the appraisal process is vital for both buyers and sellers alike. From comprehending what appraisers look for to preparing your home adequately, every step can significantly impact the outcome of the valuation. By familiarizing yourself with these aspects, you empower yourself to navigate the appraisal process with confidence and ensure a smoother home-buying or selling experience.

Preparation is key, whether you’re a buyer anticipating an appraisal to secure your mortgage or a seller aiming to ensure your property’s value is accurately assessed. By following the outlined steps, such as gathering necessary documentation, completing minor repairs, and enhancing your home’s overall presentation, you increase the likelihood of a favorable appraisal outcome.

Remember, the appraisal not only determines the property’s value but also influences the transaction’s progress. Should your home not appraise for the expected value, understanding your options and engaging in open communication with all parties involved is essential. Whether it involves renegotiating the price or exploring appraisal addendums, finding a mutually beneficial solution is paramount.

As you embark on your home-buying or selling journey, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Block Appraisals for expert guidance and support throughout the appraisal process. We’re here to assist you every step of the way, ensuring a seamless experience and helping you achieve your real estate goals.

A professional appraiser in his office

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