What do appraisers look for? Myths Debunked.
A recent phone call had a question from a homeowner that went something like this, "I read online that drawers not having knobs can affect your appraisal, is that true?" I was honestly flabbergasted and asked, "Did an appraiser write that?" It got me thinking, what myths are floating on the internet, and how can I help debunk them? Today, I'll tackle the top google search result for "What does an appraiser look for?"
The above screenshot is taken from Homelight.com and has a handy video... that is full of problems. They interview a real estate agent to determine what an appraiser looks for. This should be the first, enormous red flag to take everything else in the video with some suspicion.
"The home appraisal happens within a week of accepting the offer..." Half True
IF you're not going through an AMC, the property is not complex, the lender isn't trying to shop around for the lowest fee possible, and the volume in the area is typical - then yes. If any of those is false, expect that to be up to two weeks.
"Angieslist says the cost of an appraisal is $300-400..." MYTH
If you're getting an incompetent appraiser, or your home is in a cookie-cutter neighborhood, perhaps. The Veteran's Administration fee for a standard appraisal for the state of Virginia is $550.
The video then moves on to things to do to get ready for the appraisal:
"Clean up your yard." MYTH
Except in the most extreme of cases, this will make no difference.
"Touch up exterior paint. Appraisers will factor peeling paint..." Half True
IF the peeling paint is extreme OR you have accepted an FHA/USDA/VA loan contingency, then yes. However, "touch up" on a non-FHA/USDA/VA loan won't impact value.
"Deep clean your home, like you did for showings." MYTH
If you already deep cleaned your home for showings, then this is a waste of time. The appraiser's job is to evaluate the home as empty and broom clean.
"Make sure your agent advocates for you." Half True
The appraiser can not discuss opinions or conclusions in the appraisal process with anyone other than their client (the lender) so the appraiser can not speak to these issues with the agent, and in some cases, this could flirt the line into breaking federal guidelines of appraiser independence. Your agent SHOULD be prepared to answer questions that the appraiser asks. Your agent should NOT contact the appraiser directly with questions about value - but rather refer them to the lender.
"Be nice to the appraiser." Well, yeah...
The video however goes on to say offer the appraiser a cookie or beverage. I know of no appraiser who will accept these offers, however, as the "acceptance of gifts" is an easy way to lose your license.
"They [appraisers] don't take a lot of the upgrades into that much consideration." MYTH
The "quality" line in the appraisal form used in lending transactions takes this into consideration. It is a part of every appraisal.
"...Low Appraisal..." Myth
By definition, this is not a thing. An appraiser is the only person qualified by the state and federal government to determine the market value of a home. The appraiser may have errors or may have not been produced competently, but these are material facts that can challenge the appraisal to be redone or tossed out completely. IF you have no material facts with which to challenge the validity of the appraisal, then what you have is a "High Offer." Real estate agents receive 0 hours of regulated training or education in how to value real estate. A newly minted appraiser has received 200 hours of education and 1,500 hours of experience before taking a state exam on real estate valuation. While you might have received an appraisal with errors, and it is well within your rights to ask questions, seek to understand the appraisal on its own terms before you being a reconsideration of value. In my years of experience, 99% of properties provided are not comparable to the subject property under review (I've been given properties that are new construction for homes that are 40 years old, homes that are 150% bigger, etc). IF you are convinced that there are better comparables, you should evaluate them carefully before submitting them.
The remainder of the page is an interview of an appraiser from St. Petersburg Florida and is accurate. It would have been nice if the video had represented what an appraiser actually looks for.