Selling your home is a long journey, but it doesn’t end with accepting an offer. Unless your buyer is paying in cash, the lender is going to want to make sure that the house is really worth the price that you’ve agreed on—and a home appraiser is the one who’ll come check out your house and make that decision. If the appraiser thinks your house isn’t worth the agreed-upon price, the lender won’t give your buyer full funding and the deal might fall through.
With so much on the line, can you woo this home appraiser? Not with flowers—or even a wink and a nudge toward some cash casually left on the dining room table. But can an impeccably clean home dazzle that disinterested real estate professional into valuing your house higher than if it were a pigpen?
Put in Some Elbow Grease
Jennifer Chateauvert of San Jose, CA, and her husband spent two weeks deep-cleaning their home from top to bottom in anticipation of its appraisal, and she’s convinced it paid off.
“The appraisal came back much higher than we had even hoped,” Chateauvert says.
Was it just coincidence, or did that glow of cleanliness tilt the scales?
“Appraisers are normal people. When they see something that looks nice and looks clean and presents well, they’ll have a better impression of the property. But that won’t affect the appraisal value,” says Donald Boucher, president of the appraisal firm Boucher & Boucher in Washington, DC, and an appraiser with over 40 years of experience.
But agents see it a different way.
“Having your house clean does make a difference, even though in theory it should not,” says Mark Ferguson, a Realtor® and property investor in Greeley, CO. “Appraisers are people, and they are swayed by smells and how a house feels, even if they aren’t conscious of it.”
Hand in Your Homework
Your Realtor should be encouraging you to do more than just a deep cleaning. Together, create a list of all upgrades and notable features (especially things that don’t leap out, like underground drainage systems or newly installed HVAC systems). Then your Realtor should be attending the appraisal to gently guide your appraiser through the property, pointing out upgrades.
“I want to know everything that the agent or owner wants to tell me about,” Boucher says. He cites an example of a DC row house he recently appraised. “I can’t see the roof. It’d be nice if the person can tell me if they replaced or upgraded the roof,” he says.
Set the Mood
Choose very carefully what your home’s first impression should be. Chateauvert chose to start with the worst. While they had made a ton of home improvements to the front of the home and the interior, the backyard “still needs a ton of work,” she says. So she showed the appraiser the backyard before showing him the fresh interior.
Once inside, the inspector commented on the improvements the couple clearly had made.
“Some say the first impression is best, but maybe it’s better to tell the story visually of the impact your improvements have made,” she says.
Chateauvert also hired cleaners to do a full scrub, spot-cleaned the walls, scraped away peeling paint, and touched up paint. Her living room has a quartz fireplace, so before the appraiser showed up she shined a halogen light on the mantel, letting it sparkle.
Comps and Cookies
While you’re showing off your home’s worth, it’s also beneficial to point out the competition. You know—comparable properties, also known as comps. Boucher says that while he has full access to the MLS and other programs, the software may not be perfect.
Your agent should be showing up to the appraisal fully prepared. I personally like to come with a packet of comparables, appreciation information in the area, a list of upgrades/updates. I put together a very clear, concise package that supports the contract price. In my opinion if your agent isn’t doing this they aren’t doing their job to the best of their ability.
So if you can clean your house and have your agent meet the appraiser with pre-prepared information and comparables, you should be able to squeeze every bit of value from an appraisal.