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How to Prepare for an Appraisal

For homeowners, a real estate appraisal is the linchpin to buying or selling their home. It allows the property transactions to occur among the buyer, seller, real estate agent and mortgage lender.

Before an Appraiser arrives, there are a few things you should know. By law, an appraiser must be state licensed or certified to perform appraisals prepared for federally related transactions. Also by law, you are entitled to receive a copy of the completed appraisal report from your lender.

To facilitate the appraisal process, it's beneficial to have these documents ready for the appraiser:

  • A plot plan or survey of the house and land (if readily available).  For homesin Harris County, the appraiser can ordinarily find this informaiton online.  Other counties surrounding Harris are not as forthcoming in providing this information.
  • Information on the latest purchase of the property in the last three years
  • Written property agreements, such as a maintenance agreement for a shared driveway
  • List of personal property to be sold with the home
  • Title policy that describes encroachments or easements
  • Most recent real estate tax bill and or legal description of the property
  • Home inspection reports, or other recent reports for termites, EIFS (synthetic stucco) wall systems, septic systems and wells
  • "Brag sheet" that lists major home improvements and upgrades, the date of their installation and their cost (for example, the addition of central air conditioning or roof repairs) and permit confirmation (if available)
  • Information on "Homeowners Associations" or condominium covenants and fees.
  • A list of "Proposed" improvements if the property is to be appraised "As Complete".

Once your appraiser has arrived, you do not need to accompany her along on the site inspection, but you should be available by phone to answer questions about your property and be willing to point out any home improvements.

Here are some other suggestions:

  • Accessibility: Make sure that all areas of the home are accessible, especially to the attic and crawl space
  • Housekeeping: Appraisers see hundreds of homes a year and will look past most clutter, but anything that obstructs the view of an interior or exterior wall can sometimes require an additional inspection.
  • Maintenance: Repair minor things like leaky faucets, missing door handles and trim
  • FHA Inspection Items: If your borrower is applying for an FHA/VA loan, be sure to ask your appraiser if there are specific things that should be done before they come. Some items they may recommend might be: Install smoke detectors on all levels (especially near bedrooms); install handrails on all stairways; remove peeling paint and repaint the effected area.
  • All utilities should be turned on and the water heater turned on.  Though only FHA requires this, many lenders have begun requiring full utility inspections for conventional loans as well.