A home appraisal is similar to a home inspection in that both examine the condition of your house.

There are various reasons your home could be appraised, including a home sale or refinance valuation. The lender for the transaction - your loan provider for a refinance and the buyer's for a sale - will be responsible for setting up the appraisal. It will hire a third-party company, which helps ensure the appraiser gives an unbiased report.

A certified or licensed expert will visit your property and conduct a walkthrough. He or she will look at the exterior and interior structures to note the condition and quality of the house. This information, along with sketches and details about comparable home values in your community, will be put into a report.

Getting a favorable appraisal can make all the difference in a home sale. If the appraiser's calculation comes in lower than your asking price, the buyer's lender may not offer enough financing to make up the difference. In this case, you may have to lower your sale price to keep the buyer from walking away.

Preparation is key to a good appraisal

Similar to how you can prepare for a home inspection to lower the chance of an unfavorable report, you can get your home in order and certain documentation together to increase the likelihood of a positive appraisal. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Make home improvements. Have you considered updating your kitchen and bathrooms before selling your home? If so, get this step done before the appraisal process. These upgrades can increase the value of your home and will be noted by the appraiser.
  • Save all renovation documentation. Any paperwork that serves as a record of improvements to permanent structures in your home can be presented to the appraiser during the walkthrough. Although you're not allowed to bribe the expert, the law does not prohibit you from pointing out upgrades and supporting documents during the assessment.
  • Provide information on comps. You can present your own documentation that notes comparable prices in your area to ensure the appraiser has the most accurate data possible. Also, feel free to mention nearby amenities that boost home value. For this and the previous tip, be careful not to crowd the appraiser too much while providing your evidence so as to avoid annoying him or her.
  • Take care of maintenance. No imperfection will go unnoticed during the appraisal. Take some time to clean up your home's interior and exterior. Appraisers begin their valuation outside, so curb appeal is important. Remove clutter in the interior and scrub, sweep, mop and wipe down all surfaces. Attend to small repairs such as loose door handles and burned-out light bulbs, and consider investing some money into larger repairs such as damaged carpet.

Go with an experienced appraiser

In addition to following the aforementioned tips, take some time to make certain you're getting the most competent appraiser possible. You can't request that the lender send a specific individual to appraise your home, but you are allowed to request a licensed or certified individual who is familiar with properties in your community.

Having an experienced professional can reduce the amount of work you have to do. If, for instance, an appraiser has assessed a few homes in your area, he or she probably already knows the school district is among the best in the nation and there are numerous public parks. Talk to the lender arranging the appraisal, as you don't want to risk your home sale falling through.