The process of selling your home is quite the process. There’s paperwork, showings, inspections and the home appraisal, which is the last chance for the seller to take action to ensure their home gets the highest valuation possible. But why is a home appraisal so important? It’s because most offers you’ll receive will be contingent on the buyer acquiring financing from a mortgage lender and those lenders require the home be appraised for its value. In other words, if your home does not appraise for at least the contract price, your sale could be in jeopardy. So what can you do with your home appraisal to get a higher valuation?

While this isn’t the time to make major structural changes or renovations, many homeowners don’t know about the relatively simple things they should do to get the highest possible valuation on their home. As the No. 1 independent agent at Phoenix-based North&Co. and the founder of the Halpern Residential, I suggest the following:

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Treat the appraisal like a showing: Make sure the home is showroom ready. Turn on the lights, make sure the blinds are open, turn on the air conditioning to a comfortable temperature, have music playing, light some candles and put away the kitty’s litter box.

Make sure your agent connects with the appraiser: Your agent should be calling and talking to the appraiser or meeting them  at your house to go over things like geographic boundaries, comps in the area, a list of upgrades made in the home, the range of offers you’ve received, as well as other comps that can support your sale price. Your agent should be the first line of defense for you getting the best valuation. If the conversation doesn’t go well (and this happens), your realtor can speak with the buyer’s agent to request a new appraiser.

Declutter as much as possible: While home appraisers don’t expect your house to be empty or fully staged, and they shouldn’t knock off points because the rooms look lived-in, clutter in the home can make their jobs more difficult. Appraisers need to take photos and measurements of your space and that’s harder to do with stuff everywhere.

Pay attention to curb appeal: You’re not going to have the time to give the entire front of your home and yard a total makeover, but you can give it a quick refresh – after all, it should still be in good shape from preparing to take it to market. Take a photo of the front of your house, and then look at it objectively (or have someone you trust do the same) and see if there are any small projects that might make a big difference. A few suggestions might include laying new mulch, planting fresh flowers, mowing your lawn, raking the leaves or trimming overgrown bushes.

Make a list of your recent improvements and upgrades: Before your home appraisal make a list of everything you’ve done relatively recently to improve and upgrade your house. These can be things like having your roof replaced, getting new major appliances (that you aren’t taking with you when you leave), renovating a kitchen or bathroom, finishing or waterproofing a basement and any upgrades made to your HVAC system. In addition to preparing this list, have copies of all receipts and other supporting documentation proving that you did, in fact, make these improvements.

Have safety equipment installed and working: Make sure your smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector and other safety devices are working properly. Also, be sure to have an up-to-date fire extinguisher.

Hire an appraiser from the area: Your appraiser should come from a nearby place, ideally a 10-mile radius. That’s so they are familiar with the neighborhood. It’s a good idea for your agent to ask how long the appraiser has worked in the industry along with which data sources they use beyond the MLS.

Review the appraisal: Appraisers aren’t perfect so it’s important to review their work to verify the facts are correct. Square footage totals can vary from appraiser to appraiser.


Author: Trevor H. Halpern, J.D. is the No. 1 independent agent at Phoenix-based North&Co. and the founder of the Halpern Residential real estate group. As a Phoenix native, Halpern’s deep knowledge of both people and property has allowed him to create client success in all areas of town. As a graduate of ASU’s College of Law, Halpern prides himself on delivering high-level strategy, efficient negotiations and precise tactical execution. Since 2011, Halpern has sold over $100 million in real estate and has been in the top 1% of real estate agents in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area since 2016.