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Refinance Appraisal Checklist: 7 Ways To Prepare For Your House To Be Appraised

April 18, 2024 7-minute read

Author: Victoria Araj

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If you’re in the middle of refinancing your home or plan on starting soon, one step in the process you’ll need to be sure you understand is the refinance appraisal.

When you refinance your mortgage, you want your appraisal to come back as high as possible. Thankfully, there are a few steps that you can take to ensure this happens.

Why Are Appraisals Important When Refinancing?

Before we get into the things you can do to ensure a successful refinance appraisal, it’s important to understand the role appraisals play in a mortgage refinance.

Most lenders require appraisals when you refinance to get an accurate idea of your home’s value and make sure you’re not borrowing more than your home is worth.

Property values can change over time due to market fluctuations or even renovations you make on your own, so a new appraisal will likely be required every time you take out a new loan on your home.

However, if you have a loan from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), your lender may allow you to refinance without an appraisal.

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How To Get A High Appraisal For A Refinance

Wondering what appraisers look for in a refinance appraisal? They’re generally looking to evaluate your home’s overall condition, including:

  • Its size
  • Its location
  • Its amenities
  • Any internal and external improvements you’ve had added

While there’s not much you can do to impact factors like size and location, there are some steps you can take to ensure your home is prepared.

7 Tips For Getting A High Appraisal For A Refinance

Let’s cover a few simple tips to help you prepare for a home appraisal. Keep in mind, these tips will work best for appraisers who plan to do an in-person or drive-by appraisal, but they wouldn’t be required for a desktop appraisal.

1. Improve Your Curb Appeal

Like many homeowners, you might not spend very much time thinking about your home’s curb appeal when you spend most of your time inside. However, curb appeal can significantly increase or hurt your appraisal value, depending on the choices you make for your home’s appearance.

Before the appraisal process begins, you may want to spend time improving your home’s exterior. You can do this by mowing the lawn, power-washing your exteriors and adding some easy-to-plant flowers outside your home. You could add some decorative touches to your front porch or back patio if you believe it may add to your home’s appeal.

2. Do Some Decluttering

Clutter isn’t just annoying – it can cost you money. Clutter makes it more difficult for your appraiser to get an accurate feel for the condition of your home. It can make your rooms feel smaller and can hide improvements or renovations that you add to your home.

You’ll also want to make sure that you give your home a deep cleaning a few days before your appraisal to reduce clutter. Make sure that everything is neat, put away and in its place before your appraiser arrives.

3. Create A List Of Upgrades And Improvements

Upgrades and home improvements increase the overall value of your home. Make things a bit easier for your appraiser by compiling a file with proof of all the work you’ve done on the house since you moved in.

Did you add a central cooling system? Replace the windows? Add a privacy fence to your backyard? Include sales receipts, paid contractor invoices and zoning permits if applicable. This helps your appraiser know where to look when they consider your renovations and upgrades.

Real Estate Fixtures

Keep in mind that home appraisers will only consider permanent upgrades – sometimes known as real estate fixtures – you’ve made to your home when determining your appraised value.

Generally, if you can take something you’ve added along with you when you move out, it won’t count toward your appraisal. Purely aesthetic choices – like painting your living room walls – won’t add to your value, but making your home look nice and feel larger can subconsciously impact your appraiser’s assessment.

4. Research Comparables

Comparables – or “comps” – are homes in your area that are similar to yours. Usually, comps will be:

  • The same number of bedrooms as your home
  • The same number of bathrooms as your home
  • In a similar location to your home
  • A similar overall square footage as your home
  • A similar age as your home
  • A similar type of home

Research comparables to help you get a better idea of what your home is worth and if you can expect a good appraisal. You can also use this information to contest your appraisal if the final number comes back lower than expected.

Visit your local county offices or website to find out which properties sold in the last 6 months. You can also use online real estate databases to compare properties in your area. Compare properties that are like yours and make note of their final selling prices.

5. Make Sure Everything Works

Your appraiser won’t walk around your home testing light switches and outlets, but you should make sure that all of your home’s major systems – including plumbing and HVAC – are functional. Go through your home with this checklist and make sure that everything is working:

  • Run your heating and cooling systems. Time how long it takes for your home to reach the requested temperature.

  • Engage your home’s security system. Make sure that only the correct code arms and disarms the system.

  • Open and close all of your home’s windows. Look for cracks and warping near your window bases. Lock and unlock each window.

  • Test your kitchen appliances. Run your dishwasher with dirty dishes and make sure they come out clean. Heat up your oven and use the burners.

  • Run your ceiling fans. Turn them on and off and pay attention to how long it takes for your fan to start and stop.

  • Check your water and drains. Make sure that hot water flows from the appropriate faucets, kitchen sinks and bathtubs drain efficiently, and toilets flush completely.

Schedule a repair before your appraisal if you notice that something doesn’t work.

6. Invest In Small Upgrades

You don’t have time to add another room or install a patio in your backyard if you have an appraiser coming to your home in a few weeks. However, there are plenty of small upgrades you can make to your home that can increase your overall home value.

Use these affordable and quick ideas to get started:

  • Replace your hardware. Handles on cabinets and drawers can become rusty or stained over time. Replacing them is easy but can add tons of aesthetic value to your home.

  • Remodel your ceiling. If you have an outdated popcorn ceiling, you can add aesthetic value to your home by removing the popcorn texture so that your space looks more modern. This or other ceiling renovations typically score you a higher market value if you decide to sell.

  • Add a kitchen backsplash. A kitchen backsplash is a fun and personal way to improve the look and feel of your kitchen. If you don’t want to deal with grout or a heavy investment, you can use a peel-and-stick backsplash to add a little more color to your kitchen.

If you have a little more time on your hands, you can consider more intensive renovations like adding in hardscaping to your yard or replacing old appliances. If you’re planning to refinance in the next 6 months to a year, you should review past appraisal reports and address any problems that lowered the value of your home.

However, be 100% positive that these renovations will finish before your appraisal. The last thing you want is for your home to be a construction zone on the day your appraiser arrives.

7. Do Some Last-Minute Preparations

On the day of your appraisal, you’ll want to do everything that you can to help your appraisal go smoothly – you can even attend your own appraisal, which is one of the main differences between a refinance and a purchase appraisal.

Here are some things you can do a few days before your appraisal and on the big day to maximize your home’s value.

  • Take the day off work. Check your schedule and make sure you’ll be able to be home for your appraisal. Ask your spouse or trusted family member to help guide the appraiser if you can’t get the day off.

  • Make plans for your children and pets. Arrange for children to be out with a family member or a friend on the day of the appraisal along with any pets to keep them entertained and out of the way of the appraiser. If you cannot arrange for any pet sitting, make sure that your pets are in their carriers or crates and are calmly quiet.

  • Write down a few notes to jog your memory. You’ll want to make sure that your appraiser sees all of your home’s best attributes. Make a short list of your home’s most charming characteristics and keep it on you to point them out when the day arrives.

  • Do some light cleaning. On the morning of your appraisal, do one final run of cleaning and decluttering your home as much as possible. This will make sure there aren’t any surprises that you could have missed during your initial cleaning beforehand.

  • Set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature. Be sure your thermostat is set to a comfortable temperature on appraisal day so they won’t be too hot or too cold. This can help your appraiser subconsciously associate your home with comfort.

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The Bottom Line

You should prepare your home for the best possible refinance appraisal. Make sure that your home’s appliances and systems work and that your home’s exterior looks great. Invest in a few small upgrades, do some decluttering and make plans for your children and pets before the appraisal.

Finally, research comparable properties and create a list of everything you’ve improved in your home for your appraiser. All these factors working in conjunction can help improve your final appraisal value.

Ready to refinance? You can determine your home’s refinancing potential and what options are available to you when you start an application online with Rocket Mortgage® today.

Victoria Araj

Victoria Araj is a Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage and held roles in mortgage banking, public relations and more in her 15+ years with the company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in political science from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan.