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

Victoria Araj8-minute read

August 04, 2023


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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 improve your chances of a successful refinance appraisal.

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 refinancing to get an accurate idea of your home’s value to ensure you’re not borrowing more than your home is worth. You’ll also need to know how much home equity you have if you’re hoping to do a cash-out refinance. 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.

That said, 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.

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, location, amenities and improvements, both inside and out.

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. Let’s cover a few simple ways to prepare for a home 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. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Mow Your Lawn

Look at your yard and mow when your grass is more than 3 inches tall. Use sharp lawnmower blades to prevent tearing and to help keep your grass healthy. In the summer, leave your grass a bit longer so the seeds can shade the roots. This will help keep your lawn green and lush.

Plant Flowers Strategically

Blooming flowers can be a massive asset when it comes to your property aesthetics. Research easy-to-plant flowers that are native to your local climate and plant them a few weeks before your appraisal. Remember to water and mulch your plants as often as necessary to keep them looking bright.

Touch Up Any Patio Accents

Curb appeal isn’t only about landscaping – anything you display in your front lawn will affect the overall value of the home. Take care of the furniture on your patio, as well as any seat cushions. Also, power wash your siding, walkways and fencing to maximize curb appeal.

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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. Here are a few ways you can declutter in each of your home’s major rooms:

In The Bedroom

Clothing causes the majority of clutter in most bedrooms. Make sure that all your clothing has a defined “home,” be it in a closet, armoire or chest. Consider donating unworn items to a local charity or shelter.

In The Kitchen

Clear clutter off your countertops to make your kitchen look larger. Store appliances in cabinets, and make sure dishes are clean and put away on the day of your appraisal. You may also want to consider touching up backsplashes, paint or wallpaper if needed.

In The Living Room

Living rooms often suffer from a lack of good lighting and proper use of the space. Rearrange your furniture and see which option makes the room look larger. Do you have too much furniture? Consider getting rid of a piece or two by making a donation or selling it for some extra cash. Swap out old light bulbs for brighter choices and hang a mirror to give your living room the illusion of more space.

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.

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. They usually have the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms as your home, are in a similar location and have a similar overall square footage. 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 and find out which properties sold in the last 6 months. Compare properties that are like yours and make note of their final selling prices. You can also use online real estate databases to compare properties in your area.

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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 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 takes little more than an afternoon but can add tons of aesthetic value to your home.

Remodel Your Ceiling

Is your home a relic of the '80s? Chances are, you have a popcorn ceiling. You can add aesthetic value to your home by removing the popcorn texture so that your space looks more modern. While removing a popcorn ceiling can get messy at times, it’s a relatively inexpensive renovation that can also score you a higher market value if you decide to sell your home.

Add A Kitchen Backsplash

A kitchen backsplash is a fun and personal way to improve the look and feel of your kitchen. Got an appraiser coming in just a few days? You can use a peel-and-stick backsplash to add color without working with grout.

Other Ideas

Consider more intensive renovations like adding in hardscaping or replacing old appliances if you have a little more time on your hands. 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. Can’t get that day off? Appoint a spouse or trusted family member to help guide the appraiser.

Make Plans For Your Children And Pets

Children and pets can be a distraction. Arrange for children to be out with a family member or friend on the day of the appraisal or quietly playing in a bedroom or playroom if they’re old enough to be left unattended for short periods of time. On the day of your appraisal, make sure that pets are in their carriers or crates.

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. However, it’s normal to forget what you want to show them if you don’t write it down. Make a short list of your home’s most charming points and keep it on you when the day arrives.

Do Some Light Cleaning

Tidy up on the morning of your appraisal. Remove smelly garbage and wipe down your countertops. Put away books, clothing and anything else that’s out of place.

Set Your Thermostat To A Comfortable Temperature

No one likes to be uncomfortably hot or cold, so be sure your thermostat is set to a comfortable temperature on appraisal day. This can help your appraiser subconsciously associate your home with comfort. It also makes testing the heating and cooling systems a bit easier.

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 apply online with Rocket Mortgage® today.

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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.