Refinancing your home involves several important steps, but the property appraisal may be the most crucial.
When a real estate appraiser hands down an opinion on the value of your house, it can make — or break — your ability to qualify for the new loan you want. Naturally, you want that value to match your refinancing goals.
Simply put, a property appraisal is an assessment of your home’s market value based on several factors, including its size, age, condition, location, amenities and previous sales prices, according to the Appraisal Institute, a global professional association for appraisers. Professional appraisers have specialized training and experience in property valuation, and their opinion carries a lot of weight with lenders.
Because market conditions change rapidly and property values in your neighborhood might be much higher (or lower) than when you bought your home, you need to have your property’s value appraised when refinancing. Any upgrades or improvements you’ve made won’t be reflected in your original valuation; it benefits you to have an appraiser see those in person. If you’ve let your home fall into disrepair, though, an appraiser will take note of that, too.
How to increase your property’s value
To learn simple, cost-effective ways you can pump up your home’s appraised value, NerdWallet talked to two real estate experts. Tom Salomone is president of the National Association of Realtors and broker/owner of Real Estate II in Margate, Florida. Cody Gale is president of Colorado Appraisal Consultants in Denver.
While their suggestions might take some time and elbow grease on your part, the results (and value added to your home) will likely pay off in the end. Here are four suggested projects that will give the best bang for your buck:
- Refresh paint, remove clutter. The quickest, easiest way to increase your chances of a higher appraisal is to paint, which can take years off an outdated home. If there are crayon marks on your walls and clutter on the floors, a fresh coat of paint and some simple organizing will make a good impression when an appraiser comes to call, Salomone says. (And at about $15 to $30 per gallon, paint is also inexpensive.)
- Replace worn carpet and flooring. This is another upgrade that will stand out to property appraisers. New carpet or flooring that mimics the look of hardwood can add several thousand dollars in value to your home. If you don’t have the money to replace all of your flooring, focus on fixing damaged sections and getting carpets professionally cleaned before an appraisal, Gale says.
- Update elements of the kitchen and bathrooms. Touching up these rooms remains the gold standard for netting you the best return on your home-improvement dollars. Keeping them clean certainly goes a long way, but you can do low-cost upgrades that add value, too, such as removing wallpaper, refinishing laminate countertops, painting cabinets and hanging new light fixtures, Gale says. You don’t have to do a complete renovation or spend a lot of money to gain value in these rooms for a refi appraisal, but making a few updates will earn value adjustments in your favor.
- Create curb appeal. A property appraiser isn’t going to spend much time judging your home’s exterior, but a good first impression doesn’t hurt. Cleaning up flower beds and redoing the mulch are inexpensive, low-effort ways to make your home easy on the eyes, Salomone says.
These options will give you the best chance of scoring a higher appraisal value that will, in turn, help you get the mortgage refinance that meets your real estate goals.
This article first appeared at NerdWallet.