AAI Services senior appraiser, Michael Mathis, has been appraising for more than 33 years exclusively in the Inland Empire.

My appraiser is coming in three days. What can I do to get the highest appraisal possible? Simple, install a new kitchen, master bathroom, new flooring and paint. You might even consider new front and rear landscaping.  No!  While any of the listed items could help raise your home’s value, the question you should really ask is “are there any easy or simple things I can do in a few hours that might help my property appraise for more”?

The good news is that there are. The first thing you need to do is take off your rosy colored glasses and look at your property like a buyer would look at it. That simple change in viewpoint will help you see and then prioritize the items that will make the biggest difference in your home’s appraisal. Bottom line, if something bothers a buyer, he or she will pay less for the item. So, your goal in getting ready for any residential appraisal is to eliminate items that might bother a buyer.

Many appraisers will argue that cleanliness or minor repairs do not impact a property’s value, but this is wrong. They might even say that nothing you can do will make a difference. Again wrong. Remember an appraisal is an opinion of value. If someone sees a filthy property it will lower their opinion of it, and as a result the final value can easily slide downward. Avoid this, clean your property and make minor repairs before the inspection. And if the appraiser pressures you for a certain date remember they work for you, not the other way around. Do not be rude but be firm to set an appointment date and time that works for you to have your property ready to show its best. So, what are you going to work on and in what order?

First and foremost, clean up the house. If something looks messy, cluttered, or worse yet dirty it will not attract the same attention from buyers than the same property, clean, organized and clutter free. Your first goal should be to clean your home up. Remove junk from the floor, tables, and even rooms IF possible. And yes, all the little knick-knacks that you think are so cute are actually probably viewed by your potential buyers and appraiser as clutter. Rule of thumb, if you are not sure that the item should stay, remove it. As for cleaning, remove dust where it is visible, sweep and vacuum the floors, clean the sinks and tub/showers and wipe grime off doors and walls.  If your property has a view of something special, make sure that window(s) is clean to enhance it. A clean property will be more appealing and will garner more value, hence obtain a higher appraisal.

If something small is broken, e.g. a doorknob thatdoes not turn, a closet door that no longer slides, a cabinet door that is missing or a hole in a wall, etc. take an hour and fix it. The fewer things that are wrong with a property, the easier it is for a buyer to form a positive opinion about it and the better chance its value will be higher. And remember a significant part of an appraiser’s job is to estimate how buyers will react to a property and how their reactions will be reflected in the price they are willing to pay. What that means is that if the work would impress a buyer, it should be reflected in the property’s appraised value.

Finally, first impressions are important, so your goal is to help your appraiser think, “that looks nice” when he/she first pulls up to your property.  Therefore, if your front yard is overgrown and your flower beds have more weeds than flowers, consider giving them some attention. Mow the lawn, pull the weeds, maybe even add some colorful flowers to the beds. This effort enhances your property’s curb appeal. The good news is that for most properties curb appeal can be enhanced in a just a few hours.

Beyond these simple items are ones that involve more work and money. Interior and exterior paint is very high on the list, but before you do that make sure you are picking colors that will have broad appeal. Painting rooms black or vibrant purple is not a good idea. Talk to your local paint store expert or a friend who has that magic touch to get ideas for paint colors. But I would not paint, unless you have the time to complete the job since an unfinished job screams I need work and few people want to buy work.

One last caution that will not increase your property valuebut will go far to protect your wallet from an additional cash loss. Virtually every lender will require that your property has working smoke detectors in every bedroom, carbon monoxide detectors protecting every hallway that leads to a bedroom and water heaters that are double strapped and have their pressure relief value piped to the ground. Also broken windows are typically not tolerated as they are considered a health and safety item required to be fixed before a loan funds. If any of these items are missing or are broken, take care of them before your appraiser arrives. If not, he or she will be forced to condition their report on their correction and you will have to pay them to come back out, verify they are present, take a picture and write an additional report and charge you around $200. Save your money and fix these items first.

These value enhancing items I have shared actually require little time, cost almost nothing, and yet will go a long way to help you obtain the highest possible appraisal of your property. If you have a question about something not covered on my list, send me an email, or call me and I will be glad to respond. Good luck!