Once you have accepted an offer on your home, you and your buyers will face several steps before the closing can take place. If they're getting a loan to purchase the house, one of those steps will be the appraisal.
You might reasonably think that the appraiser will be looking at the home itself and not at your lifestyle, and that's really what an appraiser is paid to do. He or she will be taking measurements, looking at the quality of cabinetry, fixtures, and flooring, and making note of both positive and negative points.
You might also think that you can relax now – that you no longer have to maintain constant vigilance to keep everything neat and tidy inside and out.
But appraisers are human. They form impressions and assumptions just the way buyers do. When they drive up to your house, their first impression will affect the outcome of the appraisal. In fact, according to a recent Realty Times article, an unkempt yard can lower your value by as much as 3% - and if you have neighbors with meticulously kept yards and yours isn't, the downgrade can be even more severe.
Once inside, the appraiser will again be affected by his or her first impression, so an untidy home will lower your appraised value. Unwashed dishes, a smelly litter box, and an overflowing laundry hamper have nothing to do with the true value of your home – but they can have plenty to do with the final outcome of your appraisal.
Of course, the opposite is true. "Clean, neat, and polished" translates to "well maintained" and can help your appraisal.
The bottom line: When the appraiser is coming, prepare your house just as carefully as you did when potential buyers were coming.
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