Home Appraisals: Process, Cost, & Tips

Here’s everything you need to know about what to expect from a home appraisal, what it costs and our top tips for making sure you get the highest valuation.

Home appraisals can feel a little nerve-wracking, but it’s essential to know what your house is actually worth. Sellers are hoping to get the highest value to make the most profit, and buyers are looking to make sure their potential investment is sound. A home appraisal settles all of that. It’s good to be familiar with the process before you dive in.

How does a home appraisal work?

A home appraisal determines the fair market value of a property. Most mortgage lenders require a home appraisal before issuing final approval on a purchase loan. This is the typical process:

  1. Lenders generally handle ordering an appraisal.
  2. An independent state-licensed professional (the appraiser) will perform a comparable market analysis. This means comparing your home with other similar and recently sold homes in your area.
  3. The appraiser performs a thorough on-site inspection. Most appraisers use the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report from Fannie Mae for single-family homes. (Here’s an example form.)
  4. All findings are compiled into a written report to share with the lender.

How do home visits work with Sundae?

At Sundae, we specialize in selling your house as-is, so the process is a little different. We’ll schedule a visit with a local market expert who will come out to your home whenever works best for you. They’ll take pictures, talk to you about your property and gather all the necessary details to create a listing on our marketplace. They can even order a home inspection if needed. You don’t have to do any costly repairs or get your house market-ready. Just one visit and we’ll take care of the rest.

What do home appraisers look for?

Appraisers are looking at the location, size, quality of materials and overall condition of your home in order to compare it with other recent comparable sales, or comps. Decor, personal touches and even dirty dishes don’t really matter. Appraisers are trained to look past that to focus on anything that could affect the value such as:

  • Condition of the foundation, roof and gutters
  • Any glaring physical structural issues
  • Peeling paint, leaks or missing fixtures
  • Square footage and lot size
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Condition of appliances
  • Basement, crawl space or attic
  • Condition and materials of the walls, floors and windows
  • Access to utilities
  • Quality of the landscaping

Note: If your buyer is using an FHA, USDA or VA loan, there are some more specific things appraisers will be looking out for.

How much does a home appraisal cost?

The average national cost for a home appraisal is between $375 and $450 for a single-family home, according to Fixr.com. But if your home is in a larger city or you have a very large property, you can expect to pay as high as $1,200.

Who pays for a home appraisal?

The buyer typically pays for a home appraisal unless they negotiate for the seller to pay instead. For a refinance, the homeowner picks up the bill themselves.

Home appraisal tips for sellers

  • Research comps in your area
  • Gather all important documents such as previous appraisals, tax documents and info on recent home improvements
  • Make sure all rooms of your house are accessible, including crawl spaces
  • Repair obvious issues like damaged walls, leaks, peeling paint and loose handrails
  • Do a deep clean
  • Upgrade your curb appeal
  • Once they arrive, give the appraiser space to do their job

Home appraisal tips for buyers

  • Hire a real estate agent who knows the area
  • Research home values and recent sales before making an offer
  • Include an appraisal contingency in your offer
  • Make note of the condition of the house you’re offering to buy, so you can plan ahead for repairs

Home appraisal tips for refinancing

  • Research comps and get all your documents in order
  • List all upgrades and improvements you’ve done and provide documentation for each
  • Repair anything that needs fixing
  • De-clutter and clean everything you can, both inside and out
  • Get a friend or family member to give you an outside opinion on what needs improving

Home appraisal FAQ

We’ve compiled a few frequently asked questions about home appraisals that sellers, buyers and refinancers all want to know. Here are some things to keep in mind:

What hurts a home appraisal?

The biggest impact on a home appraisal is unfortunately out of your hands: Location. While you can’t change the location, you can definitely control the way your house is presented.

How long does a home appraisal take?

The on-site inspection can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours depending on the size of your property. A complete report can take a few days to a week or two, depending on the appraiser’s schedule.

What happens after an appraisal is done?

If the appraisal comes in at or above the contract price, the next step is underwriting. This is when the loan evaluation and conditions are finalized. If there are any “subject to” flags in the report, those items will have to be addressed before the loan can proceed.

Does an appraiser go inside the house?

Yes. The appraiser must perform a complete visual inspection of the interior and exterior.

Key takeaways

  • A home appraisal provides an unbiased evaluation of your home’s market value.
  • Your home is compared to similar recently sold homes in your area to determine an accurate valuation.
  • There are things you can do to positively affect your home’s valuation, such as making necessary repairs, tidying up and educating yourself on the current local market.
  • The appraisal process can take a few days to a few weeks.
  • Mortgage lenders require appraisals, but buyers cover the cost. This averages $400 for a single-family home, but can be as much as $1,200.

Ready to Get Started?

Sell as-is. Pay zero fees to Sundae. Move on your time. No repairs, cleanings, or showings.

Get started

Team Sundae

Composed by a team of experienced content, marketing, and real estate professionals, the Sundae Blog is a go-to authority for tips, instructions, and data-driven insights aimed at helping homeowners maintain, renovate, sell, and buy homes, while navigating a complex real estate market.

Learn more about us.