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So, you’re thinking about selling your home?

But, how do you know what it’s worth?

You want to get the most for your house, but you don’t want to scare buyers away with a listing price that’s too high. Or even worse—leave money on the table with a listing price that’s too low.

To do this, you need to know your home’s value.

And, if it’s not what you expected, how to improve your home value.

The easiest way to figure out your home’s value and navigate the home sale process is to work with a real estate agent. However, an appraisal is the definitive assessment of your home’s value. So, let’s look at what an appraisal is and how it works.

Home Appraisals

The definitive assessment of your home value is an appraisal, which is a licensed/certified appraiser’s unbiased, professional opinion of your home’s value. Appraisals generally cost between $300-450 and are paid for by the buyer.

Once you accept a buyer’s offer, their lender will order an appraisal to determine the risk of lending to that buyer. Lenders want to make sure the loan doesn’t exceed the home’s value in case the buyer defaults.

It’s important to understand your home value when pricing your home because lenders generally won’t approve a loan that’s higher than your home’s value. But getting an appraisal before selling isn’t recommended for many reasons. So, you’ll want to work with a licensed real estate agent who will help you determine your home’s value and the best listing price. A Realtor® will look at the same set of factors as an appraiser to determine the best list price of your home, so it’s important to know what goes into an appraisal.

What Goes into a Home Appraisal?

An appraiser considers a variety of different external and internal factors to determine your home’s value. Their appraisal isn’t affected by cleaning and staging. Instead, they consider things that aren’t so easy to change—like location.

External Factors

Beginning with the outside of your home, appraisers will consider external features of your home and your community.

Comparable Listings (Comps)

One of the most important factors appraisers use to determine the value of your home is how much comparable homes have sold for recently. Appraisers look at the sales record of homes that are similar in age, size, construction, location, and more. Once appraisers have looked at a variety of recently sold homes, they’ll come up with a value range for your home. Depending on the particular characteristics of your home (like modern appliances or dated flooring), appraisers will adjust that range up or down.

Location

Another external factor that appraisers consider is the location of your home. If you live in a neighborhood with poorly maintained houses, many of which are foreclosed or rented, it will hurt your appraisal.

However, being in a low crime area with good schools and walkability can increase your home’s appraisal. Living in a suburban area with easy access to a city can also help your home value.

Housing Trends

Along with comps and location, appraisers will look at local and national housing trends to determine your home value. Trends like housing inventory, whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market, economic outlook, mortgage availability, interest rates, and more all affect how much your home is worth at that moment.

While these factors change over time, appraisers do consider the broader housing landscape when determining your home’s value.

Structure and Material Quality

Structure and material quality are other external factors appraisers look at. In terms of the structure, appraisers want to see that your home has a solid foundation and a good roof (preferably less than 20 years old). Appraisers will also look at your siding, gutters, windows, and doors to determine the quality of materials used.
Finally, appraisers will look at the materials your house was built with, including siding, windows, and roof. Having modern materials (like energy-efficient windows) will increase your appraisal.

The final thing that appraisers look for—in regards to the structure and materials of a home—is damage. If your home has structural issues or damage from pests, it won’t appraise for as much as it would have if the issues had been taken care of.

Age

How old your home is will also impact your appraisal, and homes built within the last 10-20 years will be appraised at higher values. That’s because newer homes don’t have many of the risks that older homes do, like aging foundations and materials.

Curb Appeal

One last external factor appraisers consider is your curb appeal. Your curb appeal is what your home looks like from the curb. In other words: the first impression buyers and appraisers have of your home. As such, it can determine how much both buyers and appraisers think your home is worth before they even step inside.

Appraisers want to see attractive landscaping that’s easy to maintain and won’t cause problems for your home. A large lot can also help improve your appraisal. But, if your home lacks curb appeal or has hazardous landscaping (like a tree that could fall on your home or poisonous shrubs), it will hurt your appraisal.

Maximizing External Value

Some of the external values appraisers consider can be addressed. Things like landscaping and aging materials can be updated or replaced to maximize a home’s appraisal (take a peek at the photos below to see the dramatic effects improved curb appeal can have). Ask your Realtor® to work with Curbio to make smart pre-listing home improvement decisions. You, your Realtor, and Curbio will work together to decide which home improvement projects to take on to increase your profit. Once scope of work is agreed upon, Curbio will manage and execute the entire project, and the best part? Curbio defers all payment until closing—with no interest, fees, or credit checks—so you can increase your profit from the sale without worrying about freeing up cash for home improvements.

curb appeal - before
curb appeal - after

Internal Factors

Of course, what’s inside your home also impacts what appraisers think your home is worth. Let’s take a look at the internal factors that will influence an appraisal.

Square Footage

One of the most important internal influencers of your home value is its size. How square footage is determined varies a bit state by state. In many cases, appraisers only count usable, above-ground space in their square footage. So, if you have a lot of wasted space (like many hallways) or a basement below ground, your legal square footage may not be as high as you think. Don’t worry—your Realtor® will know how to calculate square footage based on your area, so you don’t have to!

Bedrooms and Bathrooms

There’s a reason bedrooms and bathrooms are features on listing previews. They’re a huge factor of consideration for home buyers, and as such, they have a significant impact on your home’s value. If your home has 3 bedrooms but most houses in your neighborhood have 4, your home won’t appraise for as high as the other homes in your area.

It’s important to note that non-conforming bedrooms won’t increase your appraisal. So, if you’re using a room in your basement as a bedroom but it doesn’t have the right windows, it won’t boost your appraisal.

Interior Condition

Another internal factor appraisers consider is the physical condition of your home. If your home has outdated materials (like having carpet from the 80s) or has not been maintained well, your appraisal will be negatively affected. However, updating your home with modern materials and features will positively impact your appraisal.

Your home’s systems (like HVAC) also affect your appraisal. Having a new system can increase your home’s value, while outdated systems that are less efficient will decrease it.

Code Compliance

Appraisers want to see that everything in your home is up to code. While an inspector may address some code violations, they are not code enforcers. The main cause of code violations is DIY home improvement.

Renovations

If you’ve recently renovated your home, it can increase your appraisal. Renovations that improve the function of your home or add modern finishes can increase your home value. On the other hand, if your home is host to outdated and worn-down materials, this will negatively affect your home value.

What Appraisal Factors Can You Control?

When determining your home value, an appraiser looks at factors like location, housing trends, age, and lot size. While you can’t control these factors, you can improve things like square footage, updates, material quality, number of bedrooms, and curb appeal to improve your home’s value and appraisal.

If your goal is to maximize your home sale value, ask your Realtor® to work with Curbio to make smart pre-listing home improvement decisions. You, your Realtor, and Curbio will work together to decide which home improvement projects will have positive returns. Once we agree upon the scope of work, Curbio’s full-time, local project managers will manage and execute the entire project. The best part is that Curbio waits until closing to be paid and doesn’t charge any interest or fees—so you can increase your profit from the sale without any upfront payment.

Are Market Value and Appraised Value the Same?

The short answer is no. Your home’s market value is what a buyer is willing to pay for a property. The appraised value, however, is a professional appraiser’s opinion on what your home is worth.

Market value can be affected by factors that can change more frequently, while your appraisal is not so easily swayed. Factors like the sale price of recently sold homes, repairs & renovations, and market conditions affect market value. Of course, each buyer is different, but market value is based on what the average buyer will pay for your home.

Appraisals consider all of those factors as well. The difference is that an appraisal is a professional assessment of your home’s value—not what buyers are willing to pay for it.

The market and appraised value for your home should be similar. But sometimes the appraisal might be higher than what buyers are willing to pay. In other scenarios, buyers might value your home above the appraised value—which sounds great but can cause some issues.

What Happens If the Buyer Offers More than the Appraisal?

After you’ve accepted an offer, your buyer’s lender will order an appraisal. If the offer is higher than your home is appraised for, the buyer’s lender is unlikely to fund the full loan amount.

If your buyer’s able, they can make up the difference out of pocket. This is the best-case scenario for you because you’ll still get the full market value of your home.

If the buyer has an appraisal contingency for their offer, they can back out. If this happens, you’ll have to put your home back on the market—costing you time.

To avoid the buyer backing out, forcing you to re-list, you can negotiate the price and other concessions with them to meet somewhere in the middle. While renegotiating is a good option, it’s better to try to avoid this scenario by knowing your home’s value before listing.

How to Determine Your Home Value

To figure out your home value before listing your home, you have a variety of options to get a ballpark number.

Work with a Realtor®

The best way to figure out your home’s value is to work with a Realtor®. A real estate agent can use data from a multiple listing service (MLS) to create a comparative market analysis (CMA).

Because of their experience and access to tools and databases, real estate agents are able to determine your home’s value more accurately (and faster). So, if you want the most accurate home value, you should work with a Realtor.

Look at Comps

While we recommend working with a Realtor to determine your home’s value and the best list price, we know it can be difficult not to look for yourself. A popular way to try to estimate your home’s value is to look at comps. Looking at similar, recently sold homes in your neighborhood can give you a ballpark value for your home.

To find comps, you should start with listing websites like Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia, or Redfin. Once there, you need to set the filters to show you homes sold within the last 6-12 months. Active listings aren’t helpful for comps because they show only what the seller hopes to get for their home and not what a buyer is willing to pay.

Ideally, you should look at homes sold in the last 60 days, but that’s not always possible. So, you should look at the most recently sold homes you can find.

Once you’re looking at only sold homes, you should find homes that are similar to yours. Look for homes in the same location that are similar in size, number of bedrooms & bathrooms, age, condition, and upgrades & finishes.

After you’ve found similar homes, you should find the average list price of these homes. This average will give you an idea of what your home’s value is.

Online Estimators

The last way to figure out your home value is to use online home value estimator tools. These tools pair info you provide with public records to return an estimate for your home’s value.
While these tools are fast and free, they aren’t always accurate. With minimal info from you, these tools can’t account for all the specific features of your home.

In case it wasn’t clear, we strongly suggest you work with a Realtor® to determine your home value. A Realtor® can also help you add value to your home to list it for more.

How to Add Value to Your Home

In this section, we’ll go over what to do if you’ve determined your home’s value, but it’s not as high as you hoped.

There are several ways to increase your home’s value. From basic repairs to extensive renovations, your agent can partner with Curbio to determine which home improvements will add the most value to your home. The best part? With Curbio, you won’t have to pay for the work done until closing, making it possible to maximize your profit from your home’s sale without needing to free up cash.

Improve Curb Appeal

Because the outside of your home is the first thing buyers see, improving your curb appeal can increase the value of your home. Read more about what curb appeal is and how to improve it in our recent post.

Update Your Interior

Another way to boost your home value is to update the interior of your home. To do this, you can swap outdated carpet or damaged tile for hardwood floors or luxury vinyl tile—which buyers love (read more about what luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is and how it can add value to your home). You can also update finishes throughout your home to align with modern interior design and what buyers want.

If you want to take on a bigger project, opening spaces by removing walls, updating kitchens, and renovating bathrooms can add significant value to your home. Want more details? Learn about the 5 home improvements every home needs before selling here.

Add Space

Increasing your square footage through the addition of more livable space will add value. But additions can be pricey and you may not see a full return on your investment. Make sure to discuss how an addition will directly impact your home’s sale price with a Realtor before taking on such a large project.

Another way to add space and value is to make your living areas open-concept. While this doesn’t technically add any extra space, it makes your home feel more spacious. Plus, open-concept floorplans are in high-demand.

Address Deferred Maintenance

Before you sell your home, addressing deferred maintenance is simply a must. Anything that needs repairs will deter buyers who are seeking move-in ready homes—specifically to avoid projects and any electrical or plumbing issues. Additionally, saying no to deferred maintenance before listing may mean issues with your inspection down the road, which can ultimately cost you time and money.

Improve Energy Efficiency

One last way to add value to your home is to make it more energy-efficient by installing energy-efficient windows, doors, and siding. Energy-efficient appliances like HVAC, toilets, and lighting can also add value. While energy-efficient materials and appliances can add value, many home buyers prefer to choose their own smart-tech, so these improvements don’t always get home sellers the return on investment they’re hoping for.

When taking on home improvements to add value and sell for more, it’s best to work with a Realtor to partner with Curbio. When you pair Realtors’ market expertise with Curbio’s pre-listing home improvement expertise, you create a dream team that will help you maximize your profit from your home sale so you can move on more comfortably.

Summary

We’ve gone over a lot, so let’s sum it up!

When you sell your home, knowing your home value will help you with a successful home sale.

It can be difficult to figure out what your home is worth. An appraisal required by lenders is a definitive assessment of your home’s value, but an appraisal is done after you’ve already accepted an offer.

Working with a Realtor is the quickest, easiest, and most accurate way to determine your home’s value and the right list price.

If your home’s value isn’t what you were hoping for, you can work with your Realtor and Curbio to make improvements that will increase your home’s value—and more importantly, your profit. With Curbio, pre-listing home improvements are made possible for every home seller because your Curbio Project Manager will manage and execute the entire project from the proposal to the punch list. And since Curbio waits until closing to be paid (with no fees, interest, or credit checks), you can maximize your profit from your home sale without freeing up cash for repairs and renovations.

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