10 Ways to Get a Better Appraisal

Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308

10 Ways to Get a Better AppraisalAppraisals are an important part of the process in purchasing or selling a home. More than ever, the appraiser has the power to determine whether or not a sale goes to the closing table.

As if it were not difficult enough to value some homes in today's real estate environment where often there are no comparable sales in the last year or more, the government swoops in to 'correct' the abuses in the appraisal system, and the consequences of HVCC are that appraisers are traveling a long distance sometimes and are doing more work for less pay. Even if an appraiser has local knowledge, they may or may not do a thorough investigation of the comparable properties and they may choose to use Comparable Sales that are not ideal.

It is imperative that a real estate agent meet the appraiser when one of their listings has sold. This is not to try to influence the appraiser in any illegal way, but to give them the best information, so that the appraiser can value the property accurately. An added bonus is the information you will learn from the appraiser if you ask questions.

10 Ways to Get a Better Appraisal

1. Meet the appraiser at the house. Take the lockbox off the door after you get a contract so an appointment will have to be made.

2. Give the Appraiser as many Comparable Sales as you have for the subject property. If it's a property where there are few or no comparable sales, go out in a radius search until you find some. Go back as far as a year or even more if it's a special type property (waterfront, for example). Realize that the appraiser may deduct value if the sale is further than 3 months out.

3. Call the agents for the Comparable sales to get as much information as possible for the appraiser. The house that sold down the street that needed a new roof - they need to know that, but it's probably not in the MLS information.

4. Give a complete list of every upgrade and improvement that has been performed during the seller's ownership. Be sure to include maintenance items as well as cosmetic upgrades. There is a category for "condition" on appraisals and although it won't match dollar for dollar, it will be mentioned.

5. Be sure to note when flooring is "hardwood" instead of "wood" or "laminate." Be specific about other surfaces (granite vs. corian) and improvements. A glazed 42" raised panel cabinet with full coverage costs most than Level 1 42" cabinets.  Thermador appliances are more valuable than GE Profile, for instance, and an appraiser's quick trip through the house may not take in such details.

10 Ways to Get a Better Appraisal10 Ways to Get a Better Appraisal

6. Give them a copy of your Marketing materials, including the beautiful photos you have of the interior, exterior and grounds.

7. Be sure to note anything about the lot - the Preserve not only on the side but across the street, for instance. Note the size of our lot vs. any comparable sales (if it's to your advantage).

8. Local appraisers probably know the Community amenities, but it never hurts to also give a list of those as well.

9. If there are communities nearby that are not really good comparables, a map with some notes about the lack of amenities, production starter homes vs. your community with custom homes on estate lots, etc., can be very helpful to someone from out of the area.

10. Be gracious, not pushy. Even if the appraiser is from 100 miles away, respect and helpfulness will go much further than a condescending, "You drove all the way from there?" attitude.

If you make the effort to be sure the appraiser is well educated about your listing, you have a much better chance of the house appraising and the sale going through. Appraisers' work hasn't lessened but many times their fees have been cut in half or more. Anything we can do to help is in the Sellers', Buyers', ours, and the community's best interest.

Happy Selling!


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About the Author: Sharon Alters works with her husband, Frank. They are in the top 5% real estate agents for production in the Jacksonville Florida area, specializing in Military and Corporate Relocation in the Fleming Island, Orange Park, St. Johns, St. Augustine and Beaches areas. Their local knowledge can help Relocating Buyers find the perfect lifestyle, whether it is a Castle on the Ocean, or a Cottage in the Country. 

Call/text 904-673-2308 or sharon@teamalters.com

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gary oakley

If an appraiser is not able to access your mls, doesn't belong to your local board of realtors and comes from a great distance, he is most likely lacking in the knowledge to complete an accurate appraisal. It behooves all Realtors to insist that the appraiser has local experience and compentcy.

Need spellcheck on this site, Sorry

Oct 04, 2009 10:19 PM #168
Joe Shmo
Appraisers are required to input sellers concessions and analyse contract as per fannie Mae guidelines
Oct 04, 2009 11:57 PM #169
David L. Douglass

It appears from most of the postings on this article from appraisers that we are nearly all on the same page regarding Agents, Comparable Sales, Verification etc. Without going into great detail, I can tell you there are MANY "appraisers" willing to drive HOURS to a neighborhood that had to use GPS to get to for an appraisal they are not GEOGRAPHICALLY COMPETENT to complete.

When I call to make the appraisal appointment for the purchase, I make it a point (even on my answering machine in the office) to tell everyone the area I cover: The Northwest Metro Atlanta Area. The agents instantly appreciate the fact that I'm semi-local and have a basic idea about the area I'll be appraising in. I always accept data the Agent provides. I am an Appraiser, not Infallible. I can miss relevant data (and I can weed out the in-comparable-comps as well). The point is we are all in this crappy market together and we need to all work together to make deals work.

If you're meeting an appraiser at the home, you can surely do all of the things listed in the article, but you most assuredly better ask if he/she are GEOGRAPHICALLY COMPETENT. Those two words will bring fear into the heart of the appraiser that is 2 hours from the house and has no idea what they are even looking at. In addition, those two words may be what's standing between your children's next VA-cation or STAY-cation. If the appraiser comes up short on the value and the deal falls through because they were not GEOGRAPHICALLY COMPETENT; you have missed an opportunity to set the record straight. Contact the Borrower's Lender DIRECTLYand inform them of your concerns. Then if the value comes in low, you will already have the lines of communication open. ASK for another LOCAL APPRAISER(did you catch the emphasis, LOCAL) to do another appraisal. If you feel strongly enough to go through these steps to close the deal, you may consider off erring to pay for the second appraisal. The cost of the appraisal (assuming a fee of $350.00, will still net you 96% of your commission based on a $250,000.00 dollar home with a 6% total commission on a 60/40 split with your Broker). Well worth the cost of the appraisal. In my opinion, it's much better to have a part of something, rather than all of nothing.

If anyone takes anything away from this post please take away the fact that using LOCAL, GEOGRAPHICALLY COMPETENT APPRAISERS will help all of us provide for our families.




Oct 05, 2009 01:15 AM #170
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

David, thank you for your comment. This is what is so great about the forum here on Active Rain - I did not know the term "geographically competent" or that we had the ability to go to the lender if an appraiser is coming from a distance and are not geographically competent, and I think many agents and sellers and buyers are not aware of this. We are all in this together and it is wonderful to know we can demand a LOCAL APPRAISER who is GEOGRAPHICALLY COMPETENT.

Oct 05, 2009 01:23 AM #171
Michelle Patrick, Lithia Appraisal Services, Inc.

In response to the "giving appraisers info".

I highly agree with the appraisers who suggest you print the summary sheets giving only addresses and mls #'s, all appraisers worth their salt should be members of mls. However some clients (banks) do note on their orders that they do not want the appraiser to accept any information from any party to the transaction or the realtor with the exception of the executed sales contract.

I did have a realtor do something I had never seen anyone do and it was greatly appreciated as in 10+ yrs I agree that when we call agents only about 10% return our calls. The joke between appraisers is that once you (realtor/broker) are paid on your sale; you are no longer interested in the property you sold or providing information regarding that property or sale. We call to verify info ask additional questions and no one in your offices can pull the file for the sale that is required by law to be kept in the real estate office. Its amazing.

On a more positive note what the listing agent did was excellent and very helpful and I did comment in my report per the sellers realtor which no one had a problem with.

1. Pulled about six mls listings- on each had written notes and signed them (excellent for our work file)- ie

*this was my listing the kitchen wasn't updated since construction, the blah blah blah.

*this listing was prior to short sale approval seller was in financial problems needed to sell fast the realtor who listed it was blah blah you will never reach them at the office I tried on such and such a date but here is their cell phone it was the easiest way to reach them as I never got a return call when I called their office ***This is so helpful to us when time is of the utmost to the client and they push our time lines not understanding what the appraiser needs to do to get the job done properly.

You should note the 6 that the realtor gave me were already in my research, I was pleased that she went the extra mile, did not follow me around the house while i did my inspection talking incessantly which can be distracting and just said I thought this might help you out a little. Even so I had three sales she didnt that were better comps as well as more recent and the sale went through no problem. But what she did was courteous and showed she was interested in providing all the help she could without being pushy. Please please update your mls listings to show the actual pending sales price not the old listing price as pending this would help us alot.

Please dont return our calls 4 days after we leave a message as at that point we had no choice but to move forward with the report without your assistance(in some cases I had to pull out comps that I personally thought were better off the grid because the buyer/sellers agent wouldnt return a call- i note the sale in the report and why i couldnt use it (couldnt reach agent so and so at such and such office phone number blah blah to verify such and such information which does not match public record info regarding such and such)-this should never happen even if you have closed on your sale please have the professional courtesy to return an appraisers call there is a reason they are trying to reach you and our time lines are extremely limited by the clients; although they should not be by law.

I know it also sounds callous but the appraiser who commented on the "pick up the key" is absolutely correct as a state certified appraiser (FHA) as well as a realtor; it is not the appraisers job to do your job. As a listing agent if you can not meet the appraiser have an assistant in your office meet the appraiser or another realtor and offer to do the same for them. The appraisers dont have time to run around town collecting keys, waiting for owners to come lock up the dog that wasnt supposed to be there. Please make sure access is available and animals are secured for the inspection. I have been chased out of a house by a bull mastif and had to wait on the roof of my car until the borrowers tenant came to lock their dog up (1 hr) this is not cost effective, safe or reasonable.

I have also on more than one occasion and again just recently had a rush appraisal ordered where the buyers agent and sellers agent didnt get along and neither would set the apt to meet me at the property for two weeks- this is the realtors job- 1 had just had surgery the other was the buyers agent and was too busy. Both bad mouthed each other to me on the phone until I finally said Ill be at the house at 9 on such and such a day please make sure the house is open; got to the property and they were 30 minutes late, its not our job to mediate between realtors. We arent here to get stuck in the middle of agent arguements we need to do our jobs and must have property access if their buyer had missed a rate lock- guess what the appraiser would be blamed because the appraisal wasnt completed as a rush I couldnt get in the house for two weeks that should never have happened.

As far as the comment from the cali realtor stating she feels that realtors are more adept at the market and valuation I beg to disagree based on the information I have seen come from realtors; bias is a consideration as well as lack of in depth knowledge of the appraisal process to assume you know more than an experienced appraiser is not a good way to look at your job or ours. As both I can tell you that most excell at one or the other very few are excellent at both.  I'm not a sales person therefore I appraise as I am more analytical most successful realtors are excellent sales people it doesnt mean you know more or are better it means that our speciality in real estate is different. That attitude is why alot of appraisers think poorly of realtors and vice a versa. Attitude is something that has always been problematic; both sides need to learn to respect the other in their field of expertise.

Also note as someone who was born and raised in the areas I appraise (4-6 counties depending on my work load)and I am a 6th generation native of my state an appraiser who goes into a county other than the one their office is located in does not mean the appraiser is inexperienced or incompetent to appraise in your county. In some cases you may have a certified appraiser in your county who has lived in your state less than two years, knows nothing about the history of the market-be wary of the appraiser stating im in the county they may not have been around as long as someone who lives in an abutting county. In my situation Ive probably had family living in your area for generations be very careful about your assumptions as truely a good appraiser goes above and beyond and has access not only to mls and public record (which realtors use) but other 3rd party sources as well for research and market data.

The ideas are great if you keep it withing reason and respect each other as professionals, know and accept that the appraiser is educated in their profession above a realtors small amount of appraisal education in course work and by all means keep the mls up to date, correct and return calls this will make life better for all involved.






Oct 05, 2009 01:36 AM #172
20 year appraiser

Hi there.  Most of the information is article is nice in theory, but in practice a competent ethical appraiser will know you are only giving information that "(if it's to your advantage)" as noted in the article.  Due to comments like that most ethical, honest and competent appraiser's will put very minimal weight into your data.  You are an advocate, we are not.  We are a disinterested 3rd party with no motivation to hit a specific number other than the one the market data tells us.

If you really want to help, but HONEST in your MLS listing data. Remove the fluff.  REALTORS and APPRAISER read listings, buyers should be getting the FLUFF from the selling or transaction broker.

Also put CORRECT information in your listings.  A mobile home is NOT a single family home...  All that does is give the appraiser and fellow Realtors a negative impression of you and therefore a negative of impression of all properties you are related too.  (I have been both a sales agent and an appraiser!)

If you want to help the process, but be brief, fully disclose and be competent...


Oct 05, 2009 01:57 AM #173
Fred Holtsberry

Frank & Sharon:

Good article.  As an Appraiser, it seems that all of your advice could be helpful from time to time and certainly harmless in any event.

I would add that it might be helpful to both parties, and save a lot of paper & toner, if you offer to e-mail the Realtor-provided comps in advance of the inspection appointment.  In the vast majority of cases, the Appraiser will already have completed their own analysis before the inspection appointment.  Having the Realtor's suggested comps and additional information on-hand before completing that initial analysis will enhance the impact of the Realtor's information sicne it will be considered before any initial range of values is determined.

Also, Realtors should be aware that a given Appraiser's LOCAL area is not defined by the business address of the Appraisal Company.  Many small Appraisal Companies have Appraisers located in several different counties and the business address or phone number are no indication of that specific Appraiser's local competence.  In other words, just because a business card or the address on the report indicates a location many miles from the subject, that is not a strong indicator that the Appraiser is from some far-flung outpost.  My own company, for one small example, has our billing / business office located 30 miles outside the Columbus metro area, but our Appraisers live and work in three different counties surrounding the metro area.  In one case, the Appraiser's home office would be approximately 75 miles from the billing / business address, and he is far more-competent in his own home territory than he would be in the billing / business office locale.  If a Realtor is concerned regarding the Appraiser's local competence, just ask.  We all know this issue has been widely promoted lately and it doesn't take long to allay those concerns.

Oct 05, 2009 01:57 AM #174
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Michelle, what a disappointing statistic - only 10% of us return calls. I always return calls and give as much information as the appraiser asks for. Appraisers have given me much helpful information over the years, plus it's in my best interest to give honest, helpful information that will help support sales.

Absolutely no appraiser should ever have to get a key. Their time is too valuable for that.

20 year appraiser, agreed. The more factual and complete the information is in the MLS, it will be helpful to other real estate agents in determining listing prices with sellers, and appraisers in determining value when the property has a contract.

Fred Holtsberry, a great suggestion to email the information in advance. Your input on appraiser's geo competency vs. office location is well taken. Thanks for your comment.


Oct 05, 2009 02:10 AM #175

As a full time appraiser for 10+ years... I would like to agree with some points already touched on in some of the replies. 

Please leave the lockbox on and do not insist on meeting me at the property whether to present information or ask me questions.  I have a rythym or flow to my inspections and know what to look for and where to look for it.  Nothing is more aggravating to me then a micro-managing agent or homeowner that wants to direct my attention.  I LOVE having a written list of items that they would like me to know about left behind for me to review when it's appropriate - but to follow me around the house and pull my attention off of the inspection to point things out is counter productive and tends to break my concentration away from what I already know I need to look for. I find that I have tended to miss details when chatty agents or realtors have kept my attention directed towards them.  My most thorough and accurate inspections occur when I am left on my own at a house to take my time, see what I need to see when my train of thought is going that direction and not be distracted.

Also... when I leave the office to go out looking at homes, I generally see several homes in a day - then spend the next few days working the appraisals up.  This means that my schedule is pretty tight and it is very difficult to arrange my schedule around meeting up with the agent and a time of arrival cannot be pinpointed.  It is very nice and welcome to have the flexibility of a lockbox in case I am running ahead of or behind schedule.   It is true, that many AMC clients penalize the appraiser for not setting appointments or turning in the appraisal within their timeframes.  They often do this by "scoring" the appraiser on these and other items.  It is very important that the agent return the appraiser's call in a timely manner and is cooperative to their schedule as any delays up front wind up turning into a rushed appraisal in the end.  I have even had many agents insist that I come to their office to pick up and drop off the key.  Why not just leave the lockbox on to make it easier for everyone involved??

I would tend to be one of the appraisers that would tell an agent that I wish to pull my own comps and that I must remain unbiased.  For that same reason, I also reject any prior appraisals that are being handed to me.  But - I'll let you in on a secret.   If you put your information together in a packet or envelope addressed to me and left out on a counter at the home - I will take it and wind up looking through it later as I am working up the appraisal.  Out of curiousity, to see how far off my own conclusions are from what was expected and to get an idea ahead of time of what follow up or feed back might come after the appraisal is completed and doesnt happen to meet the expectations.  With this information, I tend to make sure that my report will be self-explanatory regarding the information  and why it is or is not relevant for use. And yes, to see if there is anything I might of missed.

Bottom line - yes, put information together ESPECIALLY hidden features, construction components or recent renovations that you want to draw my attention to.   Any inside information that you might have about potentional comparables that isn't reported in MLS.  Surveys, inspection reports, seller disclosure and sales contract.  But please leave them for me at the home or send them to my email or office and leave the lockbox on and do not insist on meeting me there or micro-managing my inspection.

Oct 05, 2009 04:28 AM #176
Mike Allen - Haan & Associates, An Appraisal Group

Great Post.  As an appraiser, I can say that one of the biggest values to us is the MLS Pictures.  Take 'em! 

I don't believe the flowery prose in the remarks, all the time but a picture is worth a thousand words.  Remember, when we use comps, we don't get inside them, but realtors do when they list them.  The subject may have a beautiful kitchen with all the latest appliances and brands so, for us to give them credit for their expenditures, we need to know that the comps do/don't have the same thing.  We want to see the difference. 


Oct 05, 2009 05:42 AM #177

As a real estate broker & appraiser for 40 years, just a couple of thoughts.  (Realtors are members of NAR, both brokers and appraisers.)  The article as well as the comments taken all together show just how little brokers and appraisers really understand about each others' role in the real estate sale, not to mention their opposite view of the real estate world.  Brokers are always looking toward the future and the higher price while the appraiser is looking at the past for that is the only source of verifiable data of real estate sales. 

Most of the brokers that I have known over the years are honest and competent but they have no clue what USPAP is and why appraisers must follow its rules.  On the other hand, appraisers do not understand the whole concept of the broker spending days, if not weeks, showing houses to the few buyers who today are both qualified and willing to buy a parcel of real estate.  And if they do not buy, no one gets paid and that includes the appraiser, mortgage broker as well as the real estate broker. 

Brokers, if you want to really understand appraisers, you might remember what an MAI appraiser once told me.  Appraisers become appraisers because they like real estate but do not necessarily like dealing with buyers, sellers and brokers.  Appraisers tend to be somewhat laid back and not very assertive until someone with little or no knowledge questions their appraisal.  When that happens, brokers need something more factual than "the appraiser was from out of town" or "the house next door sold last year for more than my contract".  To make any real progress with an appraiser, it would probably be best if the broker did not start off by questioning his professional expertise or parentage.

Appraisers, it might help you when dealing with brokers that they are in the business of making good things happen and to do that, they have to be assertive.  If they get a little pushy sometimes, you might want to remember that had they not pushed for the sale, you would not have the appraisal assignment.  Try giving them some slack and let them blow off some frustration once in a while.  After all, if the sale fails to close, the appraiser still gets paid but the broker will have lost thousands of dollars and, in this economy, that may very well be difference in the broker being in business or not in business next month.

Too many politicians are using the housing crises to divide us and then over regulate us in the real estate market.  We must find ways to understand the roles that each of us play in the process of helping the American public have the opportunity to have the American Dream of home ownership.  We need, actually me must, work together and not let people like the Attorney Gerneral of New York encourage us to fight among ourselves.  Believe me, we have too many enemies out their already.


Oct 05, 2009 08:52 AM #178

Now, that's a good post. We do need to try and understand eachothers roles. As an agent and appraiser. I have been on both sides.  Buyers in Cali. are writing offers well above asking price just to get the offer accepted, then letting the appraiser figure out the value so they have a negotiating tool.

I have had 2 deals fall through in the last 2 months because of the appraisals.One was an out right bad appraisal. Many mistakes. Subject on septic, appraisal stated sewer. Just 1 example. I did complain to the bank, not about value, just all the mistakes. Bank said "value is solid" that's all we care about....

This is a great business, I hope we can work together to keep it that way.

Oct 06, 2009 08:09 PM #179
Mary E. O'Brien; Appraisal One, Inc.

Great suggestions.  I'd like to add two  more. 

1) Be on time.  Being late is disrespectful  and rude.  The appraiser has a schedule to keep. The appraiser's time is just as valuable as yours.

 2) Here in the northeast an Appraiser's job is more difficult when there's snow or ice on the ground.  Make sure the owner has cleared  walkways and driveway of snow and ice.   Sand or salt icy areas .  You don't want the appraiser falling on her #$% when she gets out of her car!  

regarding mistakes.. 1)  no one is perfect  - this includes Realtors  2)  I suggest the  realtor call the supervisor appraiser and let them know about the errors.  Most reputable firms want to know if one of their appraisers makes an error or behaves ( or dresses)  unprofessionally.  A reputable firm will also want to correct any errors on the appraisal.

As noted in your post, many appraisers working for large, national lenders now receive the appraisal assignment from a management company. That management company takes any where from 10% - 50% of the appraisal fee.  Many appraisers are working harder and longer hours for less pay. Some find they must cover larger areas and have started traveling further. 



Oct 13, 2009 05:05 AM #180
Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate

Wow Sharon, I had commented but had not read all the comments. Great information. I love the phrase and duty to be geographically competent.

Now that would solve so many issues.

Also if they used our MLS and not the IDX feed.

If they do that then they need to check the tax records for the true square footage.

As you know I am dealing with this right now.


Oct 15, 2009 01:57 AM #181
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Missy, this post has developed a life of its own in the comments and they are great! The response from appraisers has been wonderful and very helpful to me personally.

I know you are dealing with that right, now and it is very frustrating.

Oct 15, 2009 05:17 AM #182
Frank Chirkinian
Short Sale Army - Boynton Beach, FL

Great advice, you put a few new tricks in my hat.

Oct 19, 2009 04:33 AM #183
Wayne B. Pruner
Oregon First - Tigard, OR
Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI

That is very good advice. It does not pay to alienate the appraiser.

Oct 24, 2009 02:10 PM #184
Michele Rose
Rose-Colored Staging - Mount Holly Township, NJ
Burlington County Home Staging & Redesign

Sharon, there are defintely tips in here I will save and use.  I've done many of them but not all.  On my last appraisal, the appraiser would not take any info from me at all and then the appraisal came in $12,500 low.  He would not budge.  Other appraisers have been very accepting and appreciative-- many times it depends on who you get.  Thanks for a great post!

Dec 01, 2009 05:58 AM #185
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Frank, glad to help.

Wayne, most definitely not.

Michele, as you can see in the comments, appraisers come with all types of personalities and likes and dislikes. It just depends on the person - just like all the different kinds of real estate agents!


Dec 01, 2009 12:19 PM #186
Sasha Miletic - Windsor Real Estate
RE/MAX Preferred Realty Ltd. - Windsor, ON

Hi Sharon,

Great tips. Good post. Thank you for sharing with us. All the best.


Best - Sash

Jan 03, 2010 04:03 AM #187
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