Inside the Mind of an Appraiser

Video Transcript

First impressions are everything in real estate -- a fact Paul Isolda, an appraiser with 22 years of experience, knows all too well. Isolda has seen every home staging disaster under the sun, from tacky cabinetry to dingy flooring. One discerning glance from him could mean a final appraisal worth thousands less-or more-than the price you put on your property. That's why AOL Real Estate's What Works Now enlisted his help to share all the dos-and countless don'ts-that go into a successful home sale.
The most important thing to keep top of mind, says Isolda, is to see things from the eyes of a prospective buyer who ultimately want to make a home their own. That's why one of the most sought after features homebuyers look for is a kitchen stocked with sturdy granite counter tops -- they're simple, elegant, and allow the buyer to play with a blank canvas.

That said, not all renovations are smart ones. "If you overspend on a kitchen or bath renovation," Isolda says, "you're less likely to recoup that investment on the market." Keep in mind that the value of your home is tied directly to the property value of surrounding houses. Before splurging on a major remodeling project, Isolda suggests you find out the value of comparable homes in the neighborhood, as your price will vary relative to their worth.

Surprisingly, says Isolde, "You don't want to be the best house on the block-your neighbors are pulling your value down." Instead, he says, "you'd actually prefer to be the worst house on the block, because then your neighbors are pulling your value up." So before investing in that new chandelier, find out how your house ranks among your neighbors. You might just be better off investing in a new paint job, fixing a sidewalk, or re-wiring your home.

In the end, sellers need to understand that there are really only three possible outcomes that arise when an appraisal falls short of the contract price: The buyer can make up the difference. The seller can renegotiate the price. Or the buyer may ultimately walk away from the deal.

In today's tight market, it's essential for sellers to take their appraisal seriously. Be sure to ask your appraiser if they're familiar with the neighborhood, Isolda says, because their geographic competence could make a big difference on your bottom line. If you feel uncomfortable with their response, he says, be prepared to call the lender and share your concerns.
Remember, Isolda says, the appraisal can make or break your sale, and in this difficult seller's market, it's crucial to know when to spend and how.

Interested in learning more about appraisals and getting the biggest bang for your buck? Here are some AOL Real Estate guides that might help:

Video: Appraisals 101
Quick Fixes for Big Returns
Kitchen Renovations that Help You Sell
Bathroom Renovations that Help You Sell

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