Updated May 15th, 2019
Selling your house is an exhilarating time, especially in a great market! Once you get a buyer under contract and move forward with the sale, the excitement heightens. Then you get the appraisal, and your stomach drops. It is much less than you thought it would be, and you are sure something must be wrong. You plan on writing a strong-worded letter to the appraiser, but what do you say? How do you fight a low appraisal and win?
Take Out The Emotion
First, let's define what the objective of fighting an appraisal actually is. It is not “winning,” as the appraiser isn't actually the bad guy. There are plenty of appraisers out there who do wonderfully at their difficult jobs, and the profession itself is not bad. If your appraisal had come back highlighting your ideal amount, you probably would be singing praises to the appraiser.
No, the objective of fighting the appraisal is to get the appraiser to reconsider and do another appraisal. As everyone knows, if you want someone to reconsider and do something you want, the way is not to come at them swinging. Instead, try to remove all emotion as you begin your letter.
Obtain a Copy of the Appraisal
You can't fight what you don't know.
If you want to have an argument worth considering, you'll need the facts. You can ask the appraiser to email or mail you a copy of the report. You do have legal access to it as the seller of the house. Make sure you read the entire report and crunch every number. It's possible there was a clerical error on the part of the appraiser, and they may have miscalculated the number of bedrooms or the square footage in the home. Going over everything with a fine tooth comb will make sure you don't miss anything important.
Look at Comps
Appraisers use comparables in your neighborhoodto determine value. If you are balking at the price your house came back at, it's time to check the comps. Look them over with your real estate agent carefully and make sure they truly are similar. You especially want to pay attention to these things:
The size of the home should mirror yours as closely as possible. If you have a basement as well as a second level, the comparable home should as well. Make a note if the square footage is drastically different.
Occasionally, there will be rooms or updates missing from the appraisal. This could be due to the lack of permits on file. If you know there is a permit, find it! You could be missing thousands of dollars in your appraisal simply because you do not have the permit on file.
The condition of the home matters. If you have a beautifully updated kitchen and the comps have a kitchen out of a 70's sitcom, you know there's an error. Be sure to check the condition of the HVAC system as well as the siding on the house and the state of the roof. These are all things to call out in your letter if you notice discrepancies.
In certain cities, the side of the road you live on can raise the value on your home. Make sure that the homes the appraiser compared yours are in a similar neighborhood and on a similar street.
You'll probably even want to do your own comparisons. To do this, choose three recently sold homes no more than a quarter mile from your house. Make sure they have similar square footage, condition, and neighborhoods. You want to especially pay attention to any repairs or updates that they have to gauge the value. Include these three homes in your report.
Extra Items That Affect The Appraisal
After including three comps in your letter, make sure you ask to hear how the appraiser came to their conclusion. Things like living on a busy street or next to a power plant can affect the appraisal. Some other things that impact the appraisal are the school districts, the zoning of the property, whether your home is close to a commercial building, and if your home connects to the sewer or septic tank.
Keep in mind that with all these extra pieces to the puzzle, the appraiser could be right in their estimated value of your property. Asking for an explanation of the value will help you understand where they are coming from and will help you figure out if the price really is right.
If you feel like you can prove that your home is under appraised yet your pleas fall on deaf ears, appeal to the lender. The seller's lender is typically the one who sends out the appraisers and will be able to determine if you have a case. In the event that the lender rejects your pleas as well, you could pay for an appraiser yourself.
Red Flags in Appraiser
In your process of analyzing the appraisal, if you come across any behavior that puts up a red flag about the appraiser's processes, you should immediately make a note of it. Some red flags to be on the lookout for include:
Basing Their Appraisal Off Of Zillow's Zestimate
This is a huge red flag, as a Zestimate is more like a guess at your home's value. Zillow has never actually been in your house and probably has never investigated the comparables more than data entries. Basing your appraisal off of the Zestimate is a major rookie mistake that you should immediately work to bring forward.
Make sure you ask if the appraiser actually went into the house. Believe it or not, some appraisers just drive by a property to appraise it. While that's an excellent way to get a feel for the surrounding area, it's not the best way at all to ascertain the actual value of the house.
Comps Are Way Off
If the appraiser is new (or simply just not great), they may not have a true grasp on how to do the comps. You want to make sure the appraiser knows the area well enough to understand what implicates true value and how to locate and compare similar properties. If the comps are off far enough, it may be a strong enough case to get you another appraisal.
A good way to make sure your appraisal comes back accurately is to have your real estate agent at the appraisal. If your real estate agent won't, it's time to find a new agent. There are many ways to pick a great agent, but Clever really knows how it's done. If you want an agent that provides the top level of service for a great flat rate, you need Clever.