Topping the list of nightmares anyone selling their home has suffered is discovering that their appraisal came in low.
Imagine: You’ve carefully hired a local agent, marketed your home, reviewed offers, negotiated, and finally arrived at the closing stages of making a sale. All that’s left to do is get a home appraisal so that the buyer can secure financing to make the purchase. The appraiser shows up, spends an hour or two inspecting the property, and a week or two later delivers an appraisal report that values your home at a fraction of the asking price. Catastrophe, right?
A low appraisal is not uncommon and doesn’t need to sink a sale. In fact, it doesn’t need to be more than a bump in the road.
The National Association of Realtors reports that of the 75% of sale contracts with settlement contingencies, 41% involved appraisal problems. This means that a low appraisal is no anomaly and not an insurmountable barrier.
Translation: if your appraisal came in low, don’t panic.
What Happens if the Appraisal is Lower than the Offer?
If your home appraises for less than the offer, the buyer’s mortgage lender will refuse to lend the full amount needed to complete the purchase. This means the buyer either needs to make up the difference out-of-pocket or you, the seller, either need to negotiate. Neither is a good solution.
The best way to deal with a low appraisal is to avoid getting one in the first place. You can do your part to ensure everything goes right by:
- Hiring a qualified home appraiser with local knowledge.
- Tidying your home inside and out.
- Preparing answers to any questions the appraiser may have.
- Drafting a list of upgrades alongside dates of completion and contractor contact info.
If you did all of the above and your appraisal still came in low, contesting the appraisal may be the next step.
Home appraisers, especially those unfamiliar with your neighborhood or area, make oversights. Establishing the value of a home is not an exact science and mistakes are possible. Contesting a low appraisal means highlighting overlooked details and to do this successfully, you need to know which details matter most.
Comps Are Key
“Comps” refer to similar properties that have recently sold in your area and provide a point of comparison for establishing your home’s value. Where home appraisals are concerned, they are a crucial detail. If your appraisal came in low, it may be because your home appraiser used poor comps.
Review your appraiser’s comps and ensure they are complete. Did a local home change hands without ever being listed? Did it go for more than your home’s appraised value? This is new information the appraiser and the buyer’s mortgage provider will want to see.
Likewise, if a similar home sold in your neighborhood after your appraisal took place and it went for more than your home’s apparent value, you’ll want to share this information.
Upgrades and changes to your property are additional details you want to be sure your home appraiser has considered. Review your appraisal report and ensure everything you’ve done to your home is acknowledged. Did you put in a new bathroom? This is important. Install a new furnace? Your home appraiser needs to know.
Finally, if you’re unable to get your appraisal revised, you can seek a second opinion. Not all mortgage lenders will be swayed by a new appraisal, but if a new home appraiser can make a convincing case, success is possible.