Money & Career

Nine tips for high-value home appraisals

Whether you're refinancing or need a fair market valuation of your property for tax reasons you’ll need to get an appraisal — and there are ways to ensure you get the highest price point possible for your home


When my husband and I decided to move into a more family friendly home, we decided not to sell our first home. Instead, we rented it out.

To avoid a huge capital gains tax bill later on—when we do decide to sell the house—we opted to pay for a home appraisal. At a cost of $300 to $500, depending on how big or extensive your property is, the appraisal provides an up to date current market value for a home. We can then use this value to calculate whatever capital gains we may need to pay on the home, rather then using our purchase price (we’d done extensive renovations to the house and knew the value had increased since we’d moved in).

So I did a bit of digging and it turns out there are some tips for getting the best possible appraisal value for your home. Here’s nine that can help you get top current market value:

Clean up. Sure, that sounds simple, but we’re not just talking about making the bed or cleaning the cat litter. We’re also talking about giving your carpet or floors a good vacuum or scrub and making sure dust isn’t prevalent on tables, furnishings or baseboards. Also, get rid of projects. If you’ve got a car-in-progress in the backyard, consider removing it or, at least, building a contained shelter around it.

Pay attention to curb appeal. While a few dirty dishes in the sink won’t impact your home’s value, that unruly row hedge and your uncut lawn (or building snow mound) will. Take an hour and spruce up the outside of your home. Not only is it the appraiser’s first impression, but the appraiser will spend a bit more time staring at the outside of your house as he/she makes notes and takes measurements.

List your updates. After installing new copper plumbing and re-doing all the electrical components—at a combined cost of well over $10,000—it’s a shame not to highlight these upgrades. So, keep a list. State what work was done, by what company and when. If possible, give the appraiser this list. That way they have a reference as to what has been updated and how recent or professional that work was done.

Make your own list of notables. Love your home? Then brag about it. For instance, in the deep urban centre of Toronto, parking and a large outdoor space isn’t just nice, it’s a selling feature. So, make a list of features your home has and provide this list to your appraiser. Yes, they will compare your home to the homes in the area, but they’ll have a better idea of what your home offers, which could increase your appraisal value.

Provide your own comps. I was stunned when one of the three appraisers we hired came in with a value $30,000 less than their competitors. When I asked about the difference, I was simply told that the comparables in the area forced the price down. Considering this particular section of Toronto has appreciated, on average, by 20 percent over the last three years I knew that this appraiser had been looking at the wrong comparables. For that reason, I think it’s prudent to actually develop your own list of comparables. Keep an eye for homes selling on your street or area and then print off the MLS listing—or better yet, get a sales sheet (if the homeowner signed a disclosure agreement). While the appraiser will look for their own comparables, it doesn’t hurt to provide them with a few of your own.

If you need to spend to update, be prudent. Many people think the mantra “bathrooms and kitchens” is the panacea for getting high prices on homes. It isn’t. First, consider the fact that kitchen and bathroom remodels can be some of the priciest reno costs. For that reason, it may be more prudent to spend a bit of money, for just a bit of updating. Paint, new carpets, new light or plumbing fixtures don’t break the bank, but can provide a dramatic impact.

Keep the $500 rule in mind. Appraisers will often appraise homes in $500 increments. They’ll also take this into account if a repair or upgrade is required . That means leaky faucets, cracked windows and missing handrails can have a significant financial impact on your home’s value—even if it doesn’t cost that much to fix.

Difference between when your home was built and effective age. The home we left was built in 1898 and when people hear this they often expect the worse. But we knew, from doing our homework, that our renovations and upgrades and effectively altered the “effective age” of our home. Now we had a century home with an effective age between three and seven years.

Lose the pets (temporarily). Finally, when the appraiser comes to your home, don’t have your dog out barking and snipping to lunge and smell the stranger. This can put off would-be appraisers, which can impact the value they provide (although, technically they say it shouldn’t).

One last tip: don’t bug the appraiser with questions and comments
. Instead, simply be prepared to answer any of their questions and, if you do have concerns or queries, wait until they’ve completed their inspection, then ask.

By following these tips, you’ll get the highest appraised value for your home and will help with refinancing or minimizing future tax payments.

Related links

Buying a former grow-op
Smooth out your income
Are you GIS-Eligible?