Does a messy house affect an appraisal? No, but here’s what might

Cluttered house during appraisal


An appraisal of your home may be done for a variety of reasons, but most commonly an appraisal report is ordered by a buyer’s lender if you are selling your home, or it can be ordered by your bank if you are refinancing your home loan.

When a home is listed on the market for sale, most homeowners will keep their homes meticulous and free of clutter for showings to potential buyers. But what happens once you accept an offer from a buyer, sign contracts and stop showings? You may return to your normal daily routines and find that your picture perfect abode has returned to a messy home.

The good news is a messy house does not directly affect an appraisal, but there are many other factors that can. By having a general idea of what appraisers are looking for, homeowners can help ensure that your home’s appraised value is as high as possible.

What factors affect an appraiser valuing your house?

Though most appraisers follow the same set of standards and are hired as neutral third-parties, a home appraisal is still one person’s opinion of your home’s value. Homeowners have one chance to make a good impression on an appraiser, so you want to make sure you know how to present your home in its best light.

Here are a few factors that can impact your appraisal:

Condition of your home

Significant issues or major repairs that need to be made, like damaged flooring, broken windows, or structural damage, can negatively impact a home’s appraisal value.

Before you decide to sell your home and put it on the market, it’s essential to keep up with maintenance and make any necessary repairs. Even in a real estate housing market that favors sellers, you can get more money for your home by fixing the structural integrity before it goes on the market. Cosmetic upgrades, such as painting walls or refinishing floors, can also get you a higher price from buyers, and from an appraiser.

Location of your house

Location will also play a role in your home’s appraisal. If you live near a desirable downtown area with parks, shopping, recreation, and other lifestyle perks, you may have a higher appraised value than if you had an identical home in a more remote area.

Proximity to major cities and job prospects will also influence your home’s value, as well as the ease of access to the home or city/job via public transportation and major roadways. This is why homes in the suburbs closer to a major city, with easy access to the city, are often valued higher than homes located farther away.

Your home’s location within your immediate area is also very important. A house on a busy double-yellow road or backing a highway or train tracks will have a different value than a comparable home in a quieter location within the same neighborhood. If your home is on a corner property versus the end of a private road or cul-de-sac matters, as well.

The square footage of your home

Appraisers compare your property lot size and interior square footage with similar properties that have recently sold. If you have significantly more property or more interior living space than a neighbor’s recently sold home, the appraiser will make adjustments for each and allocate more value to your home appraisal.

How the square footage of your home is distributed is also an important factor to consider. Is most of it allocated to living areas or is there an excess of unnecessary storage space? Keep in mind, though a finished basement is attractive to most buyers, appraisers do not consider below-grade areas as living space included in the square footage calculation. And some appraisers may not consider unpermitted areas, like a converted garage to bedroom, as living space.

The age of your house

Generally speaking, newer homes will appraise higher than older homes. An older home with deferred maintenance and outdated appliances and fixtures will get a lower appraisal than a newer, updated home with less work needed.

However, if you have a desirable home in a historic district that has strong structural integrity with modern finishes and upgrades, your home appraisal may come in higher than a more contemporary home.

Your home’s finishes

While you can’t change the age of your home, you can change its finishes. Fresh paint, a new bathroom vanity, or adding energy-efficient technology are some relatively inexpensive ways to increase your property value to attract a buyer to purchase your home or for your home appraisal.

Before putting your home on the market, consider making modern updates and upgrades to encourage a higher offer price from a buyer. Anything you can do to increase a buyer’s interest in a home can affect an appraisal positively.

Comparable sales in your neighborhood

Appraisers will look at past sales of similar and comparable properties in the surrounding area to determine your home’s value in your local market. Using the comparable properties as reference, an appraiser will make adjustments to your home’s price, adding or subtracting points based on the comparison.

It’s always good to pay attention to what other homes in your area sell for in your neighborhood, but keep in mind that the appraiser will only look at similar sold homes within the last six to nine months.

What can you do to avoid a low home appraisal?

A home appraisal is an essential part of most real estate transactions, and if your appraised value comes in low, it is difficult to contest or request a new appraisal. So it’s important to avoid getting a low appraisal amount for your home.

Here’s what you can do to avoid a low appraisal on your home:

Conduct thorough research

The first step is to do your research. Look up recent sales of similar homes in your surrounding area within the last six to nine months to get a feel for where your home’s true value sits. Real estate agents will research every recently sold comparable property before putting a home on the market for sale, so you will know what price range to expect when you have your home appraised.

Though you may only see an appraiser on your property for less than an hour, a home appraisal consists of much more than just a home visit. An appraiser will spend a great deal of time researching, comparing and calculating an appraisal value.

Prepare proof of upgrades

If you have made any upgrades to your home, especially structural or mechanical items that aren’t clearly visible, ensure that you have documentation to show the home appraisers. This could include receipts, before and after photos, or even permits if required. You can also provide a list of upgrades along with approximate dates for the appraiser’s visit.

Improve your curb appeal

First impressions matter, and your property’s curb appeal is the first thing that an appraiser will see. The appraiser will not only be looking at the inside of your home, but they will also note the surroundings of your personal property. Make sure your landscaping is well-groomed, and scan the exterior to make sure the appraiser has access to all sides of the home.

It couldn’t hurt to repair any exterior issues that could affect the structure of the house, such as a sagging gutter, damaged siding or missing shingles. But don’t go crazy buying new plants and trees to spruce up the cosmetic look of your home. Focus on fixing any potential problems and making the home look more inviting.

Declutter your house

Though the short answer to this article’s question is that a messy or dirty house won’t directly affect the appraisal value, a messy house can indirectly lead to a lower appraisal. Personal items such as scattered clothes should not impact a home appraisal, but it is always a good idea to keep the home decluttered and allow the appraiser access to all critical areas of the home.

Extreme clutter and blocked areas may be obvious signs to an appraiser of deferred maintenance or an attempt to conceal defects. Removing extreme clutter will help minimize negative influences on the appraiser’s opinion of your home’s final value.

Keep in mind when you accept an offer that is contingent on an appraisal, expect that the buyer’s lender will order the appraisal within a few weeks of signing contracts. This way you can try to keep your home decluttered and as tidy as it was when it was on the market for sale.

Think like an appraiser

Once you have done your research and prepared your home, it is time to take a step back and look at it objectively. Separate the personal memories and attachments of your home with its physical attributes and be honest about how it compares with other homes in your neighborhood.

Try to view your home through the eyes of an appraiser and identify any areas that could negatively affect an appraisal, but also areas that could positively impact it, as well. If before you put your home up for sale, you do your research, prepare the property and price it properly, there shouldn’t be any surprises by the time of your home appraisal.


Cristina Morizio

Long Island real estate agent Cristina Morizo
As an experienced REALTOR® and Long Island native, I know the ins and outs of the real estate market. I help home buyers, sellers, investors and homeowners navigate and negotiate. Questions? Ready to buy or sell? Let’s talk!

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