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Home Appraisals: How To Refinance Successfully

TLDR

What You Need To Know

  • Appraisals are a necessary part of refinancing – they determine the value of your home and provide lenders with the details they’ll need to lend you the right amount of money
  • An appraisal might hurt a refinance if your home's value is lower than what you owe on your mortgage
  • Refinances usually close within 14 days of an appraisal. It takes 30 – 45 days for a refinance to close without an appraisal

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You may be thinking of refinancing your home for any number of reasons. Maybe you’re hoping to take advantage of a cash-out refinance. Or maybe you want to shorten the length of your loan term or get a lower monthly mortgage payment. A mortgage refinance loan can help you achieve any of these goals.

Whatever’s motivating you to refinance, chances are you’ll need a refinance appraisal to determine your home’s market value. 

If you have questions about the refinance appraisal process, we’ve got the answers to help you navigate your new mortgage loan process. 

What Is a Refinance Appraisal?

When you’re ready to refinance your mortgage, your mortgage lender will typically require a professional appraisal. During this part of the refinance process, a licensed or certified home appraiser will visit your home to provide an estimate of its value.

FYI: Professional appraisers have zero say in your home loan approval. They’re neutral parties. Their job is to determine how much your house is worth so your lender can determine how much to lend. 

While the appraisal might cost you a few hundred dollars, it’s worth knowing whether your property has sufficient value. 

Most appraisals are done in person. Some appraisers and lenders offer other options, including drive-by, desktop and hybrid appraisals. Depending on factors like the size of the property and how busy the real estate market is, it can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to get an appraisal back.

Purchase appraisal vs. refinance appraisal

Whether you’re purchasing a home or refinancing your current one, a lender will typically require an appraisal. The process is nearly identical for either scenario. A professional appraiser visits the home and examines its interior and exterior to determine the property’s value. 

A key difference between a purchase appraisal and a refinance appraisal is that you can be present when the appraiser visits your home. Being there during the appraisal gives you a chance to point out any upgrades you made to the home that could boost your home’s appraised value. 

Do You Need an Appraisal To Refinance?

Most banks, credit unions and online lenders require an appraisal to help them determine how much money you can afford to borrow. But there are some options for no-appraisal refinance loans.

Borrowers with conventional mortgages may be able to refinance without an appraisal, but appraisal waivers are usually reserved for homeowners in specific circumstances.[1]

If you have a government-backed loan, you may qualify for a streamline refinance that doesn’t require a home appraisal, such as a:

What Do Appraisers Look for in a Refinance?

A home appraiser checks many things when they are assessing a home’s value for a mortgage refinance, including property location, the number of bedrooms, home improvements, curb appeal and comparable home values. 

Let’s look more closely at what happens during a home appraisal for a refinance.

Home condition

Your home’s condition is an important consideration when an appraiser is determining the property’s overall value. An appraiser will make note of any conditions inside or outside the home that might increase or decrease the value of your home.

For example, if your roof is old and needs to be replaced, this can cause your home’s value to drop. 

Upgrades

If you’ve invested in any home improvement projects since you moved in, make sure to point them out to the appraiser. Certain upgrades may increase the value of your home, including: 

  • A new HVAC system
  • Installation of energy-efficient windows or doors
  • A new roof
  • Upgraded flooring
  • New landscaping
  • Wood shutters
  • Kitchen and bathroom remodeling

Even smaller improvements can affect a property’s value. Make a detailed list of your upgrades and be prepared to discuss it with the appraiser. 

Comparable homes in the market

The home appraiser will also compare your home to similar properties in the area (also referred to as comps) that recently sold. The comparison provides an idea of what buyers are paying for homes like yours in the market. 

How Much Is a Home Refinance Appraisal?

Whether a home is being appraised for a purchase or a refinance, the average single-family home appraisal will cost around $350.[2] The price can vary depending on whether the appraisal is an in-person, hybrid or desktop appraisal.

Paying for the appraisal is normally your responsibility, and you have to work with the appraiser your lender chooses. While some lenders may ask you to pay the appraisal fee upfront, others will fold the appraisal fee into the loan’s closing costs. 

How Can I Prepare for a Refinance Appraisal?

With a traditional in-person appraisal, the appraiser inspects the interior and exterior of a home.  

An appraiser will want to see that your house is well cared for. So, before the big day, roll up your sleeves and fix that porch swing or slap a fresh coat of paint on your living room walls. 

Here are some more ways to get your home in shape just in time for a refinance appraisal:

Tackle some DIY home improvement

Do a few simple home improvements – paint touch-ups, plumbing repairs or tightening door hinges. If you’ve got the time and the money to tackle bigger projects, renovations like landscaping and kitchen and bathroom remodeling typically add the most value to properties.

Show your receipts

When the appraiser visits, it wouldn’t hurt to humblebrag about any improvements you’ve made to your home so they can incorporate that info into their report. From replaced kitchen cabinets to new flooring or countertops, home improvements can boost a home’s value. And it’s also worth mentioning those unseen upgrades, like insulation and energy-efficient upgrades. 

It’s crucial to have proof that you made these upgrades. Keep all your receipts and invoices so you have a detailed accounting of all upgrades when it comes time to show the appraiser. 

Clean up 

Give your house a deep clean on the inside – but don’t forget the outside. Mow overgrown grass, pull out any weeds or rake up the leaves in your backyard. And as you’re working your way through the inside of the house, go ahead and flip on the light switches and check that all your appliances are working.

What Happens After a Refinance Appraisal?

Once the appraisal is completed, the appraiser will draft a report and send it to your lender. The appraisal report should include: 

  • A map of your property and the surrounding area 
  • The recent home sale prices of similar homes in the area
  • A sketch of the outside of your house
  • A written explanation of how they calculated your square footage
  • Pictures of the front, back and street view of your house
  • Public records used to calculate the home’s value
  • Your home’s appraised value

The appraisal report should give you and your lender insight into how the appraiser arrived at their determination, and it may give you insight into other ways to increase your home’s value.

If the appraisal report meets your lender’s expectations, they’ll begin the process of determining how much you’re qualified to borrow and start underwriting your loan.

What if my appraisal is low?

No homeowner wants to deal with an appraisal that comes back lower than expected. It can throw off your plans and make it difficult to refinance or get approved for the home loan you were hoping for. 

If you get a lower-than-expected appraisal, you can appeal it and ask for a new appraisal. But it’s not as simple as making a request. You’ll need pretty convincing evidence that the appraiser was wrong or made an error. Some of those errors could include missing critical upgrades or choosing incompatible comps. Whatever the reason is, you’ll bear the burden of proof.

If you accept the lower appraisal, the lender may deny your refinance loan application or tack on private mortgage insurance (PMI). 

If your loan doesn’t go through, your appraisal will be valid for 2 – 6 months. You can always use the appraisal to try to refinance again, even if you end up working with a different lender.

Appraisal Refinancing FAQs

How long does refinancing take after the appraisal? 

A refinance loan takes about the same length of time as a conventional home loan. You can expect the loan to close a few weeks after the appraisal comes back.

Do I have to get an in-person appraisal?

Depending on your location and the type of loan you want, some lenders may only require a hybrid or drive-by appraisal. Ask your lender when an in-person ap

What is the difference between an appraisal and an inspection?

The purpose of an appraisal is to assess the value of your home. The purpose of an inspection is to assess the condition of a home and look for areas in need of repair.

How long does an appraisal take?

An on-site appraisal may take up to a few hours to complete depending on the size of your property.

Sail Through Your Refinance Appraisal   

Getting your home appraised is a necessary and often valuable part of the refinance process. What may look like an added expense at first glance is performed to better inform you and the lender about the “true” value of your home. 

  1. Freddie Mac. “Guide Section 5601.9.” Retrieved January 2022 from https://guide.freddiemac.com/app/guide/section/5601.9

  2. HomeAdvisor. “How Much Does An Appraisal Cost?” Retrieved October 2022 from https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/inspectors-and-appraisers/hire-a-property-appraiser/

ICYMI

In Case You Missed It

  1. Be sure to keep records of any upgrades you’ve made to your home so you can provide proof of the work you’ve done to the appraiser

  2. If an appraiser gives your home a lower value than you expected, you can dispute it as long as you have a valid reason to challenge the decision

  3. Showing your house some TLC before the appraiser pays a visit is a good way to ensure that it looks great and (fingers crossed!) gets the best possible valuation

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