Is your yard a mess? Is your bathroom like stepping into a time capsule from the 1980s? How busy is your street?

All of these factors, and many more, can impact the value an appraiser puts on your home. And in today’s fast-changing market more houses are appraising for less than the contract price, potentially derailing sales.

NJ Advance Media spoke to some local real estate appraisers to find out more about the process and things you can do to make your home appraise higher. Here’s what we learned:

The process

When an appraiser visits your home the first thing they look at is its location. Is it on a main road? Are there high-tension power lines? Does it back to an industrial park? All of these things will affect the value.

Once inside, the appraiser looks at the updates and quality of the materials. They draw the floor plan and take pictures. They count bedrooms and bathrooms, look at the finishes in the kitchen and other rooms.

Then they do a market analysis using National Uniform Appraisal Data to rate the conditions and finishings.

The appraiser looks for the same type of home in a similar condition that sold within the past three months, ideally within a mile, to use as comparables.

Those comp sales are indicators of the subject home’s value,” said Alek Petreski, chief appraiser for New Jersey Real Estate Appraiser Group in Edison.

Things you can do to help your value:

Replace leaking windows, update the lighting, improve the siding or paint the exterior of the house and paint the interior, said Andrew Kesler of Northern New Jersey Appraisals of Clifton.

Replacing the vanity in the bathroom or the countertops in the kitchen “will give you a nice little bump,” Kesler said, without having to do a full renovation.

Things that won’t help your value:

Investing money into your basement to create the ultimate man cave or a kids’ playroom won’t give you a return. The money would’ve been better spent refinishing a bathroom or kitchen on the main floor.

“People don’t live in the basement. It’s not part of the overall square footage of the house,” said Kesler. “The livable area is going to be above grade.”

Another area where you don’t get much bang for your buck is with landscaping. The standard for landscaping in Alpine is different from the standard for landscaping in South Orange, he said.

“As long as you’re meeting the standard for your area, you’re fine,” Kesler said. “If you’re exceeding the standard you’ll get minimal, if any, bang for your buck.”

An untidy yard, however, will detract from the value, he said.

And making your home too personalized can affect its value. Clifford said he recently appraised a high-value home in Bergen County where the kitchen was a quarter of the size it should’ve been for that size house because the homeowner doesn’t cook.

“It was so specific to what he wanted,” Clifford said. “But it was one of those instances where he could afford to build what he wanted and he wasn’t really interested in maximizing the value when he goes to sell it.”

If you do want to personalize your home, “Just don’t have that expectation the market will reward you for it,” he said.

If you’re a buyer, seller or work in real estate, we want to hear from you. Fill out this form to tell us a little bit about who you are, what you want to share with us and how to get in touch with you.


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Allison Pries may be reached at [email protected].

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