Appraisals can make or break your home. Here’s how they work and what you should know.

You love your home. You’ve spent years perhaps tweaking it to the fine abode it is today. And now it’s time for someone to put a price tag on it. That someone is an appraiser like Tim Mickal of The Appraisal Group of Louisiana, who says a formula and experienced eye are what contribute to that final golden number.

When do I get an appraisal of my home?

If your house gets sold, it’s going to be appraised. For those wavering on a listing price, an appraisal can give them the assurance they need. But Mickal says anyone working with a Realtor can usually rely on that expert for their initial listing price and then have an appraisal done later. Appraisals, after all, can change based on when you have the appraisal done.

How does an appraisal work?

An appraisal begins with an appraiser doing an on-site evaluation that includes measuring the home for the square footage, documenting the quality of the home and the condition and noting any amenities (think pool, workshop, outdoor kitchen).

“We then sit down at the computer and compile it all and research data and sales as similar as possible,” Mickal explains.

Could I have my home appraised again and get a different number?

Possibly. An appraisal isn’t a fixed figure, but rather a snapshot of the value of the home at the time.

“A residential appraisal is at that specific point in time. It could change in two weeks. Houses near there could sell, and it could go higher or lower,” Mickal says.

Part of the formula for an appraisal includes the selling price for homes within one mile in the past year, which means if the house next to you sells for a hefty sum, it could be good news for your listing price.

I have some money to invest in upgrades. Where do I put it?

There are no sure fire ways to increase the appraisal numbers. But there are some tried and true dos and don’ts. Mickal says kitchens and bathrooms are good bets.

“But it depends. You can overdo the house for the neighborhood,” he says.

Lux extras like pools, outdoor workshops and outdoor kitchens result in about 50 cents on the dollar (or less).

“If you want a pool, go buy a house with a pool,” Mickal advises.

Flooring is something appraisers look at with real wood and high-end tile trending. But, above all, Mickal says simply maintaining the home is a big factor.

Even if you have no cash to invest in upgrades, take some time to get whatever you do have in great shape.

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