Buying a home is one of the biggest investments anyone will make in their lifetime and thus one of the most stressful ones as well. Aside from the high cost of the investment, the fact that a new house is the place you’ll spend the next 10 or more years calling home means buyers should search for the most value their money can buy.

Home Evaluation
How is value determined? Home appraisals, or home evaluations, are an important step in buying or selling a home. For the buyer, the bank financing the purchase performs an evaluation to determine the monetary value of the home and thus whether or not the requested loan amount is a good investment. A bad evaluation can be the difference between a buyer securing the financing to complete the purchase and having to walk away from a sale.

On the flip side, current homeowners, prior to selling, will usually request an independent evaluation of their own to determine the value of their property as well as what repairs or renovations can be done to increase the estimate. Particularly if you’re selling a property for which a mortgage is still owed, underselling a home is always a bad financial decision. In today’s connected world, social media is a great tool for sorting through appraisers to find the best person for the job.

What’s Involved with a Home Evaluation?
It should be noted that a home evaluation is not the same as a home inspection. The latter is a structural examination of the property to determine whether any repairs are needed or if any safety issues exist. A home evaluation deals primarily with the surface aspects of the home such as appearance or the quality of the neighborhood. Nevertheless, since a home evaluation deals primarily with “first impressions,” it’s helpful to know what the process entails so that sellers can improve the value of their property and buyers can be informed.

Curb Appeal and Yard Maintenance
Whether it’s a lack of time, money or the manpower to do the work, many homeowners adopt the habit of neglecting the outside of their home. Overgrown grass, weeds growing between cracks in the sidewalk, broken porch steps and damaged siding are but a few examples of what will lead prospective buyers to drive past a home and the owner to sustain a property devaluation. A neglected exterior may also signify to a prospective buyer that a yard’s size is too big to manage.

Structural Appearance
While a home evaluation does not look closely at the structural integrity of the property, it’s possible to judge the condition of the roof, signs of leakage around window frames and the quality of the siding just by walking around the exterior of the home. Touching up the exterior paint or spending a few thousand dollars to add a second layer of roof shingles will increase the value of a home.

Interior Design
How a home is decorated will greatly influence the evaluator’s opinion. This is known as home staging. An open floor plan with modern furniture, bright colors to lighten the space and decluttered rooms all add value to a home. The key is to remove any reminder that a family already lives there and instead create a magazine-esque look that anyone can envision as their own.

Renovations and Updated Appliances
Renovated kitchens with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances are a perfect example of how investing $5,000 in updating your home will add $15,000 to the property’s value. Features like these are also what prospective buyers are looking for because no one wants to spend additional money on renovations after buying a new home.