By Eve Thompson
A few weeks ago I posted some tips for getting your home physically ready for the appraisal. Whether you are selling, refinancing, or looking for a home equity loan, the shape your home is in will make a difference in the home appraisal. But there are a few more things you can do to make the appraiser’s job easier.
- The appraiser needs to know what kind of improvements you’ve made. So keep a list of anything you’ve done in the last 15 years—the date and the approximate cost. It matters whether your air conditioner is 5 years old or 25 years old. Something as seemingly small as replacing a toilet also counts.
- Find a plot map of your home. Some HOAs will give you one when you buy your property. The appraiser will go look it up, but they’ll appreciate it if they don’t have to. Regardless, they need to know your property lines and the actual square footage of the structure.
- Find comps and have copies of them. This is also something they’ll do, but if you have already done it for them, it helps—especially if it’s a recent sale that didn’t go through a real estate agent. Those comps can take a while to show up on their databases.
- Make a list of all the improvements in the neighborhood, such as the Metro line coming in, a new high-end grocery store, or a recreation center—anything that makes your neighborhood more appealing to buyers. It’s unlikely that your appraiser lives in your community, so let them know what a great location you’re in!
Once you hand over your helpful information, step back and let the appraiser get to work.
By making your property look it’s best and by giving your appraiser the additional information they need to make a good assessment, you will be well positioned to get the highest valuation from your home appraisal.
By Eve Thompson
Paddock Lane in South Reston is a quiet, wooded neighborhood of single family homes.
Tucked behind Reston Parkway and Glade Drive in South Reston is a cluster of neighborhoods perfect for families who want space to grow. Paddock Lane is one of these lovely neighborhoods with something for everyone.
Built in the late 60s and early 70s, Paddock Lane is a community of single-family homes on quarter- to half-acre plots. The styles of homes range from Colonial to contemporary—there is no cookie cutter feel in this neighborhood.
Aerial view of Paddock Lane in South Reston
In addition to the well-kept homes and yards, one of the most appealing aspects of Paddock Lane is it’s location. Located off Colts Neck, Paddock Lane is across the street from Hunters Woods Elementary School—an easy walk for young children. It is also walking distance to Hunters Woods Village Center, home to the Reston Community Center. There are several parks, a community garden, tennis courts, and the Hunters Woods pool also within walking distance.
Paddock Lane is only a few short miles to the Dulles Toll Road or the Fairfax County Parkway, which is nice for commuters. This is the perfect street for anyone looking for a little bit of land, a friendly neighborhood, and easy access around Reston.
By Eve Thompson
Don’t Let Your Appraisal Kill the Deal (Part 1)
The other day, a friend told me her appraisal for a home equity loan came in $40,000 less than comps in her neighborhood. Why did this happen? Because she didn’t realize she needed to clean and straighten the whole house (especially the huge cobwebs in the windows); it was a dark, rainy evening and the house looked dingy from the outside; and they need to do some upgrades. Granted, the home equity loan is to pay for the upgrades. But still, $40,000 below market value? That is significant.
Do not let this happen to you.
Here is the thing to remember for any appraisal—whether you’re refinancing, apply for a home equity loan, or selling: appraisers are people, and they are just as influenced by physical appearances as buyers are. Your house has to look it’s best when the appraiser comes through lest they appraise the property much lower than it’s worth.
My friend’s story is so common, I decided to do a two-part series on home appraisals. Part one includes the steps you need to take to make your property physically appealing. In part two, I’ll discuss the things you can do to make the appraiser’s job easier.
Preparing Your House for Home Appraisals
To start, know that physical appearance matters. A lot. Appraisers can assign an “effective age” to your home—this is the age they assign after considering how recent the updates are and the overall condition. Torn wallpaper, vinyl floors curling, threadbare carpets, chipped paint—all of these things add up to the overall age of your home. And that will drive appraisers to comps with the same effective age. So, make your house look good.
1. Spruce it up. Every appraiser I know agrees that it’s important to keep the look, feel, and condition of the property as updated and cared-for as possible. Appraisers probably won’t look under your bed, but they will look at overall how clean the home is. Clean the marks of your walls and the fingerprints around door handles. Wash your windows. Replace the peeling vinyl floor. All of these things actually affect the value of your home, and they add up.
This is also a good time to do some of the upgrades you’ve been thinking about. Paint, new carpets, lights, and plumbing fixtures are relatively low cost upgrades that can make a huge difference in your appraisal.
And keep in mind that appraisers often value houses in $500 increments. Repairs that should be made count against your property. So fix leaky faucets, stained drywall, and cracked windows. Make a list and call your handyman—these things can often be knocked out in one day.
2. Address the curb appeal. The appraiser will start the appraisal at the curb, so make sure the exterior of your house looks good. Mow the lawn and do some weeding. If your home needs a good power washing, do it. Many Reston homes tend to collect algae on the roofs (a downside of the wooded communities)—get it cleaned. You want the house to look like it’s in mint condition so that it isn’t compared to foreclosures or other lower-value homes.
3. Make it comfortable. Along the lines of making your home physically appealing is ensuring it’s physically comfortable while the appraiser is there. You may be comfortable in a cold house, but your appraiser may not be. Turn on the heat in the winter and the air conditioner in the summer. You also don’t want them to think the heater or air conditioner is broker!
Improving the physical appeal of your property alone will increase the value of your appraisal. In part 2, I’ll talk about some of the other things you can do to boost that appraisal.
By Eve Thompson
Lake Audubon is one of Reston’s most beautiful spots, and the neighborhoods that border the lake are in high demand. When a home in one of these communities comes on the market, you have to act fast!
Cedar Cover Cluster near South Lakes is one community to keep an eye on. About 20% of the 66 townhomes are direct lakefront property, and all have lake access. These lovely cedar-sided, 3-story homes have 3 or 4 bedrooms and garages.
The Cluster was built between 1980 and 1989 and is located on Cedar Cove Point off South Lakes Drive in South Reston. This family-friendly neighborhood boasts a large playground for the children and is close to schools.
Walking through Cedar Cove Cluster on a beautiful day with a gentle breeze rustling the many trees, you feel a bit like you’re at a resort. Yet, you are just minutes from the Reston technology corridor, the Reston Metro station, and the Dulles Toll Road. South Lakes Village Center (home to a few of Reston’s favorite mom and pop restaurants) is just ¾ mile up the road.
Cluster residents attend Sunset Hills Elementary, Langston Hughes Middle and South Lakes High School.
This neighborhood is the ideal in lakeside living. If you see one of these homes come on the market, jump on it!
By Eve Thompson
Cafesano’s paninis are the favorite lunch time treat for, well, anyone who has ever eaten here!
In 2003, when Paul Swinley opened Cafesano in South Lakes Village Center, he wanted to create a restaurant that combined quick-casual dining with top quality food in a comfortable environment—he didn’t see why any of those things needed to be independent of each other. He thought Reston needed a spot where people who wanted a quick bite to eat could also enjoy a fresh, tasty meal—with a glass of wine or beer as well.
Everyone in Reston agreed. Cafesano was a success from the moment it opened its doors. Today, this locally owned gem is a favorite for residents and people who work in the nearby office buildings. “My favorite lunch spot in Reston,” is a common refrain from anyone who has eaten here. No matter when you drop by, there will be a steady stream of people coming through to enjoy pizza, paninis, and kabobs (and, of course, baklava).
A combination of Italian and Mediterranean flavors, the primary rule at Cafesano is that the food be fresh. That combined with great customer service and a sleek, comfortable dining area with amazing views of Lake Thoreau contributed to Northern Virginia Magazine naming it the best restaurant in Northern Virginia for lunch in 2012.
Paul’s goal is always to give his guests a memorable dining experience by providing them with flavorful food and outstanding customer service. Drop by and visit—you’ll agree that Cafesano is one of Reston’s locally owned treasures!
Location: South Lake Village Shopping Center, South Lakes Drive, Reston, VA
Click here for the menu.
By Eve Thompson
Cabot’s Point in South Reston is lakeside living at it’s finest.
Many neighborhoods say they are Reston’s undiscovered jewel. Cabot’s Point Cluster in the South Lakes area of South Reston is one with a true stake on that claim. This beautiful community of cedar patio homes borders Lake Audubon, Reston’s largest lake. The neighborhood is so secluded that many people don’t realize there are houses back there.
Many homes in Cabot’s Point have lake front property.
Warm is the way to describe this Reston lake side neighborhood.
Built in the early- to mid-1980s, these townhomes have a distinctive contemporary design with sharp right angles and sun-drenched cedar siding. Rather than the adjoining walls typical of most town house developments, two-car garages attach these units. The yards are beautifully landscaped, and common areas provide a wooded setting. The homes have one or two decks and are staggered along winding, narrow cul-de-sacs that give the impression of a small village. Many units have lake views.
Lake Audubon is Reston’s largest lake.
Access to Cabots Point comes from South Lakes Drive, across the street from South Lakes High School and a quick walk to South Lakes Village Center.
Cabot’s Point may be close to every activity Reston has to offer (including the new Reston Metro station), but for many residents, lazy evenings on the lake are the leisure activity of choice.
Talk to any resident of Cabot’s Point, and they’ll tell you they have no intention of ever moving out of the neighborhood. Homes don’t often come on the market here, so if you see one, jump on the opportunity immediately.