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Tips for Increasing Your Appraisal Value: An Interview with Brad Hevenor of Markus Appraisal

By Brad Hevenor

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Markus Appraisal is a family company founded in 2005 by my father, Mark Hevenor, focusing on commercial real estate valuation. Mark is our chief appraiser with over 20 years of experience in the profession. I also work with my brother, Adam Hevenor, and my wife Jordan Hevenor, who recently received the MAI designation from the Appraisal Institute. We feel that being a small family firm allows us to maintain high standards for quality and provide the best customer service to our clients. Between the four appraisers in our office, we have certified general licenses in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine.

What are some of the services your company provides?

We specialize in the valuation of commercial and investment properties, including industrial, retail, office, mixed-use, land, subdivisions, and special-purpose properties. Our appraisals are often used in conjunction with bank financing, tax assessment appeals, or investment planning and decision making. Clients also ask us to assist them with determining value in preparation for a potential purchase or sale, or providing opinions of market value for legal situations, such as a divorce or an estate. Appraisers can do more than you might expect to help clients with important real estate decisions.

As an appraiser, what are the big influential areas you look to when deciding a home's worth?

The most important factor is well-researched market-based evidence, focusing on recent comparable transactions in the property's neighborhood, or in the case of commercial properties, the competitive market. We make adjustments based on any element that influences sale prices. This could include transactional factors such as atypical seller motivation or market conditions. Of course, we analyze the location as well as physical characteristics of the site and building, such as size, condition, and construction quality.

How important are the little things to you (e.g. trimming of the lawn, having a clean house) when it comes to assessing the value of a home?

It doesn't hurt for the property owner to put their best foot forward, but frantic last minute cleaning is probably not the most productive use of time. You know how your dentist always knows if you started flossing your teeth the night before a checkup? In the same way, appraisers have visited hundreds, or even thousands, of houses and are experienced in focusing on the most important characteristics. In general, the best thing someone can do for their property value is simply to be a responsible owner every day of the year- by planning for routine maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. If a property owner only has a few minutes to prepare for the appraiser's visit, there are better ways to spend that time than picking up the toys or washing the dishes. For example, they could spend a few minutes making a list of recent renovations or repairs, or gathering any useful materials such as a survey, floor plans, or relevant legal documents.

Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to persuade you, as a home appraiser, that their house is actually worth more than it may appear?

Appraisers are data driven and independent-minded. Efforts at "persuasion" are unlikely to be taken well, particularly if the underlying motive is to push the appraiser towards an inaccurate or unrealistic value conclusion. Homeowners should know, however, that appraisers are always eager for information that could assist them in developing a credible value opinion. The owner can certainly accompany the appraiser during the inspection and provide the appraiser with relevant information. This could include preparing a list of recent renovations and associated costs, pointing out energy efficient features, or even providing background on recent home sales in the neighborhood. The best way to get an appraiser's attention is to treat them like a professional and assist them in making thorough and accurate observations about the property. Along with being prepared with property data, the homeowner can and should insist that the appraiser hired by their lender is competent and highly qualified, as evidenced by membership in a professional organization or a designation, such as MAI or SRA.

How much research about the neighborhood do you do prior to the home appraisal?

While we often conduct research prior to visiting the property, the bulk of our analysis occurs after we have made direct observations about the site and building in person. We do often collect comparable sale data prior to the visit, so we can get a feel for market activity in the area and drive by recently sold homes. It is helpful to view the neighborhood and surrounding area at the same time as the appointment, so we can really see how the property fits in the neighborhood.

How important is the neighborhood when it comes to valuing a home?

Neighborhood factors can be very important, especially considering likely buyers are comparing your home to other similar homes in the neighborhood. The data set used to derive an opinion of market value will likely come from activity in your own neighborhood. In that sense, the neighborhood can really set the boundaries for what sale price your property might achieve on the open market.

Where are some areas that if the homeowner just took some time to fix up it would drastically improve their home value?

That depends a lot on the particular property and its relation to the neighborhood and local market. In fact, appraisers can help consumers determine which projects might yield the best return on investment for their property. It is often the most basic upgrades, such as fresh paint or new fixtures, that would provide the best bang for your buck. In general, homeowners should consider market standards for similar homes in their community and take steps to bring their homes up to typical standards. It is important to remember that, while most renovation projects add value, not all add value above and beyond the cost of construction. As I said, routine maintenance and proper care can be just as important as any renovation project.

What is the best way for people to get in contact with you or your company?

We are always responsive to telephone calls and emails. Our contact information is available on our website (www.markusappraisal.com).

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