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Mark Williams

Can a Messy Home Affect an Appraisal?

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An appraiser will look beyond the normal signs of life in your home to determine its value.


What You’ll Learn

Why you need an appraisal for home refinancing

The kinds of clutter that can affect a home’s value

How to prepare your home to get appraised


You probably had your home appraised when you first bought it, but if you’re looking to refinance, you’ll likely have to go through the process again. This time, you’ve lived in your home for a while and it’s showing basic wear and tear and other signs of life. You didn’t have to worry about this before, but now you’re asking: can a messy home affect an appraisal?

The short answer is “no, a messy home should not affect the outcome of an appraisal.” However, it’s good to be aware that there are circumstances in which the state of your home can negatively affect its value. Let’s go over what appraisals entail and what factors can influence them.

What is an appraisal?

First things first: an appraisal is an unbiased estimate of your property's fair market value. It's conducted by a licensed professional and requires a thorough inspection of your home and its surrounding area. Appraisals can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours to complete.

To determine your home’s value, an appraiser will consider everything from its structural integrity to its age, and the price of similar homes in the neighborhood. That’s why it’s necessary to get a new appraisal before you refinance. In the time since you purchased, any number of events could have changed the value of your home—including upgrades, damage, and changes to the housing market.

Why do I need an appraisal?

The purpose of an appraisal is to reassure your mortgage lender that they are not lending more than what your home is worth. If you were able to borrow a surplus, your lender would be at risk of losing money if you defaulted and they had to foreclose the property.

The appraisal process for refinancing a mortgage is similar to if you’re buying. In essence, you are switching out your old home loan for a new one, and your lender needs to know the value of your home to lend the right amount.

What do appraisers look for in their reporting?

An appraiser will thoroughly evaluate the quality of your home’s interior, including:

  • Square footage
  • Layout
  • Amenities
  • Structure
  • Potential hazards


They will count the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and note the size of the kitchen and living room. They will check that everything is structurally sound and that your plumbing and heating systems are in working order. They will pay attention to surfaces, appliances, handrails, flooring, fire escapes, and windows.

The exterior quality of your home will also affect its appraisal, including:

  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Siding
  • Guttering
  • Overall structure


Your appraiser will inquire about the property’s age and its construction quality. They will also research the prices of nearby homes, available parking, local attractions, and proximity to schools and busy highways. You can renovate some aspects of your home to improve your appraisal, but many will be outside your control.

Do appraisers follow a set of standards?

Appraisers in most states use the Fannie Mae Uniform Residential Appraisal Report—a form that was created to ensure standardized reporting across the industry. Among other conditions, Fannie Mae requires all appraisers to have experience reviewing similar properties in the same geographic area. This way, appraisers can more accurately determine your home’s value compared to surrounding properties in the neighborhood.

In addition to the Fannie Mae guidelines, appraisers must obtain state licenses, which may require additional certifications depending on their locations.

What kinds of mess can affect a home’s appraisal?

Appraisers are trained to overlook clutter. Stray clothes, scattered toys, unwashed dishes, unmade beds, disorganized closets, and other items that suggest you actually live in your house should not affect an appraisal if they don’t affect its structural integrity.

With that said, there are some signs of neglect that will influence a home’s value—including mold on the walls, peeling paint, and pungent odors from dampness or cigarette smoke. Extreme clutter may also make it difficult for an appraiser to assess the value of your house. If excessive mess prevents them from entering rooms or viewing everything they need to, they may deduct points.

How to prepare for your appraisal

If you are ready to have your home appraised, you should address any significant issues that may affect your home’s value—such as damaged flooring, outdated appliances, and broken windows. A messy home should not affect an appraisal, but signs of neglect may influence how much lenders are willing to let you borrow.

This article was originally published on

Should you consider refinancing with rising rates? Yes

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By Sathi Roy (NMLS ID: 1459669)

Rates are rising, so if you’re considering refinancing, it’s better to do it now as opposed to later, when they might be higher. We’ll walk through some scenarios to help you decide if now is the right time for you.

First you’ll need to look at how far you are into your current mortgage and determine your Combined Loan to Value (CLTV) ratio. Your CLTV compares your loan balance to your home’s value and includes all lines of credit that you may have open on your home. It’s expressed as a percentage, and a lower number is better. A good CLTV opens the door to new loans.

Next, take a look at your bigger financial picture.

5 times refinancing during a period of rising rates is a good thing

1. Your ARM is about to reset

If you’re coming up on the adjustable part of your adjustable rate mortgage within the next year or two, switching loans — whether to a fixed mortgage or another ARM — means your rate would be guaranteed for longer than it is now, regardless of market fluctuations.

2. You can consolidate other loans

Say you have student loans, medical bills, a couple of credit cards...basically, other debt that generally has higher interest rates than home loans. If your interest rates are higher on that unsecured debt than they would be on a new mortgage, then it might make sense to consolidate so you’re paying the same interest rate across all loans.

3. Your credit score improved

Woo hoo! If you boosted your FICO, you could qualify for more types of mortgages. Might as well see what’s out there. If you’re able to find a less expensive loan, you could end up saving a lot of money. Learn how to find the right lender for you.

4. You have more money coming in

You got a raise at work, your spouse got a raise, or your new job pays better. Another woo hoo! However your situation got sunnier, more money in your bank account means a better debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which in turn makes you a more attractive credit risk, which — you see where this is going — means you’ll have better refi options. Everyone’s financial picture is different, so you might need to talk to a refinancing expert about your personal circumstances.

5. You live in a hot market

Obviously this one is beyond your control, but if you live somewhere with rising property values, that could mean good things for you. Maybe you’ve been putting some home improvement projects on the back burner, or you have other reasons you’ve been waiting to take a cash-out refinance. This is a fine moment to check into it before rates go up.

If you’re interested in learning more about how refinancing works and if it could be a good idea for you, check out the Better Guide to Refinance. It covers everything from how to determine your goals to how to shop around. As always, if you have questions, our Mortgage Experts are here with answers.

This article was originally published on

How to Pick a Real Estate Agent

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This article was originally published on

By Kurtis Rhee


Most homebuyers consider dozens of houses before finding the perfect one, but that’s not the case when it comes to picking a real estate agent. Seven out of every ten homebuyers don’t interview their agent before deciding to work with them.1 That’s pretty scary considering not all agents are created are equal -- as the industry saying goes, 20 percent of the agents do 80 percent of the business. If your real estate agent could make the difference between landing your dream home in a few weeks or losing bids, why wouldn’t you shop around?

Finding an agent who is both good at their job and easy to work with isn’t always simple. That’s why we suggest interviewing at least a couple of real estate agents before picking “the one”. Here are some guidelines for how to decide which agent is a good fit for you.

1. Experience


With markets getting more and more competitive, you want a real estate agent with a proven track record of putting people in their dream homes. Read online reviews, talk to past clients, and most importantly, ask if the agent has recently closed on properties similar to what you’re looking for. Pay special attention to their history with homes in the location and price range you are considering.


2. Expertise


Working with someone who is familiar with your desired area helps to ensure that you’ll only spend time and energy on houses that fit your criteria. First, decide on the factors you want to prioritize in your neighborhood search (schools, walkability, nightlife, etc.), and then, go through them with your prospective agent to get a feel for their local knowledge.


3. Empathy


Ultimately, you want to make sure your agent is someone you are comfortable working with. The house hunt can sometimes take months, especially in competitive markets. Working with an agent who shares your communication style can help make the journey enjoyable rather than stressful. Spend some time thinking about the type of person who you’ll be able to work well with. Do you want someone who is patient and will guide you through the process? Or do you want someone who works fast and is straight to the point? (Your answer will probably be different depending on whether or not you’re a first-time homebuyer or familiar with the area.)


Need help finding the right real estate agent? While there is no obligation to use our suggested agents, we can help you save time and energy by introducing you to one who has been vetted by our team. Every agent we suggest has a strong track record of success. Schedule a free consultation to learn more. 

Your Daughter’s Sweet 16: Ideas She’ll Love

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As your precious daughter turns 16, you want to throw her an unforgettable party that she'll reminisce about for years to come. Planning for teenagers is easier said than done, however. Check out these tips for throwing a party that will give your daughter joyful lifelong memories of her sweet 16.

Get Her Input

It's simple but so easy to forget - ask your daughter what type of sweet 16 party she wants, and go from there. It can be easy to think about what kind of party you would have wanted as a teen, but your daughter's preferences may be very different. While you might imagine an extravagant blowout, she may want a small gathering of close friends. Involving your daughter in the planning process increases the chance that she'll have a great time at her birthday bash.

Celebrate What Makes Her Unique

Whether you choose to do a themed party or just have touches of her favorite things, celebrating the things that make her unique can create an entertaining party environment that she'll adore. Whether there's a particular band, tv show, celebrity, or sport she loves, hone in on her interests and find ways to incorporate them into the party.

Consider Going No-Gift

Today's generation of teens are more civic-minded than ever, and there's a decent chance that your daughter would prefer to have people make charitable donations in her name rather than bring a physical gift. Talk with your daughter to learn if this is something she might be interested in, and work with her to choose a charity that matches her interests and beliefs.

Create An Experience

If you and your daughter decide that you'd like to do something other than the traditional blowout bash for her sweet 16, an experience can be a fun, unique way to celebrate her birthday. Ziplining, spending a weekend away in a new city, seeing a play with friends, or checking out a new amusement park can all be exciting experiences that take the place of a formal celebration.

Chat With Her Friends

You want to find out what your daughter would like for her party, but privately check in with her friends too. Together, you can plan a few surprises for her sweet 16 that she'll love. The surprise in and of itself will wow her, but knowing that you and her friends joined forces to do something for her special day will warm her heart.

Don't Forget The Food

Go all out for her celebration by making (or ordering!) her favorite for party guests. She'll feel celebrated as she's surrounded by something she loves, and she'll know how much you care as she sees you going the extra mile to make sure she and her friends have plenty of their favorite treats. Asking your daughter to participate in planning the menu for the party can be a fun way for you to bond and plan together.

No matter what route your daughter wants to go to celebrate her sweet 16, she'll love that you're taking the time to celebrate her.


This article was originally published on DearAva.

How to build a healthier Mother-Daughter Relationship

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Listen without giving advice.

When your mother or daughter comes to talk to you about something going on in their life, it can be hard to stop yourself from telling them what to do. As someone who loves them, you want their life to be smooth and happy, and it can be hard when you see them acting in a way that you wouldn't choose to act. When they're telling you their problem, do the best you can to listen, observe, and reflect back what they're saying to you. Stay away from beginning statements with words like, "you need to," or "why don't you," as these tend to assign blame and put your loved one on the defensive.

Engage in a fun activity - just for the fun of it.

If you have a tough relationship with your mother or your daughter, it can be easy to make every time you see each other into an opportunity to hash out conflict. It's important to spend time just doing something fun together. Taking a painting class, going for a walk, or going out to dinner to talk about what's going on in your lives without getting into the nitty-gritty of your relationship can be a lovely way to strengthen your bond.

Chat it up in the car

If your daughter is young enough that she still lives in your house, spending time together in the car can be a great way to have conversations. The lack of eye contact can make it easier to bring up tough topics, and awkward silences don't feel awkward when you're enjoying the scenery. Don't force your daughter to chat, but feel free to ask her questions about what's going on in her life. Remember, give her time to think and process - it's ok if she seems hesitant at first. She may just need some time to open up.

Learn something new together

Sign up for a cooking class, try out a Groupon for a workout class that neither of you have done before, or volunteer together at a new charity. When you see your mom learning something, you'll begin to wrap your head around the idea that she's a regular woman, just like you - she struggles and overcomes when trying something new. You'll bond together over a new experience, and you'll have a few laughs along the way.

Above all, remember that at the root of most mother-daughter conflict is love

Mothers want the best for their daughters, and it can be hard to sit back and watch them make what the mother believes to be a mistake. Daughters want the best for their mothers, and they can feel frustrated when their mother gets stuck in her ways. When you communicate with your mother or daughter, always remember to speak from a place of love, and your message is more likely to be heard.

This article was originally published on DearAva.

What homeowners can do to prepare for hurricane season

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Hurricane season is squarely underway with Dorian making landfall in the Carolinas. You may have seen all the news coverage, photos, and videos. But if you live in a hurricane’s path, the experience is nothing short of harrowing.


If you are a homeowner during hurricane season, you’ll experience a whole different set of worries and concerns. Here’s some helpful information and resources as we enter this unpredictable time of year.


What to do first if your home is impacted by a hurricane

Register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency

You can register with FEMA online, in person at a disaster recovery center, or by calling 800-621-3362. FEMA also offers help and information for dealing with natural disasters. Visit for more information.

Find out if your homeowner’s insurance coverage includes flood insurance

Homes financed with a federally insured mortgage in a high-risk flood area, also called a special flood hazard area (SFHA), are required to buy flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), or as a separate policy through a private insurer. SFHAs are areas that have a minimum 1% chance of flooding in any given year.

Print out your most recent home insurance policies for easy reference. You can also contact your homeowner’s insurance (HOI) provider, if needed. If your policy doesn’t have flood insurance, read on to learn how to apply for a disaster relief loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Take photos of all damage

Make sure to be thorough and to capture all angles of the damage. Keep in mind that if you have a mortgage, your lender must sign-off on claims above a certain dollar amount. This is because mortgage investors such as Fannie Mae need to ensure your home is restored to a condition comparable to, or better than, when you bought it.


What not to do after a natural disaster

Don’t stop making mortgage payments without talking to your lender

If your home is not livable or your job was affected by a natural disaster and you can’t make mortgage payments, the worst thing you can do is to ignore the bills without talking to your lender.

Don’t assume your lender knows the condition of your home or employment status

If you stop making payments without making a plan with your lender, it will affect your credit, you’ll rack up late fees, and it can put your house on the foreclosure track.


For anyone in the process of getting a mortgage from Better Mortgage

We work hard to ensure that everything for your home loan remains on track. If you’re affected by a hurricane or natural disaster and your rate lock needs an extension, we will extend it at no cost to you to help minimize disruption until after the storm passes. Contact your Mortgage Expert for more information.


Resources you can turn to for assistance

If you are having trouble paying your mortgage

Reach out to your lender as soon as you can to discuss the situation and see what can be done. Many lenders including us at Better Mortgage are able to enlist a temporary mortgage payment hold. That said, if you are able to make your payments as usual, it’s highly recommended you do so.

For emergency response centers in your area

Check FEMA’s website. They can provide information on disaster-related assistance and can often help people find grants to rebuild their homes.

For temporary shelter and medical aid

Your local Red Cross chapter can help with basic needs, such as evacuation shelters, water, food, first aid, and other medical care.

For disaster recovery loans

The Small Business Administration (SBA) can help homeowners, renters, and private nonprofits with recovery related to property, equipment, machinery, and business assets including inventory.

If Freddie Mac holds your mortgage

Visit this link for more information.

If Fannie Mae holds your mortgage

Visit this link for more information.

If your home is FHA-insured

Call the National Servicing Center at 877-622-8525.

For VA home loans

Call 877-827-3702 to speak with a loan technician.

We hope these tips are helpful. Please share with anyone you know who may benefit from having these links handy. It can be a long season, and the best preparation starts with being informed and ready.

This article was originally published on