It takes home equity to get a home equity loan, and the worse credit you have, the more equity you need. Your lender wants to know what your home is worth, and the appraiser is going to determine that.

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There are three ways to determine what a house is worth.

Cost: This is what it would cost to replicate the home--its replacement cost. The cost method is generally only used when the home is brand new or nearly new and there are no comparable sales to use in determining its worth.

Sales Comparison: This is how your home stacks up compared to similar property recently sold in your neighborhood. Appraisers look at sales nearby, then make adjustments based on your home's age, condition, quality of construction, lot size, quality of view, square footage, number of rooms, and extras like oversized garages, swimming pools, landscaping, etc. The appraiser quantifies the differences between yours and your neighbors' property; for example, she may determine that your view is worth $30,0000 more than your neighbor's, but your smaller yard nets a $10,000 deduction. When all adjustments are complete, your home's value is determined.

Income: This method determines the value of the property based on its rental income and expenses, as well as prevailing rents in the area. This method is used when the property is being purchased for use as a rental.

Your appraiser will include all three methods of valuing your property on the appraisal form. He concludes which method is most accurate and best serves the purpose of the appraisal, and states his reasons for drawing that conclusion. If it's a Fannie Mae Uniform Appraisal Form 1004, the final valuation is presented on the bottom line of page 2.

An appraisal involves a human attempting to form an opinion of how valuable something is and then quantify it (turn subjective impressions into hard numbers). To be sure of getting a fair evaluation, you need to make a good impression.

* Clean it up It doesn't have to be perfect, but a clean home that smells nice makes a good first impression.

* Fix it up Minor repairs undone hint at major neglect. Don't open that can of worms whether selling or refinancing.

* Be there. You can answer any questions that come up.

* Brag. If you have made improvements, make sure the appraiser knows about them. Upgrades won't increase the value by their full cost, but they do count.

* Keep pets and kids out of the way. Let the appraiser do her job without interference.

* Don't be pushy. It's the appraiser's job to determine the home's value, not yours. Saying that your place "oughtta be worth twice as much as the dump down the street" won't win you any points.

* Be nice. The appraiser isn't trying to be rude--measuring, checking out views, and evaluating the property condition is his job. But if you can help--by providing the plans from a recent remodel, for example, it is appreciated.

With a few thousand dollars in home value determining whether you can refinance or not, it makes sense to get the highest value from your appraisal that you can.