As a mtge lender, I have seen HUNDREDS ofappraisals and worked with a vide variety of appraisers over the years. Here is what I tell my clients. There are no perfect comparables, so appraisers will find 3-6 homes that are similar, then they make adjustments either up or down to come up with an final value. There are several catagories, some you have no control over, such as square footage, lot size, number of rooms ect. What you do have control over is condition. The appraiser will mark both the condition of the inside of your house, as well as the outside. With that being said:
1. Clean your house. If your home is a mess and looks run-down he may only mark it as average. Then if he has a comparable house that is clean and tidy, and is marked as excellent he may deduct from your starting value to adjust to match the comparable.
2. Mow your yard, pick up toys, trim bushes.
I read in a response below, that your apprasial will magically come back where the bank wants it. This is not true. In the last several years new state and federal regulations have made it illegail for your banker to contact the appraiser. The banks now use a separate 3rd party to contract the appraisers. This being said, there are some appraisers out there with personal agendas, and if they feel you are using a lending institution they don't like, they will low-ball your appraisal. They are just as gunshy with the market as it is, as many lenders. So, when your appraiser comes out to your house, if he starts asking lots of questions about your loan, such as term, rate, amount, what is is for ect... redirect him to the task at hand. You may polietly tell him that you do not feel comfortable discussing such issues with him.
Remember...the appraiser is working for you. You are paying his paycheck. Do not let him come in and take a quick glance around and leave. Take him through your house and show him the features, and upgrades that you have. By the time the appraiser has come to your house, he has already done all his leg work at the county, double check with him that he has the correct information. I've seen where the county showed the home did not have a heat source, and although the appraiser went into the home (in january in MT) he still went off his info from the county, and not from his walk-through. So just double check that he has documented the correct number of rooms, heat source, siding type, roof type, that sort of thing. Make sure he measures...some appraisers don't and just use the county info, but like I said that is not always accurate. Also, have prepared a list of improvements that you have done and give this to him. Also, if you know of sales in your neighborhood, have these prepared and ready for him.
If you don't feel that you can be prepared for this by tomorrow, call and reschedule for the next day or the day after. It is better to be prepared, than have him come out and waste $400-500. There are some really great appraisers out there, but just like any other business there are some that are not so great. By being an informed consumer, you can make the most of your exprience. Also, call your lender and discuss with them what they suggest. Although they cannot talk to the appraiser, they probably have worked with and know the appraisers from the past, and can probably give you pointers as to what particular appraisers are like and what they seem to focus on. Good luck! And if things don't work out for the Home Equity loan, talk to your lender, there may be other options. During this credit crunch, things are tight, so be patient.