Messy, Nasty and Cleaning before the appraisal

I get this question all the time. Should you clean up before the appraiser comes? In short, it’s okay if things are a bit untidy, but there is a big difference between messy and nasty. Let me explain what I mean.

dirty dishesMessy: This is when some things that are not perfectly tidy. The kids played with Legos last night and their creations are still on the floor. The dishes didn’t get done after dinner. Laundry is piled to the ceiling. It’s been a hard week and your house shows it. Sometimes home owners will say, “I can’t have you come over with a dirty house,” which is understandable, but I commonly say, “The inspection should be fairly brief. It’s okay if everything is not perfectly tidy. Life is full. It’s really no problem at all because I’m paid to look past a normal mess.” In short, if there is evidence of regular living, that type of clutter is no big deal. Appraisers are by nature supposed to be objective, and we can see beyond roller skates on the floor, dirty dishes and a lawn that needed mowing last week.

Nasty: On the other hand, if your house is severely cluttered or thrashed, has terrible odors and things like animal feces on the carpet, that’s another story. That’s what we in the industry call “Nas-tay”. If it’s this bad and bordering on a hoarder property, the appraiser may just have to inspect the property as it is because it’s probably unrealistic to get it cleaned up in a timely manner. I’m not a psychologist, but my heart does go out to people in these situations because there are always deeper reasons for such a mess. However, from a property value perspective, it’s not a good thing. In short, if you have a sincerely unclean situation on your hands and it’s reasonable to cure, take a weekend (or longer) to get things looking and smelling decent again. This will help improve your property value.

I asked some friends on Twitter a few days ago for some examples of “unclean” pictures for this post, and I was given a few gems thanks to Realtor Erin Stumpf Attardi, Appraiser Gabe Trevizo and other friends.

photo from Gabe - Arizona Appraiser

Photo of messy house by Realtor Erin Stumpf Attardi

Dirty kitchen - photo from

Closing Thoughts: Appraisers are paid to be objective, yet first impressions are still important. Just as “neat and tidy” is better for prospective buyers, it’s better for appraisers too (though appraisers should be understanding about a normal mess). In short, if you have time to spruce things up and even light some candles (not for romance), go for it. If life is full and you have a minor mess on your hands though, don’t worry about it.

Owner: “My kid’s room is a disaster.”
Me: “I’m glad you’re not inspecting my house.”

Me: “Can you open up the garage for me?”
Owner: “You’re not going to be able to get in. It’s a disaster.”
Me: “Garages are supposed to be messy.”

Owner: “I’m sorry it’s such a mess” (when it’s actually pretty clean)
Me: “Believe me, I’ve seen a mess, and this is NOT a mess.”

I hope this was helpful. If you’re preparing for an appraisal inspection, you may also be interested to read “10 things NOT to do when the appraiser comes over” and “What should you do before the appraiser comes?

Any questions or stories to share? Feel free to comment below.

If you have any questions or Sacramento area real estate appraisal or property tax appeal needs, contact me by phone 916-595-3735, email, Twitter, subscribe to posts by email or “like” my page on Facebook


    • says

      Thanks Sonja. I say similar things. Clutter is not a biggie until it crosses over to filthiness. Clutter also breeds other issues though too. It’s just asking for roaches and mice to hide out.

  1. says

    Another fantastic and helpful post – thank you Ryan! 🙂 Such a huge difference from “Oh my gosh, I need to go home and sanitize my body” and just a few untidy items, or just being a tiny bit disorganized or have some clutter (which I like to personally think of is, folks who actually are living right, right? **stated playfully**) :-). BTW, I love your responses! Very similar to mine, when I’m going to take photos of a new listing.

    • says

      Thanks so much, Heather. I hear you on going to properties and then needing to shower afterward. Well stated regarding a small amount of clutter. Evidence of life is an okay thing. I’m always amazed when people have zero clutter (especially with kids). How do they do it?

  2. says

    I have NO idea. It’s their full-time job to commit to cleaning their home constantly. And many of my friends seem to have zero clutter and it’s amazing. I wish I could count myself in that world of clutter-free, but unfortunately that’s not the case. All you can count me is, jealous. 🙂

  3. says


    I can’t even believe those are pictures of how some people live. I have been a few messy homes but those pictures especially the one with couch is in bit of a need for cleaning.

    • says

      I know, John. It’s hard to believe sometimes. It’s very sad and not the way it should be. Yet sometimes our physical spaces are merely a reflection of what is going on emotionally. There are much deeper issues than the clutter usually. One of the links I included in this post is really disturbing to me. I actually took a shower after inspecting this house with dog feces on the carpet (and kids living in the house). It was sincerely sad and disturbing. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. says

    Another good one. You should know that your posts even help me train my kids. I show them the nas-tay photos and tell them that is why I’m on their rumps all day to clean up after themselves.

    When a house is piled with trash, homeowners may not even realize they have a leak somewhere, or a rotting cat . . .

    • says

      That’s awesome, Alison. I actually say similar thing to my son. I shot a hoarder video a couple years ago, and I use it for reference all the time. I ask my youngest son, “Do you want to grow up to be like that?” I know there are serious issues behind hoarding, and I don’t make light of that. But there is reality about just teaching kids to let go of stuff. It’s not worth it. Ah, the challenges of parenting… Thank you for your continual encouragement.

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