At some point, people who sell their own houses should consider getting an appraisal. A qualified professional can help affix a higher price to a house and at the same time point out improvements that will help it sell.

Appraisals are not a certain path to higher profits, however. They may not be needed in certain situations and in others may actually reduce a seller's negotiating position.

Appraisals are usually required for conventional financing so that lenders can assure the worth of a property. Appraisals are also required to qualify homes for VA and FHA-backed loans.

Sellers can appeal to a greater number of potential buyers in many cases by having their homes qualified for federal mortgage programs. FHA and VA loans offer low interest rates with minimal or no down payments. In effect, Uncle Sam co-signs the loan. FHA appraisals can only be ordered through FHA approved lenders - usually a mortgage company. VA appraisals can be ordered through morst lenders or from the VA directly. To get a VA appraisal in the Washington area, sellers can call 275-1356.

Some standard contracts specify that buyers seeking FHA or VA financing can reject an offer if they are not satisfied with the appraisal. The obvious way to beat this problem is to have an appraisal in hand when an agreement is negotiated.

Appraisals represent an independent source of valuation, impartial evidence that can be used by sellers to sustain a negotiating position. Appraisals can lend credibility to an asking price sought by sellers. This aspect of credibility is particularly important to people who sell their houses ontheir own.

To get a good appraisal a home must be in show condition befor ethe appraiser arrives. Appraisers can only grade a home on the basis of what is there an dnot what sellers promise. Tell the appraiser about any improvements you have made, such as a new rec room, storm windows or new appliances. you can also mention to the appraiser - gently - what price you hope to get for your home.

Sometimes, sellers don't need to get appraisals. Comparable houses for sale in z subdivision will generally reflect a pricing pattern.

in established areas, comparisons may be more difficult. This is an advantage to sellers since there can be more flexibility in pricing. Check the classfieds and the Lusk reports on street-by-street house sales, which are available in many library reference rooms.

Ask brokers about pricing, clearly stating your intent if you plan to sell on your own. Brokers understand that not all self-sellers ultimately market their homes and most regard an interview with a potential seller as a good opportunity to describe their services.

Some sellers may not want to offer their homes with FHA or VA financing and therefore would not need the related appraisals. The reasoning here is that since such loans carry low rates of interset by statute, lenders will effectively raise their yield by charging points.

If your home is in need of repairs or improvements, such as a new roof, or increased amperage, a VA-FHA appraiser may require you to make those improvements. Sellers who want to sell a home "as is" wouldn't be interested in that type of appraisal.

Peter G. Miller teaches the course "How to Sell your Own Home - With or Without a Broker" through the Consumer Information Institute here.