What You Need To Know About CMA and Real Estate Appraisal

By Ciprian Morariu Published: January 31, 2024

What is CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) in Real Estate 

Comparative market analysis or CMA is the process where a property value is compared with near-similar ones in a location. The benefit here is that it is a true index of the market value of a property. It is a great help to both buyers and sellers who want to ensure that they get their money’s worth in a real estate transaction. 

Through CMA, real estate agents and brokers can arrive at an informed decision when it comes to buying and selling a property. 

How does CMA work and how does it help real estate agents and brokers? CMA compares a property with several other almost-like ones on different parameters such as location, size, add-ons, and condition. Real estate professionals can then arrive at a fair price of the property they are dealing with.        

It is an essential tool for determining a property's listing price when selling or assessing the value of a property when buying.

Real Estate Appraisal

Generally, professionals prepare CMAs to assist their clients in strategizing pricing or offers in the dynamic real estate market.

Why does CMA in Real Estate Transactions hold value?

  1. Inform decision-making: it assists buyers in assessing whether a listed property is price-reasonable, in comparison to recent sales of similar properties or not.
  2. Market trends and conditions: it gives an insight into the current market conditions of supply and demand and other economic factors. It helps in understanding the overall health of the real estate market and helps make strategic decisions based on that.
  3. Arbitration tool: CMA provides valuable data that provides a benchmark for negotiating real estate prices. Hence, over or underpricing is ruled out and any property is listed at the ideal price reflecting its true market value. 
  4. Helps appraisers: CMA is a tool used extensively by appraisers to arrive at an accurate market value of a property.  

In short, it is a vital tool in real estate transactions with a data-driven approach. If used properly, you can strategize your path to success easily.

Key Components of a Comprehensive CMA

CMA is a highly optimized tool for real estate professionals to arrive at the benchmark value of a property based on certain variables. These include the location of the property, size, condition, and any additional structures.   

An example will clear this aspect better. If the property under evaluation has an extra bedroom but is similar in all other aspects to a comparable property, a slight adjustment in appraisal will only be necessary.  

CMA is also a true reflection of the market conditions and trends. It allows real estate agents and brokers to get a broad perspective of the real estate prices prevailing in a specific location. Most importantly, it is a tool for comparison between similar properties only.  

Summing up, CMA is necessary for both sellers and buyers. While sellers get an idea about the market value of their properties, buyers know if they are getting value for money when becoming owners of their dream homes.    

What is Real Estate Appraisal

Real estate appraisal is the process of determining the value of a property. Its goal is to provide an unbiased and fair estimate of the property's value based on its location, size, condition, features, and the current state of the real estate market. 

Given how crucial appraisal is in a real estate deal, this process can only be carried out by licensed appraisers who are experts in this field. 

All That You Need To Know About Property Appraisal 

The appraisal process is done by licensed appraisers and follows certain specific steps.  

Steps carried out during the appraisal process are as follows.

When a financier or a lending institution needs to lend against a property, the first step is to arrive at its correct market value. This is when an appraiser is called upon to carry out this very important task.

The appraiser first does a physical inspection of the property and checks the size, condition, layout, features, and other relevant factors. The valuation report is then prepared using one of the following methods - sales comparison approach, cost approach, and income approach. 

Finally, the report is submitted to the stakeholders who are lenders, buyers, sellers, or any person dealing in the real estate transaction.

The person who performs this process is a licensed and certified appraisal with the required professional qualifications to be one. Appraiser undergoes education, and training at a certification process to ensure that they have the required knowledge and skills to assess property values. 

However, in many cases, the lender or the financial institution involved in the transaction initiates the appraisal process. 

Which Is Better? CMA or Appraisal In Assessing Property Value

Competitive market analysis and appraisal both are methods that are used to assess the value of a property in real estate. However, it is important to know that they both differ in terms of their purpose, approach, and who performs them. So to make that clear here is an attempt to compare the two based on the following factors.

Appraisal Real Estate

Decoding Comparative Market Analysis vs Appraisal

1. Purpose

Real estate agents use CMA to determine the true listing price of a property on behalf of sellers. Appraisal, on the other hand, is used to determine the extent of financing possible on the same property. Here, lenders use appraisal to ensure that the property's value justifies the loan amount taken against it.

2. Performer

CMA: it is typically prepared by real estate agents who analyze recent sales in their area to provide clients with an estimate of what their property might sell for in the current market.

Appraisal: it is conducted by licensed and certified real estate appraisers who are independent and unbiased. They follow a set of guidelines and maintain standards to do their job.

3. Data sources

CMA: multiple and variety of sources, including the local multiple listing, service, sales data, report of recent times, and the knowledge of the local market are involved.

Appraisal: Here, a standardized approach is used which is often seen incorporating the sales comparison, approach, cost approach, and income accrued wherever applicable.

4. Adjustments

CMA: it focuses more on qualitative adjustments rather than the precise adjustments made by an appraisal. 

Appraisal: Appraisal involves quantifiable adjustments based on property features and their specificity.

5. Formality

CMA: competitive market analysis is generally less formal and may not follow standardized procedures. It is more of a tool to assist in pricing decisions and nothing more than that.

Appraisal: This results in a formal report that includes detailed information about the property, appraisal methods used, comparable sales, and any adjustments made. It follows a set industry standard and is often a requirement for mortgage approval. So it is as formal as it gets.

With this comparison made, it can be said that both CMA and appraisal provide valuable insights but the context and purpose of each method decide which is more appropriate for the given situation in the real estate market and which is not. 

Why Choose a CMA Over an Appraisal?

  1. Choose a CMA. If the primary goal is to determine a competitive listing price for a property, it can give you quick and informal guidance.
  2. They are less expensive and budget-friendly.
  3. They are often generated more quickly than formal appraisals. Time is money in this fast-paced real estate market.
  4. It is sufficient for informal pricing discussions.
  5. Use CMA if you want to assess the market and set an initial asking price, but you can be open to adjusting it later. 

It is important to know that while they offer advantages in certain situations, they are not a substitute for a formal appraisal.

Why Choose an Appraisal Over a CMA?

  1. It is difficult to find a truly compatible sale for unique and specialized properties. In this case, an appraisal can offer a more precise valuation.
  2. If you are looking to challenge your tax assessment, you may opt for an appraisal.
  3. Appraisal serves as an authoritative document that is court-recognized in legal disputes such as estate settlements and divorce, where a precise and defensible property value is needed.
  4. The appraisal process is unbiased and objective which makes it a credible source of valuation.

The choice between a CMA and appraisal depends on the specific needs and context of the real estate transaction. It is a preferred choice when a more rigorous and universally accepted evaluation is required.