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Why CMAs and Appraisals Aren't The Same

Written by on Thursday, 27 November 2014 8:54 am

As part of the homebuying process, your real estate agent may create a comprehensive market analysis or CMA. Later, when you apply for a mortgage, a bank appraisal is conducted by a licensed appraiser. Are CMAs and appraisals the same thing?

While both CMAs and appraisals help determine a home's market value, their purposes are not the same. The CMA is a sales tool to help you find an offer price for the home you want to buy. The homes in the CMA include the home you want to buy plus similar nearby homes. This helps you see how the home you want compares to other homes so you have an idea what to offer.

A real estate professional may prepare a CMA for their sellers to help them choose a listing price. The CMA includes recently sold homes and homes for sale in the seller's neighborhood that are most similar to the seller's home in appearance, features, and general price range.

Although the CMA is used to help determine current market value, the seller's home is typically not even featured in the CMA. The CMA is merely a guide to help the seller learn what's happening in their local market, so they can better understand where their home fits in term of price ranges, based on location, features, size, condition and other factors.

The CMA offers the same advantages to you as a buyer. They help you better understand the local market. You can expand the search and get different results in a CMA simply by changing the zip code or the price range or the number of bedrooms and baths.

Appraisals are all about risk retention for banks and their customers. If the buyer is receiving financing through a bank, the bank will order an appraisal.

Unlike the CMA, a bank appraisal is a professional determination of a home's value. It's performed by a licensed appraiser, using guidelines established by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates federal housing loan guarantors such as FHA, VA and housing loan purchasers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

An appraisal is a comprehensive look at a home's location, condition, and eligibility for federal guarantees. For example, the home you want may have porch steps but no handrail. If you want to buy the home with an FHA or VA-insured loan, your seller will have to repair or install a handrail. The FHA or VA appraiser will look at the home a second time to make sure the steps were made safe.

Appraisers use the same data in their market research to find comparable homes as Realtors do. They are also members of the MLS, but they have additional guidelines from the bank to follow to minimize risk to the bank and to the borrower. If home prices are falling, the appraiser takes the number of days a home has been on the market far more seriously.

When the appraisal is finished, the bank makes the decision to fund the loan, or it may require the seller to fix certain items and show proof that the repairs have been made before letting the loan proceed. If the loan doesn't meet federal lending guidelines, the bank will decline the loan.

Despite stricter lending and appraisal standards, most buyers' loan applications go through to closing. One reason the system works so well is that real estate agents are preparing CMAs that are better tuned to lending standards as well as market conditions. As a buyer, it's in your best interest to understand how lenders approach risk and to learn what the market is doing.

Simply put, you need both a CMA and an appraisal to determine market value. A CMA helps you decide what you should offer the seller. An appraisal determines what the lender is willing to lend to help you purchase a home.

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  About the author, Blanche Evans

Individual news stories are based upon the opinions of the writer and does not reflect the opinion of Realty Times.