What should be in a comparative market analysis (CMA)? A CMA shouldn’t be just a list of solds or actives. It should reflect the current conditions of the market. I was recently asked how long I felt a CMA was accurate and personally, in this market, I don’t think I would want to blindly price a home off a CMA I completed even two months ago. In most cases, my paranoia leads me to double-check solds and similar active listings even an hour before driving over to take a listing. There is a huge disparity in home pricing mainly because brokers use a wide range of largely ineffective models to determine pricing.
What I would look for in a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA).
- New Sold Comps – This one is obvious but probably one of the most overrated when it comes to pricing. I don’t think this is the most important factor in pricing, but it’s important because once buyers have found that they liked your home more than the competition, this is where they will look to see if you’re worth it. You don’t have to be priced less if you can justify it, but both the initial offer and the appraisal will be based on this. Because of this, and to make sure you will appeal to the buyers in the market, you need to be priced in the ballpark that your buyer is looking in. Be prepared with a list of sold comparable homes and a justification of the price based on the homes’ differences. Sold data will likely not show a significant change over a short time frame and usually one low or high sale isn’t enough to support pricing.
- New Competition - How many similar homes are you competing against? What does it cost to buy the other home? How do you compare to what is currently for sale? Lots of competition? It can have a huge effect on time on market and how much you’ll get for your home. If another seller comes on the market and prices below your home it will reduce your ability to compete at a higher price. Unless, of course, your home is truly different in a substantial way, this is not very likely when your home was a new construction home in a subdivision full of homes just like yours. How you compare to other homes that your potential buyers will be looking at is the most important factor in determining price.
- Changing Absorption rates - This is a measure of how long the current inventory would take to sell if no new homes were added to the mix. Demand varies seasonally and as the result of the weather (super obvious) and the school year, as well as economic pressures and even poor media coverage of the market. Supply also varies greatly, peaking in the summer in most cities. It’s a great indicator, especially when applied directly to the homes of similar type.
- Change in Days on Market before a sale – It’s also much easier for most people to grasp when compared to other indicators, but it’s one of those pieces of information that gets abused. Unfortunately, just because something sells quickly doesn’t mean it was under-priced. It could have just been the best home that the buyer was able to get an offer accepted on when they were looking. (see #2) There are too many variables to use the fast sale of a recently-sold property to support the idea that your home should sell for more. I find that of the homes that sell quickly, they usually don’t sell to some new buyer that just wandered by. Most new listings sell quickly when they are priced right when compared to what’s available. Buyers usually look around before they’re ready to buy. The homes that sell quickly likely sold to someone who was looking for a while already and recognized that the home was priced appropriately.
What is most disturbing though is the vast majority of sellers already have a price in their head that they want. Of course, I’m usually willing to hear why the seller thinks his home is worth the pie-in-the-sky price. They are usually trying to compare their home to homes with extra bathrooms, a finished basement, or more square footage. Even worse, many work backwards from how much they want to walk away from the closing table with or what they owe to arrive at their number.
For me though, I believe that the CMA’s should give you a range of what pricing will be acceptable to the market. It should also indicate where offers are being accepted when compared to the list price and what concessions (if any) are common. For Denver, as a general rule, most Denver homes homes sell within 2-3% of their current list price and buyers get less than 1% in concessions. Most also sell within 10% of their original list price of the current listing period. That means most homes priced more than 10% higher than what comparable homes would sell for usually end up expiring without a sale. In case you missed it, most Denver Homes are overpriced on average of 20% when compared to the average list price of the solds.
In the end, it comes down to the feeling you get walking in the door. The same feeling the buyer will get. Look at the competition and know what price can be justified. That’s the only way you can nail down the real value.