Ed's Chesprocott Region Blog: What's the Difference Between an Appraisal and a Comparative Market Analysis

What's the Difference Between an Appraisal and a Comparative Market Analysis

What's the Difference Between an Appraisal and a Comparative Market Analysis


No proper real estate transaction can completed unless the true value of the house is determined. Most real estate agents will look into closed sales to use as a guide to reaching a Fair Market value for the subject property. This would be considered a Comparable Market Analysis, or CMA.

appraisal forms

In researching the CMA, like properties are selected, as close as possible to the subject property and normally no sales beyond 90-120 days. Adjustments are then made for differences in the properties using the subject home as the base and making dollar allowances up or down depending on the variables.

Allowances are normally made for square footage differences; lot size, number of bedrooms, baths, garages, pools and any item of substance that would carry a significant dollar differential. If the agent preparing the CMA uses enough comparative items, the Fair Market value of the house would be obtained and should provide a starting point for discussions with the seller of the house.

When a more accurate value is needed, such as for determining a homes' value for a mortgage, then a licensed appraisal is required. The appraiser will use many of the same base requirements, but unlike the real estate agent, they will go to the town records and research all sales that may not have been processed through conventional real estate channels.



Their evaluation sheets are far more detailed than the forms a real estate agent would use, and when reporting to a bank they will also do some additional checking for any property liens as well as building permits. The appraisal is considered the primary means to determine a real estate value and often this value cannot be challenged unless something was grossly misunderstood or overlooked.

Many real estate agents will prepare their CMA's with great accuracy and can come very close to the values as determined by an appraiser. Their research will also be as involved as the appraiser especially when working to verify the possibility of working on a short sale.

When a seller is looking for a reasonably good determination of value in order to sell a house, the CMA should suffice. It is often used to determine value in legal proceedings such as probate cases or divorces, provided all sides are in agreement.


For sellers it is essential to have a sales price on your home consistent with the most recent activity. We offer free market evaluations to assist you in your sale.

If you would like information on homes for sale in Central  CT please call me at 203-206-0754 or send me an email. I would be happy to assist you or to discuss homes on the market in Central CT.


What's the Difference Between an Appraisal and a Comparative Market Analysis


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Ed Silva  Mapleridge Realty, LLC,   203-206-0754

Comment balloon 36 commentsEd Silva • September 09 2015 01:06PM


Ed this is a very good explanation of the two processes.  What Buyers and Sellers need to keep in mind is that even all the work that goes into an appraisal an appraisal is still just an opinion of value, and I have seen where two Appraisers were $10,000 apart on a house that sold for under $200,000.  But as imperfect as an appraisal may be it is the best opinion possible.

Posted by George Souto, Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert (George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages) about 5 years ago

Both are based on science and yet very subjective.. there are always different comps that can be used.  Excellent explanation.

Posted by 1~Judi Barrett, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) about 5 years ago

Ed - There are a lot of similarities between a CMA and an Appraisal. It has always amazed me how often a home sellers sales price (based on a Realtor's CMA) falls relatively close to the appraisers appraisal of value. There are rarely significant differences in value, and that typically occurs when the market is increasing faster than the appraisals can keep up with the increasing values. 

Posted by Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807, Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor (Good Company Real Estate) about 5 years ago

Hello and congratulations on your featured blog post! Well done and hope to see you have many more featured post.

Posted by Mery Fernandez Empire Network Realty Luxury Brokerage, The Rise of An Empire, Let's Build Yours! (Empire Network Realty INC.) about 5 years ago

Ed Silva Very good explanation and the similarities and differences between the two.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA about 5 years ago

Very well said Ed.  The other point to make, somewhat cynically, is that only the appraisal can kill a deal...

Posted by Mike Reyman, Delaware County Real Estate (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors) about 5 years ago

Hi  Ed, Great post.  We often forget that whether it is a CMA or full blown appraisal, these are opinions of values,  subjective and measure value at a specific point in time.  These may only  be as good as the most recent sales/listings.  Your CMA today for a potential seller may look different two months from now when an appraisal is done for a home loan. Great explanation of the two!

Posted by Shirley Coomer, Realtor, Keller Williams Realty, Phoenix Az (Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living) about 5 years ago

Ed Silva - You did a great job explaining the differences between CMA and appraisal values. One has to remember that these values are still subjective no matter how many data can substantiate it, The true value is still how much a buyer is willing to pay for it.

Posted by Les & Sarah Oswald, Broker, Realtor and Investor (Realty One Group) about 5 years ago

Ooh...huge difference. Good topic and I think you made it very understandable. 

Posted by Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner, Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395 (Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395) about 5 years ago

George Souto   It just came up in a sit down. Seller's didn't like my CMA value and decided to spend the $400 on an appraisal.  The numbers were less than $1,000 different.

 I should have included a Broker Price Opinion to add to the definitions.

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 ) about 5 years ago

As George said, they are both opinions which can be slightly off, however, if both are skilled at their craft they will be as accurate as possible with a slight +/- variance. 

Posted by Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert, Broker/Owner of Zion Realty ZionRealtyAZ.com (Zion Realty) about 5 years ago

I don't have much confidence in appraisals.  In our area, they merely try to "support" the already agreed upon sales price... seems like cheating to me.

We Realtors have to build a CMA from the ground up, using comps and actives...  and we'd better be fairly accurate, 'cause the owner might call our bluff and ask to us 'name that tune', and sell it for that amount.

The appraiser has no such accountability.

Posted by Alan May, There's no place like home. (Jameson Sotheby's International Realty) about 5 years ago

Thanks Ed for this clear and concise description of the differences between the two. Many times buyers/sellers are unclear as to the process.

Posted by Blatt + Cutino, Broker-Associate 831/206-8070*Call today* (Coldwell Banker Realty) about 5 years ago

In Maryland, anyone who performs an appraisal must be licensed as an appraiser. Agents are required to include on their CMA a statement that it is not an appraisal, using specific wording. I've found that CMA's are often more accurate, when predicting the likely sale price, because appraisers often come from out of the area. In the end, however, appraisers get the final word unless buyers and sellers are willing to negotiate the price after a low appraisal.

Posted by Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) about 5 years ago

Ed Silva ~ good reply Ed, in fact many times I would hang my hat on a CMA performed by a  local experienced Realtor compared to an appraiser working an area they are not familiar with. 

I recently had a condo under contract and the appraisal came back $12,000 under.  The appraiser decided to go outside the community and compare our block brick constructed condo to a wood frame condo conversation.  I was not upset it didn't appraise but upset the appraiser decided to take a couple of bad comparables and only make one adjustment for no assigned parking.  No adjustments made for Block Brick vs Wood frame, square feet the same only because comps had enclosed balcony vs subject with true same square feet  PLUS SCREENED in balcony,  low apartment popcorn ceiling vs 10 ft orange peel ceiling,  beautiful courtyard views vs parking lot and headlights, wood floors vs carpeting.  Sent detailed dispute - NO adjustments made!  End result buyer saw value and came to closing with difference. 

"What's the Difference Between an Appraisal and a Comparative Market Analysis" ~ some times a lot!

Posted by Robert Schott & Paula Hemani, Your Link to Real Estate (TeamConnect Realty) about 5 years ago

Excellent explanation, Ed, on a subject most sellers do not fully understand. It's also very important that the appraiser is local and familiar with the area and local market. 

Posted by Barbara Altieri, REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale (Kinard Realty Group Fairfield and New Haven County CT Real Estate) about 5 years ago

I think the two can complement each other. Obviously for loan purposes an appraisal is needed but I have had appraisers helped by CMA's before. Thanks!

Posted by Paul McFadden, Pest Control, Seattle, WA. (Paratex) about 5 years ago

This is an excellent explanation! I think I will re-blog this since my clients always are asking me about this! Cheers!

Posted by Jan Sohlman, RE/MAX Integrity (RE/MAX Integrity) about 5 years ago

No lender would lend money based on a CMA, that's for sure.

Sadly, the CMA is often used to secure listings when it's really wishful thinking.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) about 5 years ago

Great post, Ed... too many sellers think we "appraise" a house. I spend a lot of time explaining what a CMA involves versus a bank appraisal for a loan.

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Realty) about 5 years ago

Great explaination.  I tell people that an appraisal is certified by a licensed appraiser who has made a detailed evaluation of the property.  Whereas a CMA is typically a quick analysis of the property often done with just a few minutes of preparation.  

Posted by Rob Arnold, Metro Orlando Full Service - Investor Friendly & F (Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc.) about 5 years ago

Thanks for a great article about the differences between CMA and an appraisal.  Good information!!!

Posted by Sham Reddy CRS, CRS (H E R Realty, Dayton, OH) about 5 years ago

People buy from people first...the one pitching anything is selling, the tool is telling....A good combo can hit the mark more often than not. Good post

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) about 5 years ago

Well deserved Feature, Ed.  Good explanation of difference & similarities between CMA and appraisal as well as when either are needed

Posted by Mary Yonkers, Erie/PA Real Estate Instructor (Alan Kells School of Real Estate/Howard Hanna Real Estate) about 5 years ago

Nice post Ed. I smile when I hear a seller ask me to appraise his house and I quickly correct him with the proper term and what is involved.

Posted by Debbie Reynolds, C21 Platinum Properties, The Dedicated Clarksville TN Realtor-(931)320-6730 (Platinum Properties- (931)771-9070) about 5 years ago

Ed loved this post and based on the volume of comments so did the rest of the community:))Endre

Posted by Endre Barath, Jr., Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002 (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices) about 5 years ago

Ed, great post on the differences between an Appraisal and a CMA. 

Posted by Frank Rubi, FrankRubiRealEstate.com (Frank Rubi Real Estate, LLC) about 5 years ago

Good morning Ed. Well deserved feature, great job explaining the differences. Give me a well done CMA anytime, but not the way lenders work.

Make it a great weekend!

Posted by Joe Petrowsky, Your Mortgage Consultant for Life (Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709) about 5 years ago

Ed, nice summary. I wish all appraisers were as diligent as you describe! In my experience, some were from so far away, they compared apples to oranges and there were certainly no trips to Town Hall.

Posted by Olga Simoncelli, CONSULTANT, Real Estate Services & Risk Management (Veritas Prime, LLC dba Veritas Prime Real Estate) about 5 years ago

Congratulations on this feature, Ed. This is a great explanation of the difference between a CMA and an appraisal. What a wonderful post for the consumer and those in the real estate profession. 

Posted by Debbie Laity, Your Real Estate Resource for Delta County, CO (Cedaredge Land Company) about 5 years ago

Some times it is difficult to do a CMA in a state like NH where we have long winters and few sales for several months.  There have been times, when I recommend an actual appraisal in those cases.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) about 5 years ago

Ed Silva the difference is visible to us - not to the consumer.

As Alan May mentioned, we work hard to arrive at the price and what they want is a copy of the agreement to arrive at the price!

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) about 5 years ago

Good explanation. I like Lenn's comment above...sometimes the CMA is wishful thinking.

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) about 5 years ago

Ed, I missed the original post, but saw it when Praful Thakkar re-blogged it. You did an excellent job of describing the difference between a CMA and a fee-paid appraisal. Enjoy your weekend!

Posted by Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty, 601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell (Front Gate Real Estate) about 5 years ago

This is an excellent piece about how CMAs and appraisals might differ. Thanks for writing it!

Posted by Lottie Kendall, Helping make your real estate dreams a reality (Compass) about 5 years ago

Ed - your very informative post is useful to sellers who have trouble understanding the difference

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) about 5 years ago