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Even in years past, when in-person informal meetings were possible it is doubtful, but this year is different. Read on to see why….

First – What is a CMA? A Comparative Analysis (CMA) is a comparison of sold properties to a subject. They usually consist of a table prepared by a real estate agent to present to a buyer or seller. They can take on many forms but common elements to almost all CMAs are a table showing:

  1. A list of sold properties showing the address, sales price, square footage, year built, and other descriptors found in the MLS listing.

  2. Some metrics calculated from MLS data such as high, low, and average price, $/SF, days on market, the ratio of sales to list price, etc.

Although a few agents will power up a CMA with an adjustment grid, most CMAs that we see have a table with some basic statistics. For those CMAs, the “A” in the CMA is somewhat of a misnomer as there is not much analysis. But that is where the agent comes in. Even the most basic CMA in the hands of a good agent is a valuable resource. A good local agent is a bridge between the data and the analysis.

That brings us back to the question…. Will a CMA carry the day in a property tax protest this year? In a board hearing, or even an in-person informal meeting with staff, the district will have a detailed adjustment grid and without the local agent there to “paint the picture” and help quantify some of the differences, the CMA will be no match for the district’s presentation. In the past, an informed taxpayer could take on the agent’s role and sometimes make the case stick.

But this is 2021, the year we may be saying goodbye to in-person informal meetings and board hearings. We fully expect all large CADs this year to eliminate in-person meetings and hearings. In fact, some have already announced that business will be conducted through online portals and telephone hearings.

What to do??

Taxpayers, now more than ever, must level the playing field. That means:

  1. Requesting from the CAD data they expect to use in the hearing (this is easy!).

  2. Prepare a case and a presentation at least on a par with the CAD’s. This means a true analysis, with a map and possibly pictures with a clearly stated opinion of the fair value for your property.

  3. A presentation that integrates CAD data (such as land values, property quality ratings, and condition ratings) with MLS data. See an example of such a report here.

Perhaps, this sums up the place for a CMA best.

It is a quote from a report that many real estate agents use.

“CMAs are Tools. For these reasons, CMAs are not home valuations. They are tools to use alongside your real estate professional’s knowledge of the market. They may have house-to-house knowledge of the market and be able to tell you why they think one home sold for more than another.”

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