What Is A CMA?

A Comparative Market Analysis is a comparison of the recently sold price of the other homes in your neighborhood that are most similar to your own. It is not as simple as just an average price per square foot or what is promoted as the estimated sales price for your home on popular national sites. Zillow and Trulia have both acknowledged that their estimates can be off by as much as 20% in either direction. A Realtor has access to the MLS data which will show the actual sold dollar value of each home and will have the expertise to assign a fair dollar value to your upgrades and improvements.

Shouldn’t I Price Higher Than Market Value To Allow Room To Negotiate?

This seems like a logical approach but it actually works against you. Let’s say you price your home at $225,000 when the market value is really $200,000. Buyers looking in the $225,000 – $250,000 range in your neighborhood will have different expectations of a home and yours will fall short. They will quickly see that and move on. At the same time, buyers who are looking for homes like yours will never see it as they are only searching for the $200,000 point and yours well exceeds that. This is why homes often sit despite listing in a seller’s market.

I Think I Will Just Price It High And Lower After 30 Days If I Don’t Get An Offer.

Deal killer #2. Your best buyer – the guy who is ready and able to buy and will pay full market value is usually one of the first people to see your home. In a market with little to no inventory, he has often lost in bidding wars and is ready to come in with his best and highest right out of the gate. And so are several other buyers just like him. In a fast-moving seller’s market this window may only last a week or two.

By waiting to lower, you have eliminated your best buyer and your house starts to look stale. (Yes, even after only two weeks.) People start to wonder why it hasn’t sold when others have gone in days. And PRICING HAS MOMENTUM. Once you start dropping, there is a tendency for the buyer to think you will drop more. But, let’s suppose we are in the other market – the buyer’s market. Here, overpricing can be a death knell. Buyers have more power and it is akin to a shark smelling blood in the water. Once an over-priced listing sits for a while and sellers lower, the buyer smells an opportunity to low ball.

So How Do I Know If My House Is Priced To Sell?

This is where a Realtor can prove to be invaluable. He or she has the market knowledge, the understanding of the most recent comparables, and the pricing experience to advise you properly.

Seller 2


Staging is a big buzz word among not only TV real estate shows but among Realtors themselves. Why? Because good staging can and does sell homes. Here are some basic staging tips to have buyers ready to make an offer.

  1. De-Personalize
    1. Take any and all of your photos down. Yes, even that commissioned painting that you consider your most valuable piece of art. Buyers need to picture themselves in the home, not you and your family.
    2. Pack up your collections. It says clutter bug to a buyer and while you may have it artfully displayed, you do not want to detract the buyer from the main attraction – your home.
    3. Clean out! Buyers look in closets and pantries – and yes the garage. Rent a storage unit and pack up and store anything that is not essential to daily living. You don’t want your home to look empty, but the more room the better.
  2. Scrub
    1. Not just a normal spring clean, but a DEEP clean. Shampoo carpets, wipe down walls, dust off fans, and most important SCRUB THE WINDOWS. A little light goes a long way.
    2. Every surface should be dust and dirt free. Pay particular attention to bathrooms and kitchens as these are the rooms that generally sell homes.
    3. Make sure dishes are never left in the sink – even a turned over cup is a turn-off
    4. Find the source of the smell and eliminate it. Febreeze can only take you so far, and speaking of smells – 56% of buyers said they were turned off by a home’s smell.
    5. Clean up stained walls and ceilings and do not allow any watermarks to go unchecked.
    6. Walk the perimeter of the home. Make sure to discard any debris, piles of leaves, or stacked wood. Replace dead sod and replant any wilting flowers.
    7. Clean grills and outdoor tables.
  3. Update
    1. Paint. Paint is probably the most cost-effective improvement you can make to sell your home. The key here is neutrality; there is a reason they call it “builder beige” – it sells homes. And do not neglect the trim. Trim is usually more expensive than the walls and is well worth the cost. No buyer wants to see beat-up door frames and peeling windows or baseboards. Ceilings can be difficult to paint but should not be forgotten. 70% of home buyers walked away from homes where they saw damp patches or stains on walls and ceilings.
    2. Replace dated fixtures. Brass may be coming back, but not in the 1980 vintage. Ask your Realtor for guidance on how much to change out and where. Light fixtures are a good starting point as well as appliances. Look for stainless steel and if you buy them as a suite, they will not only be more appealing, you may be able to get them on sale.
    3. Think neutral and modern when choosing colors and be sure to keep the same palette throughout the house. The paint strips at paint stores make a great cheat sheet. Modernize window treatments. This is something that will stay with the house, so keep it neutral and simple. Replace and stay away from ornate window coverings and dressings.
  4. Furniture
    1. Look at your furniture – you do not have to go out and buy new, but be sure that your upholstery is stain free and that any loud fabric choices are toned down by a neutral throw and some pillows
    2. Pull big pieces away from the wall. If you have a rug, keep it a solid and allow the front 1/3-1/2 of the furniture piece to sit atop it. Floating furniture is distracting. And when you push it to the wall, you give the buyer the impression that the room lacks space.
    3. Create areas for entertaining – group furniture to promote discussion or interaction.
    4. If there is a fireplace, make it the focal point.
    5. Keep furniture to a functional minimum. There should be ample room to walk around.
    6. Keep counters clutter-free. Bathrooms should have a towel basket and maybe a soap dish; kitchen counters should only have one or two decorative items. Keep appliances hidden. Displaying them implies a lack of storage.
    7. Keep artwork to a minimum and opt for large pieces or a grouping of smaller pieces hung at eye level as opposed to small scattered prints or objects ‘art.
  5. Accessories
    1. Remove small throw rugs. They are distracting and visually decrease the room size.
    2. Cluster objects in 3s and bigger is better.
    3. Set tables where appropriate – just keep it simple and neutral. And if you choose to do this, use cloth placemats and napkins.
    4. Pay attention to the entry points. Make sure the walkway is neat, plant some flowers, and decorate the front entrance. Yellow flowers tend to draw the eye more than others.
    5. Decorate your outdoor living spaces as well with lanterns and add color to patio furniture with pillows and throws.


The idea of leaving your home can be daunting even when it brings the promise of new beginnings. There are steps you can take to get not only your home but yourself ready to move forward.

  1. Select a Realtor. This is perhaps one of the most important steps you will make. Interview at least two if not three Realtors who are familiar with your neighborhood. It will not only result in cost savings but also earnings.
  2. Have your Realtor do a Comparative Market Analysis of your home. Pricing your home right is critical to getting optimal value for your home even in a strong seller market.
  3. Give your home a serious de-clutter. Remove as many personal items and pictures as possible. This serves to not only create a blank canvas for the buyer to imagine the home for himself, but it also serves to help you separate from it. It’s also helpful to get a temporary storage facility. Cluttered garages can be just as unsightly as cluttered homes.
  4. Repair and Replace: take a hard look at your home. If you were the buyer, what would you notice? A big turn-off is a peeling or worn front door. That should be corrected immediately, and now is the time to fix that squeaky door, replace that broken railing, and finally paint that trim. One of the best and least expansive things you can do is paint. If the carpet is not just dirty but also worn, consider a replacement. Buyers often find it difficult to envision new flooring. A flooring allowance is seldom as effective as just replacing. But don’t break the bank. Consult with your Realtor as to the most cost-effective solution.
  5. Pre-inspections: I recommend them. It is best if you can identify major or even minor issues before listing and correct them. It is a huge gamble to think that an inspector will miss things and you will not have to do repairs. In my opinion, the less left for buyer objection, the better. NOTE: There is a place on the seller’s disclosure to report any prior inspections, and any unresolved issues found on inspection must be disclosed. I usually have my sellers attach them to the disclosure along with any repairs they have made. When in doubt, my recommendation is to disclose.
  6. DEEP clean the house inside and out. Give windows particular attention. And do not overlook switch plates and outlets. Buyers will turn on lights and they notice if they are dirty or cracked – a few dollars at the hardware store is worth the investment.
  7. Updates – Things like entry lights and porch lights are great investments that will impress buyers. If your appliances need upgrading, try buying a matching suite – you will usually get a better deal and the buyer will like the newness factor. Replacing dated countertops with granite or quartz is often a good investment but can be very costly – this is an area where you will want your Realtor’s advice. It may be expected in some neighborhoods while others not as much.
  8. Staging is extremely helpful. Home stagers can see your home as it is meant to be used – and more importantly, they know how a buyer will need to see it as well. Many Realtors also hold designations in staging (or are just good at it!) and several home stagers do great work. Many will work with what you have. And your staging should also take into consideration the front and back entrances – only one chance to make a good first impression!