Question Details

Melissa Goss, Real Estate Pro in Center Moriches, NY

What Do You Do When Someone Requests a Free CMA To Be Used For Lawyers?

Asked by Melissa Goss, Center Moriches, NY Tue Aug 20, 2013

I basically am curious to see how other agents work when this sort of thing comes up. I have had people call me stating that their lawyer said to call an agent for a free CMA to be used in divorce cases. Now this is common, but normally when it happens there is also the promise of this person listing their home with you. However in some cases, when the person asks for this CMA, they also state that they only need it for the lawyers, in order for their soon to be ex spouse to buy them out. Now my question is, do you as an agent actually provide the CMA to them knowing there is no way you will get a listing, and no pay out for you in the long run? I am just curious if you guys (other agents) will actually put in the time, legwork, and commitment to provide this type of CMA knowing there is nothing waiting for you at the end of the road.

Help the community by answering this question:


No. For a number of reasons.

It's not unfair or unreasonable that professionals involved in a divorce proceeding (or an estate situation) be paid. The lawyers are being paid. If there's an appraisal of personal property, that appraiser is getting paid. If accountants or tax advisors are involved, they're being paid. If at some point the property requires a formal appraisal, that appraiser will be paid. If a mental health professional is working with one or both parties (or the children), that mental health professional is being paid. So why wouldn't a Realtor--a real estate professional--expect to be paid for services rendered?

Another reason that hasn't been mentioned: I don't want to get caught up in the middle of a messy, acrimonious divorce. Suppose I do a CMA. I determine--based on my professional knowledge and skills--that the property is worth $400,000. The other party to the divorce wants the number to be higher or lower. I don't want to be accused of slanting my report. I don't want my ethics to be challenged, or my professional skills. It's fine to examine the comps and discuss them. But in an acrimonious situation, the Realtor providing a CMA for one party may be tarred and feathered by the lawyer for the other party, suggesting that the CMA was done in an unprofessional manner or, worse, that it was deliberately adjusted up or down. (And what insurance--not Errors and Omissions, certainly--is going to cover that? Heck, you're not even doing the CMA for a client or customer.)

How about the question of karma? Or a mitzvah? Maybe it's just a good deed with no expectation of any return? If so, then go ahead. I'd just suggest examining the consequences (some perhaps unanticipated), including those I mentioned above.

Hope that helps.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 22, 2013
Great answer!
Flag Sun Mar 9, 2014
EXACTLY! I certainly do not want to be thrown into the legal mess of whatever it is that said person may be dealing with. That is why I am wondering why some agents would just do this for free... all that work, and then the possibility of being questioned later? Heavens no. At least not for free. Everyone else in the mix gets paid but the agent- I just would like to know why anyone would just do it for free?
Flag Thu Aug 22, 2013
Don Tepper, Real Estate Pro in Fairfax, VA
No, I tell them I don't work for free, but would be prepared to accept $300 to prepare a CMA. If they think my price is unreasonable I suggest they contact an appraiser to prepare a formal appraisal and pay them the $400 - $500 that they will charge. I also suggest they inform their attorney that given their attitude that professionals work for free that they know that they won't have any problem giving them at least one free day of work that they don't get paid for.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Aug 21, 2013
Why don't you charge for the CMA? I work with attorneys every day either managing or selling properties held by estates in probate or "in transition" (divorce settlement). In divorce cases, attorneys have ZERO say in who lists the property if it is to be sold, so don't let them push you around. A very high percentage of divorce properties never go on the market and the CMA (we do BPO's...) is usually used just to allocate assets in the settlement. Our BPO contract states we get paid on delivery of the BPO plus we get first right of refusal on the listing if the property is to be sold pursuant to the settlement.
Don't work for free...
3 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 20, 2013
I would ask them if they had a family real estate broker.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 20, 2013
I understand the point you are making, if I do not do it for free someone else will. But I guess in ways that does not bother me, especially when you know point blank that your time is being taken- it is being robbed away from solid leads, away from other marketing avenues, away from things that keep business running.... why would you want to contribute your time as if it is at the disposal of everyone who wants to use you for your professional services?

There is no benefit. I'm trying to understand what the benefit would be to the other guy... the other one who will go in and do this for free. Exposure of his face, exposure of his brokerage?? I mean what other reason could lead someone to work for free? Is it just that, exposure?

YES I give free CMA's for when the intended purpose is a listing call. But not when I know the report will be used for other intended purposes.

I mean, I wouldn't hire a plumber and then tell him that so-and-so said it was free... after he just spent 4 hours breaking his back under my sink.

I cannot buy back time, but I certainly can charge for it.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 22, 2013
Karen brings up an incredibly interesting point. (Please note the question states 'someone requests FREE CMA to be used for lawyers.")
She lists free CMA's, free warranties, free appriasals, seller costs, charities, burp the baby, boil the water...and I'll add, even walk the dog. All of these, in the context of Karen's reponse DEMINISH the value of the real estate professional. Allowing such 'contributions' to benefit a buyer or seller, according to Karen, is the orign of 'nasty' responses.
I would like to challenge practicing real estate professionals who do more that 15 transactions a year, to consider...."Don't we do this for everyone else EXCEPT the buyer and seller?
Don't we pay extortion fees (disguised as MLS fees) to the listing agent?
Don't we pay referral fees to agents for the hope of doing business?
Some pay their BROKER for the opportunity to chat with buyers and seller who visit the website.
Don't we pay relocation companies a significant percentage of our compensation?
Don't we pay some lead generation sources a percentage of our compensation?
Don't many pay TRULIA for the hope of chatting with a buyer or seller?
Don't some agents pay fees to maintain that train of irrelevant letters appended to their name in the hope of getting to chat with a buyer or seller?
Many agents kiss up to the BIG BANK lenders...(ewww) in the hope of getting table scraps.
Rumor has it some agents forfiet a portion of their compensation to offset the inflated costs of some mortgage brokers.
And the list goes on.
Is not every lead generation actiity about having the opportunity to chat with a buyer or seller regarding their questions, challenges and goals?
It seems many real estate agents ARE willing to do most anything for everyone EXCEPT the home buyer or home seller. That is ironic, especially in a RELATIONSHIP business.
Don't mistake my intentions. I never leave actionable data behind. It matters not if I am sharing information on TRULIA or in the home of a seller, what I share, what I leave behind, will be missing the 'magic sauce' that makes it work.
The real estate professional who sees a request for a FREE CMA to be a one way event may benefit from a brief review on the seven imporant decisions EVERYONE must make EVERY year. That, coupled with the incredible skill a real estate professional has developed at uncovering the 'real' goals of the homeowner, assures such opportunities are the gift that keeps on giving.
But, before I start giving things of value away, I need a postive response to, "Do you intend to use my services in this transaction? Sign here."
The raw truth is, folks want to keep doing whatever it is they are doing now. No one wants to learn anything new. They have interest ONLY only in how to do what they do now, easier, cheaper, faster, better. I am acutely aware of this. No one willl ask about the 'secret sauce.' No one will ask, "What are the seven important decisions EVERYONE must make every year?" I understand. We simply want to stay on the horse we are riding and end up where it takes us.
If you don't want to provide a FREE CMA (the agent defines what that is) for a homeonwer, then don't. Be aware however, that the doors are wide open, you must choose to walk through them.
Sept 16 I will be hosting a party boat cruise to see the dolfins and sunset. FREE of course to those who are invited. I won't feel the least bit deminished. I won't feel deminshed when I knock on the doors throughout that community sharing images of the cruise.

Best of success,
Annette Lawrence, Broker/Associate
Remax Realtec Group
Palm Harbor, FL
Serious people CALL.
Serious people require reliable data.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 22, 2013
I have read on another similar post that an agent who goes on a listing call, leaves with the CMA if he does not leave with the listing. This will be my new policy.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Aug 21, 2013
In Commercial Real Estate the request for a Broker Price or CMA type of report comes up a lot. What Commercial Brokers do is charge for the work involved in preparing a comprehensive report like this. The last time I checked, it was between $350.00-600,00 dollars. I do not think it's right for any profession to work without being paid, unless of course, you work for a charity and it's Pro-Bono.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 20, 2013
Yes, I most certainly do.
For many reasons.
1. Such circumstances provide an opportunity to create a quiet space in the lives of those currently living in turmoil.
2. Very often a listener presents greater value than that silly CMA.
3. All their friends have either taken sides or abandoned them. There are no voices of reason.
4. I am without judgement and will remain so. Both parties have found a safe place.
Without exception, when those who thirst are delivered cool, refreshing spring water, they always return to the well. Many times with others who thirst.

Best of success,
Annette Lawrencee, Broker/Associate
Remax Realtec Group
Palm Harbor, FL
Serious people call.
Serious people require reliable, accurate data
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 20, 2013
I am still fairly new in RE and have never been asked to do a CMA for this purpose. I guess I am a little surprised that they would use a CMA rather than an actual appraisal. Maybe it is the free part that makes them think this way. Get paid! I think getting paid also helps with the potential for questioning your ethics later. Why did you come up with that figure? Because I got paid and that is my answer. (NOT because you were showing bias to one party or the other.)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 9, 2014
I give them the free CMA. You never know where it will lead.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 9, 2014
In our area there are agents that are used in a court of law as"Expert Witnesses" they are paid for thier services. For a CMA in a devorce, I don't think I would get involved
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 9, 2014
I feel that opportunity may show it's self. If your passionate about real estate and truly love helping people. It's a no brainier, give unselfishly and good thing will happen.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 9, 2014
Great question here Melissa! We have done a few of them in these situations. The people we've done them for have been honest with us about it being for a divorce.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Oct 11, 2013
Although we don't see much of this type of request in our community, I always provide the CMA. I find that the time I invest comes back a thousand fold with referrals from the attorney not to mention I am often asked to list the home.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Oct 11, 2013
I don't have a great answer but someone else does! :)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Oct 10, 2013
My company is always working with Lawyers in Canada. Do you ever do lunches or meetings with any around where you live?

Jim |
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Oct 10, 2013
I guess it basically hammers at my head- because I have done them before for cases where lawyers needed them. But when I go and clock in- driving to the house, using my gas up- checking condition of the house-taking notes- updating pictures for the cover of the report because the owner thinks the old picture in public record is ugly-----and then driving back to the office, uploading a new picture, then prepping the CMA (tooth and nail knowing that the intended use is for legal reasons)-, only to drive back,- hence using more gas- and then hand it to them without so much as a freakin tip it really, really starts to weigh you down and fast.

I guess I have a healthy dose of answers here, and helpful tips on what to do in these sorts of cases. I appreciate them all. But for me, from now on... there is a fee for these sorts of requests.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 22, 2013
Don't they tell you right up front, though?

When people call me, they either tell me they're thinking of selling their house, or they're asking for a CMA. When they ask for a CMA, I ask them, what will they be using it for? "Oh, we're not interested in selling?" Well, why don't you ask the agent who sold you the house?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 22, 2013
Mellisa - I don't blame you for standing your ground. Unfortunately the nasty calls are due to the fact that many agents will: prepare CMA's for free, provide free home warranties, pay for "free" appraisals, contribute to Buyer and Seller's cost, donate to charities of their client's choosing, burp the baby, boil water - and the list goes on! It happens so often the public is outraged when we ask for our "due." I only work for free in a soup kitchen, but that's a labor of love.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Aug 21, 2013
Exactly, I am glad to see the sorts of answers here. The thing that really is itching at me lately is that a lot of people are calling for these reports for divorces, or refi- and then when I tell them it is not free, they get nasty and tell me that their lawyer said it was.

I guess it grinds my gears when I hear this, because I would never tell someone to call a lawyer and expect them to work for free!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Aug 21, 2013
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