There's Nothing Wrong with a Free CMA - and a LOT Right about it!

Education & Training with Sell with Soul

It's a common complaint among our ranks that we often work "for free," especially these days when buyers are fussy, sellers are frustrated and closings are more tenuous than ever. We can work for months on one transaction only to watch it fall apart due to factors beyond our control, leaving us uncompensated for all that time, energy and gas money.Free

While I have some issues with the opinion that all that work was "for free," that's not my topic du jour.

Today I want to pontificate about our resistance to providing a "free" CMA (comparative market analysis). That it's unprofessional to "give it away" so that the seller prospect can take our information and run with it, possibly even giving it to another agent who offers a lower fee and uses our hard work to procure a sellable listing.


If you go to my website (, you'll see enough free stuff* there to keep you busy for hours, maybe days. Some of that free stuff (actually, most of it) took ME hours (even days) to put together, some of it at a not-insignificant cost.  I imagine there's enough free stuff there to get you 75% of the way toward knowing everything I know about running a successful real estate business without selling your soul to do it.

Why do I give so much away?

Well, there are two ways to market yourself to your potential audience. You can TELL them how great you are... or you can SHOW them how great you are. Which approach do you think might be more convincing?

When you cheerfully provide a thorough, professional market analysis to a seller prospect, you're demonstrating that you are a competent real estate professional who understands his or her market; as well as opening the door to further discussion, which builds rapport and further proves your competence and professionalism. Sure, you could TELL the seller that you're professional and competent, but that CMA will say it far more convincingly.

Will the seller prospect "use" your CMA against you? Maybe, maybe not, but so what if they do? If they do, it has nothing to do with the fact you gave it to them and everything to with something ELSE. In other words, doing the free CMA only enhances the chances (hey, that rhymes!) that the seller will honor you with his or her business, but if they don't, it's not BECAUSE you did the CMA, but rather in spite of it.

Do some readers take my stuff and run with it, without ever spending a dime in my bookstore? Sure they do, and I'm fine with that. But if my website were just one big promo for Jennifer Allan Hagedorn and how fabulous she is, I'm pretty sure a whole lot fewer dimes would find their way to my bookstore and bank account!


*Here's some of the free stuff you can find at a sample listing presentation, 2X/month teleseminar shows, listing and buyer checklists, three newsletter/mini-courses, an abridged version of Sell with Soul, a 7-day free trial of my Savvy Prospector program, sample client  and SOI communications, a forum... probably more but that's what I can think of right now!

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Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County

Free is good! It does not take long for a smart person to realize that telling how great you are only works for a minute.  Then it is put up or shut up. I will check out your freebies!

May 06, 2011 01:58 AM #1
Brenda Mullen
RE/MAX Access - Schertz, TX
Your San Antonio TX Real Estate Agent!!

Hi Jennifer-I am actually using a post card mail out (recommended by Barbara Todaro) offering a free CMA.  This is an avenue to get me in the door talking to prospective home sellers.  CMAs can be as comprehensive, detailed and as complicated as one wants them to be; however, I'm not sure that it takes hours and hours of my time to come up with something that a potential client will understand thereby getting angry when I give it away for "free" :). 

May 06, 2011 02:02 AM #2
Carol Zingone
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty - Jacksonville Beach, FL
Global Realtor in Jax Beach, FL - ABR, CRS, CIPS

Jennifer - sometimes "free" works, and sometimes it doesn't. The point is that all sellers are different, and sometimes what they want to see is how motivated WE are.

May 06, 2011 02:07 AM #3
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Carol - can you explain further what you mean by that? Are you saying that you've talked with sellers who wouldn't have appreciated the CMA and would have been more inclined to hire you if you'd refused to provide one?

Brenda - I never fussed about providing a CMA - it seemed obvious to me that it's a good promo and introduction for me... I've just seen a lot of fussing about it lately - that it's unprofessional and even desperate to do...

Gary - In today's world, people expect "free" samples before they purchase. In the online marketing world, if you don't offer free stuff to earn some trust, you're toast...

May 06, 2011 02:11 AM #4
Ann Cordes
Century 21 Randall Morris and Associates, Waco - Waco, TX
Home Ownership is Not a Distant Dream

Jennifer, I have no problem with providing a free CMA.I do several of them in the Spring so people can go protest their taxes.

One that I did recently for that purpose will potentially lead to 2 listings and a sale. The owner and his girlfriend want to sell both their houses and buy one together. And I didn't even have to ask!

May 06, 2011 02:34 AM #5
Mollie Wasserman
Your Move Made Simple - Framingham, MA


I am also a big believer in FREE. After reading the book by that title by Chris Anderson, I have incorporated many of the precepts of making a product (especially if digital) free and charging on the back end for optional services, upgrades, etc. While initially the ACRE® course had a charge (we needed the revenue to build the platform and program having no venture capital!), but since this past November, the ACRE® course is now absolutely free of charge.

HOWEVER, I do have a problem with a free CMA, mostly because it has ceased to be unique. It is so prevalent amongst our ranks, that almost everybody offers a free CMA and the public has come to expect it. How many times do you go on a listing appointment and see all the free CMA's piled up?

I agree with you that it's important to show the prospect what you can do but my experience is that you can do so by demonstrating how you market homes. I've always provided a general analysis of the market which showcases my expertise without getting into specifics on the price of their home. Frankly, as we all know, anyone can come up with any price and it can be "massaged" if the agent is competing for a job.

On the other hand, by charging for a CMA, I can present myself as totally objective, because I'm getting paid for my analysis. I have no motivation to "cook the numbers". However, to soften the blow, what I have often done is charge for the CMA but offer to credit the charge if they decided to hire me.

I once had a gentleman call and ask me what I charged for a CMA. After getting some information, I gave him a price and he told me to get started. I asked him why he would pay me to do a CMA and his response was very interesting: he said "You get what you pay for. I don't feel I can trust the numbers on a free CMA because the agent is competing for a job. If I pay you a reasonable fee for your analysis, I can trust what you come up with because you're being paid - and judged by your work."

It's refreshing that as much as you and I think alike, we also have our different opinions. That's what makes for interesting conversation and growth.

May 06, 2011 07:59 AM #6
Dick and Dixie Sells
Sells Real Estate, LLC - Trinity, FL
Realtors, Tampa Bay Florida Homes For Sale

I agree with your Free stance. Sometimes you just have to give to get!

Dick and Dixie

May 06, 2011 09:02 AM #7
Mike Saunders
Lanier Partners - Athens, GA

Jennifer - I find that there are not a lot of takers out there, in this area, for the free CMA. But they do like the other stuff that they get from my blogs, etc.

May 06, 2011 09:39 AM #8
Robert Rauf
HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ) - Toms River, NJ

all that free stuff we give away is about building our reputation and our brand, isnt it??  I give away so much free advice - but hopefully it is remembered and the referal flood gates stay open!

May 06, 2011 10:03 AM #9
Kasey & John Boles
Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - - Boise, ID
Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties

I agree with you - especially with CMA's.  I don't see the point of withholding that information.  It is a way you can sell yourself & show your professionalism.  In todays world of sales and marketing people expect FREE, you know all of us do for all kinds of other products and services.

May 06, 2011 01:57 PM #10
Kevin J. May
Florida Supreme Realty - Hobe Sound, FL
Serving the Treasure & Paradise Coasts of Florida

Giving it up freely allows that relationship door to remain open in your direction.  Case in point, a listing which you may have lost previously comes back into your portfolio because you dealt your cards openly and freely to that customer.  How much did that cost you?  One one thousandth of it's value.  Actually, you'll have a very difficult time calculating it precisely, and if that ever becomes a necessity to you you've missed the point.

May 06, 2011 04:05 PM #11
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Mollie - thanks so much for your comments - I knew you'd have an opinion and while I wasn't sure exactly what it would be, I knew it would be insightful and well-thunked-out... I guess I should say that in my mind, a couple of things are givens - 1) MY market analysis will be better ;-] than all of the other ones in that pile over there, and massaging value isn't something I'm likely to do (although I won't insult anyone's intelligence and claim I've NEVER done it). I'm actually pretty fanatical about proper pricing, and I didn't use stock CMA systems (I created all the reports myself) so MY market analysis did seem to be a differentiating factor.

That said, I have NO problem with your philosophy of charging for CMA's if that's your business model and it works for you. What I want to get across is that if agents want to provide the CMA as their calling card, they don't need to feel that they're giving anything away or that somehow they're allowing the seller to take advantage of them.

What I don't like is a snotty attitude of "You ain't getting that outta me unless you hire me!" Not that there's anything wrong with NOT providing a thorough CMA until you've agreed to work together, but the overall attitude of "how dare you ask me to PROVE my competence to you!" doesn't serve anyone.

But if you truly don't want to do all that work for someone who hasn't yet hired you, I think you can hedge it a bit by doing a decent, semi-thorough CMA, with the cheerful promise to do a more in-depth one once you have a better understanding of the seller's situation, timing and willingness to prepare his home for market. You can say something like: "I've prepared a basic market analysis for you based on the information I had, but if we decide to work together, I'll do a much more thorough one, of course, once I have a better understanding of your timing, situation and goals."

May 07, 2011 12:57 AM #12
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Kevin - that's a really great point. If you interview for a listing and you don't get it, but later the seller is dissatisfied with the agent they hired, your awesome CMA might be just the leave-behind that gets you in the door again.

May 07, 2011 01:00 AM #13
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Jennifer,

Right now I'm presenting CMA's on an iPad.  I leave some printed materials with the home seller - but not all.   I also think that beyond the free CMA - which nearly EVERYONE does - I would want sellers to know what they are getting for their money should I list their house.  I'm very transparent about what I do to market a home and what is truly "value-added" and not just cheap fluff.  I see a lot of agents promoting their marketing as "special" when the same thing is being done for every listing in their brokerage - all 2000 of them.   Seriously, you have to bring something valuable to the table to get the listing.  Since I won't like to clients I can't claim I will "get them more." A CMA is nothing new and nothing special - so the value-add is made plain in the presentation.

May 08, 2011 09:23 AM #14
Bob Sooy
Realty World Northeast LLC - Sugarloaf, PA

I guess I just figured it was part of the job.... You do a lot of work and do it well trying to earn the business. You win some and you lose some. But you never know when that good natured willingness you show to a potential client may pay off.

May 08, 2011 03:05 PM #15
MaryJane Sheppard
The Van Dyk Group - Real Estate - Long Beach Island, NJ

Hi Jennifer.......recvd my autograph copy of Prospecting with Soul last week, thanks so much - I am really looking forward to reading it! 

I recently did a LOT of "free" work for an expired listing client who wanted to become a FSBO - he liked everything so much, he listed with me and we went under contract in 6 days - so the work I did beforehand was paid for pretty quickly!

May 09, 2011 08:58 AM #16
Kathryn Acciari
Century 21 Real Estate - Shrewsbury, MA
Brand Ambassador and Business Coach

Very interesting discussion, and I can agree with points on both sides.  Other professionals - mechanics, roofers, landscapers etc - provide free estimates.  If they charged for their estimates, would we go to them?  Hard to say.

On the other hand, if a potential client is willing to pay for an estimate, it is more likely that they will hire us - so in charging for a CMA, we may weed out unmotivated sellers.

You are right though - at the end of the day it's what works for our business model.  Excellent topic (as always).

May 11, 2011 12:54 AM #17
Paul Gapski
Berkshire Hathaway / Prudential Ca Realty - El Cajon, CA
619-504-8999,#1 Resource SD Relo

Heck and make it look like you subscribe to this expensive service and you can custom a crm to alert them when new ones come in their neighborhood.

Mar 02, 2012 11:03 PM #18
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