Are AVMs (automated valuation models) replacing the CMA?

With the advancement of tech-based real estate services such as Zillow,, Redfin and others, customers can easily research and estimate the value of their homes without involving a Realtor. The big question is, how accurate are they?

Property valuations are the most integral part of a real estate agent’s business. You may find, or already use, easy and quick ways to determine property values. One such method is using an automated valuation model, or AVM. With so many options available, you will want to know how an AVM can benefit you and who the top providers are.

What exactly is a real estate AVM?

A real estate automated valuation model is a machine learning-based system that examines various data points to determine the worth of a particular property.

The information examined often includes details of the property, comparable sales data, the property’s age, market trends and more. There are many available real estate AVMs on the market. Zillow’s “Zestimate” is the most popular.

The Zestimate

Zestimate is a key feature offered by Zillow and one of the first AVMs made available to the general public. When introduced, it caused some controversy, particularly among real estate agents. However, the Zestimate is so prevalent in clients’ minds that agents frequently intentionally bring it up during their listing presentations, detailing why it is either high or low or, perhaps, exactly right.

Zestimate pros and cons

The main benefit of Zestimate is that it gives users a basic idea of the value of their homes. On the other hand, Zillow’s estimates frequently rely on data submitted by users; as such, they can only be as reliable as the information given to them. Users’ errors or omissions can jeopardize the accuracy of the data.

Other common real estate AVMs:’s AVM; Trulia’s AVM; CoreLogic RealAVM; House Canary; Realtor Property Resource (RPR); Homesnap; Freddie Mac Home Value Explorer; ATTOM Data Solutions; Collateral Analytics (Black Knight); Veros; Quantarium (Xome); Clear Capital.

AVMs are always estimates — they will never compare to a CMA

AVMs should not be used to give a home’s final value. They only provide estimates and can be misleading. Any AVM should be described as an estimate. Most of the commercial sites use them as a catalyst, not a stand-in, to encourage website visitors to contact one of their subscribed agents and to sell the leads. This is one of the many ways they make their money. AVM estimates are not intended to take the place of a more thorough property evaluation that involves an in-home inspection and a detailed comparative market analysis (CMA) from an experienced agent.

Actually, AVMs are a starting point when determining values that you, as a Realtor, will be able to use to establish yourself as an expert in your area for pricing and win more business.

I recommend that you use two to three of them when doing listing presentations so that you can show the homeowner how these AVMs can vary in their valuations and then take another step to show a more detailed CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) that factors in details like home improvements, functional obsolescence, desirable/undesirable lot, etc. This is especially important in areas that are not homogenized like large cities where AVMs often use a condo as a comparison for a single-family home which can really skew the numbers.

Three good AVMs to consider:

1. Realtor Property Resource (RPR)

RPR is a free online tool that helps Realtors estimate a home’s value based on the property’s features, renovations and the housing market. This tool can also assist consumers in deciding whether it is cost-effective to buy a house and later remodel it.

Realtors can use the report obtained to educate prospective buyers and sellers regarding what the local market offers, which helps set reasonable goals. So far, there are no significant pitfalls, but it needs to be updated often for easy navigation.

2. CoreLogic RealAVM

RealAVM is one of CoreLogic’s efficient and easy-to-use products. It provides the first glimpse at recent house price movements, providing an initial baseline for appropriately valuing collateral (and mortgage risk).

The RealAVM is just one component of the property information sheet for real estate agents using CoreLogic’s Realist software; it is not a consumer-facing AVM but a great tool to use for determining value.

3. ATTOM Data Solutions

ATTOM is a trustworthy source for reliable, nationwide real estate data. It offers analytics-ready data for real-world applications with flexible delivery solutions like ATTOM Cloud and one of the market’s top real estate data APIs.

Your individual needs, opportunities and goals will be met by ATTOM’s adaptable property data delivery solutions. Through a range of delivery methods, ATTOM Data can quickly establish data management processes and address your real estate data needs.

Bottom line

Major AVM providers highlight their precision, thoroughness and time-saving abilities. But AVMs work with averages. They are, therefore, instrumental in areas with fairly uniform property stock. On the other hand, they might not be as precise or helpful in areas with a wider variety of homes.

While their use is expanding, AVMs have not replaced human valuation estimates and will never compete with a Realtor-made CMA. Take advantage of these useful information resources, but then show your value as an expert real estate home evaluator with detailed and accurate pricing derived from your CMA. You will impress your clients and boost their confidence in you. This will win you listings and attract more buyers as you become their trusted Realtor. More listings and more buyers means a better bottom line!

Anne Ewasko is a veteran Realtor in the Chicago area and a longtime techie. Visit her at

Two tools to build your online presence to get your testimonials noticed

The real estate market is fiercely competitive, and one of the best ways to differentiate yourself is to have a cache of stellar reviews in multiple places so consumers can find you. Success requires a solid reputation, and getting positive reviews is key to surviving in this business.

When to ask for your reviews

Many agents think the best time to approach their clients for a review is right after the close. It is not, so don’t make this error. As happy as they may be to finalize the deal and to enjoy their new home, they most likely won’t have the time to write one up for you. They will be busy with the move and preoccupied until they get settled. Do it before the close! Better yet, when they are at their happiest — when it clears escrow, the remaining earnest money is in and the deal looks like it’s going to make it to the finish line. They are excited to own a new home, and they are grateful to you for your efforts. Plus, they will have more time as they wait until the day of their close.

Where reviews are most important

The most important sites for your reviews to be seen by consumers are:

• Zillow
• Google
• Yelp
• LinkedIn

These are where most consumers go when they are looking for the right agent.

The problem with gathering reviews

Most require their own forms that must be sent directly to your client to protect the integrity of the reviews. Some even require that the review be tied to a specific transaction and verified to ensure its legitimacy. This is understandable to prevent fraudulent reviews, both positive and negative. However, this means that many links must be sent and redundant forms must be filled out by your clients when it’s hard enough to get them to do just one! The client may not want to be bothered. You may get only one review that is good for only one site. The others get left out, and your “stellar” review (and you) get missed.

The solution

The good news is that there are sites that can streamline the process for you! This will save you and your clients time. They are one-stop portals that require just one form to be filled out, and then the most important sites are auto-populated. Two to consider: RateMyAgent and Testimonial Tree.

1. RateMyAgent

RateMyAgent is a digital marketing and agent review platform for Realtors to gather, promote and share potential clients’ feedback and reviews.

How it works
RateMyAgent enables you to publish past reviews and requests new ones from buyers or sellers. Additionally, each review is instantly connected to the associated property transaction, letting buyers and sellers know they are legit. Once your reviews are up, you can publish them on your website or social media accounts to promote yourself.
RateMyAgent is one of the easiest review platforms for Realtors and their clients. With just a single click, potential clients can check your local reputation and reviews, keeping you in the forefront of their minds.

Benefits of RateMyAgent
• All of your feedback in one place
• A simple experience for your clients
• No registration required to post a review
• A single request across many platforms
• Secure personal data

RateMyAgent offers both free and subscription plans for its users. The price for paid plans ranges from $16 monthly to $1,500 annually.

2. Testimonial Tree

Testimonial Tree is a web-based service that offers review management through gathering, storing, filtering and sharing testimonials. It is one of the most prominent online reputation management companies.

How it works
Testimonial Tree makes it simple to gather client reviews and post the most inspiring ones on your website, your social media and review sites like Yelp.

Benefits of Testimonial Tree
• Easy to use
• Get reviews in one place
• Produces quick results
• Excellent customer service

Testimonial Tree charges between $30 and $300 per month. However, it offers a 30-day free trial.

Comparison of RateMyAgent vs. Testimonial Tree
Both RateMyAgent and Testimonial Tree tout their ability to help your business expand by using real estate testimonials or reviews as a springboard. Still, with so many comparable features, it can be challenging to choose between the two services.
Both offer API integration services, allowing you to access your profile listings, statistical data and reviews, and integrate them with a third-party website. This makes the whole process a lot easier.

Bottom line

Your reputation directly influences your bottom line. Having your reviews on the most important sites is a must. Using these portals to gather reviews not only will be easier for your clients and save you time, but also will allow you a greater online presence and more business! More business means more commissions, and who wouldn’t want that?

Anne Ewasko is a veteran Realtor in the Chicago area and a longtime techie. Visit her at