Take Your Pick!


The CMA and the Property Appraisal-Siblings but not Twins!


Two documents, the comparative market analysis (CMA) and the real estate appraisal look alike, but can never be mistaken for twins!  They are in the same family of documents that offer an opinion of value, but they serve decidedly different purposes for people who order, read, and rely on them.   


The reports look similar at first glance, but have a different price tag, and are prepared by different professionals.  A CMA is a multi-page report showing how a subject property compares with similar properties currently listed or sold.  It is a free report usually compiled by real estate agents or brokers making a sales or listing presentation for buyers, sellers, or parties in a legal dispute.  The CMA does little more than restate public information from the local Multiple Listing Service and the county recorder’s office.  It does not include a physical inspection of the subject property, so it has limited appeal and is not always a reliable indicator of value.


Unlike the CMA report, a real estate appraisal is considered a good indicator of a property’s fair market value.  It is expensive (depending on the property appraised) and extensive.  It must be completed by a licensed appraiser, and it is always required by banks or mortgage companies when consumers are financing or refinancing property.


The real estate appraisal is a comprehensive report that offers not only comparative sale information on closed sales, but pictures, measurements, drawings, and public records information that culminates in an estimate of value.  Licensed appraisers apply different approaches to determine value based on the type of property it is, and the official appraisal is a both science and art.


While opinions of value from two appraisers may differ slightly, the documented fair market values should be close, since licensed appraisers use similar tools, data and calculations to determine value.


Both the detailed appraisal, and its sister report, the comparative market analysis, are useful to consumers curious about a property’s worth. For quick reference and comparison shopping, the CMA is sufficient.    When a new mortgage loan is required, only the appraisal will do. 


Which sibling you side with depends on your needs. Take your pick!


CC&R Facts and Stats


Did you know there are over 310,000 common interest developments housing over 62 million people in the U.S today?  With memberships ranging from five to five hundred or more per community, imagine the sets of CC&R documents read and reviewed annually by owners and would be owners.


If you are interested in, live in, or are considering buying in to a common interest development, knowing the facts and stats in your CC&Rs is essential.    


What they are:   A covenant is a promise, a condition is something that exists, and a restriction is a limitation on or about something.  In the case of subdivisions, planned communities, or condominiums, CC&Rs describe what owners promise to do to maintain their property and their share of the common elements.   They explain how the homeowners association operates and are sometimes referred to as the bylaws, the master deed or the house rules.


Buyers should ALWAYS read CC&Rs BEFORE signing a purchase agreement.   Even if agents fail to supply copies, buyers are responsible for knowing the content.  CC&Rs are legally binding documents that buyers agree to as a condition of buying the property in question.


Why they matter:  Communities with CC&Rs that are enforced, generally remain attractive longer and retain value better than areas with no CC&R’s or standards.


How they work:  The CC&Rs are the governing documents of a community.  They are enforced by the Board of Directors, often with the help of a professional management company.  Buyers should be aware of important advantages and limitations spelled out in the covenants to avoid misunderstandings with the association.


Who they affect: Owners, their guests, and even tenants are responsible to obey a community’s governing documents.


Anyone residing in the community is obligated to know, understand, and abide by the CC&Rs.  When they don’t, lawsuits between occupants and homeowner associations are common.


Where they are:   These covenants are recorded in private deeds, as deed restrictions or neighborhood agreements between private parties. CC&Rs are also readily available from the management companies hired by an HOA to help the community.  Individual homeowners should keep a copy of the documents handy, and stay up to date with the Board of Directors on any changes made for the benefit of the HOA members.


Community associations are growing rapidly throughout the U.S., so the governing documents or CC&Rs are more important than ever.  Knowing what they are, why they matter, how they work, who they affect, and where they can be found is a key to understanding life in common interest developments where amenities and obligations are shared.


Secrets Of The Sale


Georgia’s Important Disclosure Statute




Caveat emptor. Buyer Beware. The principle of caveat emptor is a simple one, made complicated when applied to Georgia real estate transactions. Sellers and their agents can lawfully omit important truths.


Has a death occurred on the property?  Are there violent sexual predators living nearby?  Answers to these inquiries could impact the emotional security of the new occupants and potential interest of future occupants.


Georgia law protects sellers and their agents from disclosing the facts unless specifically asked.


The Official Code of Georgia annotated (44-1-16) holds that unless asked, sellers and their agents are free to omit these facts from their written property disclosures.  Buyers seeking answers must ask first.  Getting the information after closing escrow is too late, and in Georgia, legal recourse is limited.


Buyers cannot sue for misrepresentation or fraud unless first proving that somebody lied – that their reasonable and ordinary research could not have prevented finding the facts. 


The discovery burden rests with the buyer and the buyer’s agent in Georgia. 


When buying property in Georgia, start with the tough questions and get your history lesson before you close the deal.  Work with your agent to create a list of questions to ask a seller before you agree to close escrow.  


Know the secrets of the sale when buying in Georgia – You’ll be so glad you did.


Signs of a Rogue Board


Volunteers who agree to serve on an HOA Board of Directors are usually well intended people working in the best interests of the homeowners they serve.  Occasionally, an errant soul will land on board, and bring down the office by disrespecting the covenants’ rules and regulations regarding board members, fiduciary responsibility and ethical behavior.  Spotting the signs of rogue activity,, addressing the conduct, and clearing house of the bad operators will bring peace, harmony, and fiduciary responsibility back to the board,


Rogue Behaviors.  Watch Out!


  1. The board holds secret meetings.

  2. The board makes decisions in private.

  3. The board shows signs of favoritism with certain homeowners.

  4. The board or individual board member has a personal or political agenda that influences decisions.

  5. The board or individual board member is more impressed with the power of the office than the interests of the community.

  6. The board or board member is impatient, does not welcome homeowner feedback, uses profanity, and discourages open communication.

  7. The board ignores the covenants and makes up their own rules.

  8. The board or some board members vote in blocks with a pattern of members voting together, ignoring legitimate criticism and concerns voiced by other members or homeowners.


Addressing the Conduct


When rogues are on board, the association must meet, review the covenants, revise business practices, and revisit Robert’s Rules of Order.  Every board member, including the president, must reaffirm their commitment to service. When rogue behaviors are suspected, a smart association will draft an updated ethics code that each officer endorses.


In addition to revising an ethics code, the association can create a permanent record of officer infractions by mentioning the incident in the meeting minutes and issuing letters of reprimand to offending officers.  The association’s legal counsel should draft the written reprimands, especially when an entire board is roque.


Clearing House and Restoring Order


When the whole board is rogue, replacement of the entire cast is the only logical move.


Dismissals require legal counsel because of the severity of the motion and the potential liability to all homeowners.  This measure should be handled carefully.


Some states have aggressive procedures in place for rogue HOA boards. For example, Arizona requires that all HOA decisions are ‘reasonable’ and in the best interests of the community.  When boards are guilty of faulty voting patterns, their decisions can be set aside and individual board members can be held liable for their actions.  Even though HOAs routinely carry D&O (Directors and Officers) Insurance, when blatant abuse of a board member’s power is clear, the insurance company can void the indemnity provisions that would have protected the board member.


When rogues are so bad that insurance won’t even cover them, it’s time for them to go.  Left untamed, rogues can ruin an association’s business and destroy community morale.  Spotting and documenting bad behavior is a prerequisite to removing rogues and restoring order.


Read the covenants, and then call the lawyer.  A special election to replace one officer or all of them will get the board from rogue to right, and the association from lost to found.