Compass: CMA tool

  • CompanyCompass
  • RoleSenior product designer II
  • Date2020

In 2020, I led a large effort to bring a new Comparative Market Analysis tool to Compass’s Real Estate platform.

The goal was to help home sellers/buyers determine the number their property might sell for in the market. This is one of the most important and challenging decisions realtors make with clients. It requires knowledge of the market, nuances of properties, particulars of neighborhoods, and quality data.

My role

I led the design effort with a cross-functional team of front-end engineers, ML engineers, product managers, and user researchers from the kickoff to the final launch.

What are CMA documents?

CMAs help realtors communicate and negotiate the likely resale value of properties with their clients. Realtors use them to drive a conversation with their buyer/seller clients and frame the trade-offs and risks when selecting a price. They are treated as a negotiation device and artifact. The documents consist of:

Subject property

Is the property that clients are looking to sell/buy, and don’t know what it might go for.

Comparable properties

Are properties selected by realtors with similar qualities to the subject, such as size, location, and amenities, and sold in a similarly recent housing market. They function in a CMA as a pricing analogy for the subject property


With CMAs, it is difficult selecting accurate comparables. No two properties are the same. Realtors often select comparables where the square footage/layout may be similar to the subject, but it may have a better view, be in a less desirable part of town, or have sold when the market was better. These details can dramatically affect the selling price. To fix this problem, realtors often add pricing adjustments.

Adding adjustments

Realtors apply pricing adjustments to comparables to ensure they are as similar to the subject as possible, providing a more accurate valuation. They are a bit like adding an asterisk beside each item to account for where they diverge.

However, doing this is an advanced skill for realtors, and they often don’t feel comfortable doing it formally.

Suggested adjustments

Highlight areas where the ML thinks the comparables differ from the subject property.


Tool tips explain the suggestion and how we calculated it using our model.

ML suggested adjustments

The team and I identified opportunities to leverage Compass’s wealth of listing data, including property details, market trends, and amenities, along with ways to tap into the expertise of the Machine learning and AI engineering team. I collaborated closely with the ML engineering team to identify design opportunities for our agents, such as accelerating the creation of CMAs and generating more meaningful insights for agents to support their pricing strategies better. We developed a ML-powered suggested adjustment feature to assist people in comparing houses in the CMA, identifying their differences with the subject property, and providing suggested price adjustments to account for those differences to make the final number more accurate. The hope was to demystify the process and allow learning, selecting, and tweaking the results.   Read more about this ˃

Agent feedback

Provided a way for agents to leave feedback about the suggestions. The feedback gathered from this menu helped us gauge the quality of the suggestions and helped us improve the model in the future.

Learnings and explorations

We explored ways to keep the adjustment builder as simple as possible. An earlier version displayed one adjustment at a time. It looked good in certain situations but became complicated when the ML suggested 2+ adjustments. In these instances, the interface put too much visual weight on the suggested adjustments, overshadowing the primary input field. The visual and conceptual imbalance triggered a deep negative reaction in the realtors we spoke with. They firmly told us during usability studies that they were the experts, and the design oversold the technology’s abilities to do the work for them. They saw the primary value of technology as something that augments their knowledge and assists them, not replaces them. We took this to heart and used it to guide future iterations and the final build.

The results

We launched the CMA and the adjustment builder experience to the Compass Real Estate platform in 2020. Following the launch, the number of documents created using the CMA platform increased dramatically and was welcomed positively amongst Compass realtors. It played a crucial role during the build-up to our public offering.


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