Winning a Real Estate Bidding War

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War cover picture shows two black people celebrating winning a home bidding war.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Winning in a Competitive Housing Market: Strategies for Prevailing in Bidding Wars


In today’s robust seller’s market, bidding wars have become commonplace for eager homebuyers hoping to secure their dream properties. With housing inventory constrained and buyer demand elevated, properties often receive multiple competitive offers, forcing purchasers to formulate strategic counteroffers if they wish to emerge victorious.

Consequently, this article will examine several techniques buyers can employ to strengthen their bidding war position. Specifically, it will explore methods for appeasing seller priorities, mitigating purchase risks, and otherwise rendering one’s offer more attractive relative to rival bidders. For readers navigating heated housing markets, the following guidance can prove invaluable.

As such, let us explore 12 potential bidding war strategies, from sweetening purchase prices to waiving contingencies. Further, advice from industry experts will reinforce key recommendations for gaining an advantage. First, however, current market conditions merit further analysis, as understanding the roots of bidding wars is foundational.



Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Explaining Today’s Competitive Landscape

Simply put, buyer competition has intensified due to low housing inventory and high purchase demand. On the supply side, construction lags have constrained new housing units, while surging prices have discouraged existing owners from selling. Concurrently, ample millennial buyers and remote workers are pursuing home purchases, applying further pressure.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Statistical Snapshot of Housing Market Competition

To contextualize these trends, consider the following statistics:

– Buyers submitting offers within two days of listing enjoy a 75% higher success likelihood.
– $10,000 over asking price escalates win probability to 80%.
– Incorporating escalator clauses lifts win rate to approximately 90%.
– Homes attracting 3+ offers have a 50% chance of exceeding list prices.

Clearly, purchasers must formulate competitive counteroffers to prevail in such environments. Next, let us explore specific bidding war strategies buyers can deploy.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Boosting Your Purchase Price

When asking how to win bidding wars, the most intuitive tactic involves simply raising one’s offer. While obvious, this strategy merits elaboration given modern market dynamics.

Specifically, buyers must recognize that list prices now chiefly function as marketing anchors rather than accurate valuations. To actually vie for properties, purchasers should prepare to bid well above such indexes.

For context, the National Association of Realtors recently found that half of homes sell above list price, with 23% eclipsing it by at least 20%. Further, average home sales reached 103% of asking in November 2022.

As such, bidding merely 5-10% above list risks defeat by more aggressive offers. Given intense competition, buyers must thoroughly research comparable sales and make substantial escalations to list prices.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Remove or Limit Appraisal Contingencies

Beyond boosting purchase prices, buyers can also eliminate appraisal contingencies that enable exit upon unfavorable valuations. By dismissing such clauses, buyers assume full risk that appraised values may fall below negotiated prices.

In exchange, this signals to sellers a transaction with minimized risk of collapsing upon appraisals below expectations. Further, offering to cover gaps between appraised prices and offer levels via larger down payments also appeals to sellers.

By removing contingencies that endanger deals, buyers meaningfully improve their bidding standing. Let us explore additional methods for accomplishing this next.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Limiting Overall Contingencies

Similarly, buyers can limit general contingencies on financing, home inspections, and more. By dismissing exit ramps that imperil transactions, purchasers signal serious intent to sellers.

However, buyers must carefully gauge associated risks before waiving certain protections. For example, bygoing home inspections leaves one vulnerable to undiscovered defects. If uncomfortable with such compromises, buyers can instead agree to condensed contingency timeframes to demonstrate flexibility.

Besides dismissing contingencies, let us explore further means of winning over sellers.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Satisfying Seller Priorities

When pursuing properties, buyers must recognize that pricing often fails to wholly dictate sellers’ decisions. Instead, factors like closing timelines, post-sale occupancy, and interpersonal connections can also influence outcomes.

As such, buyers should confirm seller priorities and accommodate them within counteroffers. For example, if urgent relocation is desired, guaranteeing expedited closing could clinch the deal over higher-priced competitors.

Similarly, allowing sellers delayed post-transaction occupancy via leaseback agreements may also confer advantage. The flexibility helps accommodate sellers still finalizing new housing, mitigating transitional headaches.

Besides logistical preferences, personalaffinityalso swayssellers. Buyers can leverage this via “love letters” conveying their backgrounds, plans for properties, and connection to surrounding communities. While not legally permissible everywhere, these notes can render one’s offer more compelling.

In summary, satisfying seller priorities beyond pricing itself can distinguish counteroffers. Next, let us examine how strategic financing arrangements can also prove impactful.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  The Power of Cash Offers

When asking how to triumph amid bidding wars, industry veterans almost universally highlight cash offers. By precluding financing contingencies, cash-based bids provide sellers transactional certainty and expediency.

And the numbers corroborate such wisdom, with Redfin analysis indicating that 65% of cash offers ultimately win bidding wars. Further, these proposals often exceed financed counterparts by over 10%.

Therefore, liquid buyers willing to purchase outright possess innate advantage during bidding wars. Such cash offers simplify transactions for sellers, eliminating mortgage-related delays and measurements.

That said, the strategy remains unrealistic for buyers lacking existing liquidity. For such individuals, alternative means of demonstrating financial credibility merit consideration instead.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Enhancing Financing Terms

Namely, those requiring mortgages can pursue pre-approvals denoting thorough underwriting and assurances of funding. Further, eliminating financingrelated contingencies even amidst loans signals faith in one’s approval odds.

Where able, placing larger down payments also appeals to sellers by indicating financial capacity and skin in the game. Ultimately, buyers should maximize down payments and secure ironclad pre-approvals to rival cash offers. If possible, keeping financing terms brief can further sweeten proposals.

With broad bidding war techniques explored, let us pivot to incorporating expert insights on navigating such situations.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Expert Guidance on Prevailing in Bidding Wars

When compiling advice on winning in competitive purchase situations, industry authorities largely reiterate the aforementioned tactics. However, a few additional tips merit inclusion as well.

Namely, flexibility regarding closing dates also appeals to sellers, especially those coordinating their own home purchases. By aligning timelines with seller needs, buyers can gain advantage.

Experts also underscore thorough pricing research, given that emotional bidding can produce undesirable outcomes for purchasers. They emphasize basing offers on objective sales data to avoid overpaying.

Further, formulating bidding ceilings before reviewing rival counterproposals prevents rash decisions. Work with realtors to establish limits based on budget, property appetite, and data-driven value.

Industry professionals also encourage enlisting realtor expertise when crafting counteroffers. Agents can glean insider intelligence on seller priorities, helping tailor winning bids. They also facilitate conveying enhanced terms like escalator clauses and gap coverage.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Using Escalation Clauses to Your Advantage

An increasingly popular bidding war tactic involves incorporating contractual escalation clauses into purchase offers. These provisions automatically raise initial bid levels if rival counterproposals eclipse preset thresholds.

Effectively, escalation clauses communicate to sellers that buyers agree to outspend competitors up to predefined limits. This appeals to sellers by potentially eliciting highest possible prices from rival bidders.

However, misusing escalation clauses risks gains for buyers. As such, grasping proper implementation proves critical.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Defining Escalation Clause Mechanics

First, recall that escalation clauses allow buyers to specify automatic price increases tied to competitor bids. For example:

Initial Offer: $500,000 Escalation Clause: Automatically raise offer by $10,000 over highest competing bid up to $550,000 maximum

Here, the buyer agrees to outbid others by $10,000, stopping at $550,000. By incorporating such a clause, buyers communicate willingness to wield financial advantage over rivals if needed to prevail.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Common Missteps When Using Escalation Clauses

However, buyers utilizing such clauses must avoid certain missteps:

Inappropriately Low Escalation Increments

Namely, escalating offers by trivial amounts risks defeat by more aggressive rivals. Consider a bid escalated by mere hundreds or a few thousand dollars. Sellers recognize limited commitment to outspending competitors reflected in such paltry increases.

Set Increment Amounts That Make an Impact

Instead, significant escalations of $5,000+ better demonstrate resolve to top other buyers. While still preserving financial advantage per increase, impactful increments show sellers you mean business.

Capping Escalations Too Conservatively

Additionally, buyers must set realistically high price ceilings when escalating. Again consider our example, where the clause stops at $550,000 maximum spend.

But what if current sales data shows the property could command $600,000? The low ceiling risks losing to more expansive bids despite incorporating the escalator clause.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Assess Market Data to Set Optimal Escalation Caps

Accordingly, thoroughly research recent sales of comparable homes to dictate appropriate spending caps. Leverage agent expertise here in assessing market activity as well. If data indicates plausibility of the property selling up to $600,000, raise ceilings accordingly.

The Role of External Clauses Impacting Escalations

Furthermore, improper configurations with external clauses can also derail escalation clauses. For example, linking such a provision to appraisal contingencies proves problematic.

Specifically, doing so means your escalated bid hinges on the home appraising for said elevated amount. But inherently, the goal of automatic escalation is to intentionally bid above fair market value reflected in appraisals.

Decouple Escalations from Appraisal Dependencies

As such, buyers must decouple escalator provisions from appraisal contingencies to retain their impact. Remove the appraisal clause altogether or draft the contract such that appraised values do not dictate engaged escalations.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  The Fate of Losing Bidders

Given intense competition, even properly structured escalation clauses fail to win bids occasionally. In such cases, consider requesting backup offer status as previously advised.

If sufficiently interested in the property, preserving optionality as a second standby buyer proves worthwhile. Even if alternatives are purchased concurrently, remaining persistently engaged with sellers until transactions formally close provides a sound, last resort tactic.

In summary, buyers wishing to gain competitive advantage are increasingly turning towards contractual escalation clauses when bidding. Properly configured and supplemented with high ceilings, such tactics communicate unambiguous willingness to outspend rival offers.

However, missteps like low escalations or improper appraisal linkages reduce their effectiveness dramatically. Heed the preceding guidance to maximize escalation clauses as part of overarching bidding war strategies.

Finally, should one lose an offer war, experts suggest requesting backup status should initial deals collapse. Maintaining open communication with sellers provides second-chance opportunities.

Winning a Real Estate Bidding War:  Key Takeaways

In closing, when attempting to win bidding wars in today’s housing market, keep several guidelines in mind:

– Make substantial offer escalations over list supported by market data

– Remove contingencies like appraisals whenever possible

– Accommodate seller schedule and transition preferences

– Highlight personal affinity for the home via a letter

– Secure preapprovals and maximize down payments

– Lean on agent expertise when counteroffering

By following such guidance, buyers can craft alluring proposals amidst intense bidding environments. Maintain flexibility, focus upon seller priorities beyond pricing, and cast offers in the most favorable light.

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About the Author
Rob Johnson
Realtor, St. Petersburg FL