How much should I offer if there are multiple offers?

how to make an offer
How to make a winning offer

A quick look back at offers since 2014

We went through a crazy period back in 2016-2017 when homes in Kitchener-Waterloo were all getting sold through a “holding offers” methodology. (You can read about how holding offers works here). 

And then, in 2018 and 2019, homes priced below $500,000 (some say $600,000) in certain well sought-after Kitchener-Waterloo neighbourhoods, we were still doing the same — holding offers and encouraging multiple offers. 

It looks like 2020 will be a continuation of the last two years. So, it is time to revisit a subject I first wrote about in March of 2014. 

2014 offers

Back then, in 2014 we were coming to the end of a healthy balanced real estate market in Kitchener-Waterloo. When we happen to return to a balanced market, that post still stands up as good advice for bidding on a home in a multiple offer situation. (You can read that post here.)

2016 offers

As an aside, for that crazy period, back in 2016-2017, I had a spreadsheet open with all of the properties that my clients visited or showed interest in. There, I was tracking on a daily basis the list price to sale price ratios of homes sold. As well, I was offering up predictive analysis of what I thought homes would sell for. I got very good at it. The spreadsheet showed that houses were going for 3% then 5% then an average of 7% over list price. And it was not unusual for homes my clients were interested in to go 12%, 15% or even a higher percentage over list price. Back then I said, do not use list price as an anchor. (Though it was one of five indicators I did end up using over 400 times.) Back then, I was showing my clients their own data and helping them bid, often successfully, on homes they liked. 

So, although there is no formula for winning in a competitive multiple-offer situation, there is a lot of data that will help you win. I’ll get to some of that below. But first… 

Advice for making a winning offer in a competitive multiple offer situation

Think like the seller

I sometimes have clients say, “I am only prepared to pay this much for that house”. That’s fine. Maybe you’ll win it. Maybe you won’t. But, you are not thinking like the seller. 

Unfortunately, when buying a house in a competitive situation, you have to give up control. Essentially, you have to think like the seller, think for the seller and give him and/or her what they want. 

That means…

Closing date

Once we know the seller’s preferred closing date (we will know that by asking), we give them that. Closing on the 15th of the month or the 30th is likely a much smaller problem for you than it is for them.

Deposit

In a normal non-competitive offer situation, we write offers with ‘deposit upon acceptance” rather than, “deposit with offer”. When you’re competing, including a (certified) deposit cheque with the offer may tip the balance in your favour if your offer and another are close.  

I’ve also had clients succeed by giving a much larger deposit than was requested. If the listing is requesting a deposit of $10,000 but you give $25,000, it not only sends the message that you are a serious buyer, it implies that you are financially sound enough to close the deal. 

Conditions

I hate to ask clients to waive conditions. The mortgage finance condition and the home inspection condition are there for the buyer’s sole benefit. However, there are ways to waive both conditions with little risk. 

  • A home inspection condition can be avoided by arranging a home inspection before offering. 
  • The mortgage finance condition can be avoided with the sound advice of a great lender. 

So how do you make a successful offer when you know there will be other offers?

1. Comparable neighbourhood sales.

If there have been similar homes sold recently in the neighbourhood, they can be relied on to be very good indicators of what you should bid. All agents and their clients do this, which brings us to… 

2. Anticipate what the other offers are going to do

We are all working from the same data. We will never know who the other buyers are and what their motivation is. If they have lost out on offers already or if they have a sister that lives next door, we just won’t know how high they are willing to go. Conversely, maybe they have a limited budget or are just getting started, maybe they will under-bid. 

There is no way of knowing what the other offers are thinking. However, if there are more than five or six offers, chances are the winning offer will be a “oh my God, I can’t believe it went for that!”. 

3. Current market conditions

You really need an agent that is connected to the local market in real time. The market is always changing depending on the season, the economy, and a number of other factors. Knowing what happened last week is very important to succeed this week. 

4. Seller expectations

Like I mentioned above with buyers who are only prepared to pay so much for a house. Maybe they get it, maybe they don’t. The same can be said for sellers. Some will only sell “if they get their number”. And that’s fine. Maybe they will get it and maybe they won’t. Maybe they will waste everyone’s time unnecessarily. If they are out to lunch, it is not your job to pick up the tab. 

5. Where the market is going

If the market is moving up fast, then a winning strategy is to pay too much for a house. What you are paying, in essence, is a future price for the home. Let me explain it this way. If only two homes you love come onto the market every year, if you don’t get this current one, you will have to wait six months for the next one. If average home sales rise 6% per year, you have to ask yourself where will the prices be then. 

This is more of a justification than a strategy. However, I surveyed many of my clients who bought at future prices back in 2016-2017 and they are all happy they did. The future prices arrived earlier than we expected. 

6. Your budget

Many home buyers are surprised by how much lenders are willing to lend. Prudent advice is to only budget up to 80% of what you qualify for. When it comes time to bid in a multiple offer situation, you would be wise to keep within your budget, not your lenders, but it is nice having the wiggle room.   

Further readings

How much should I bid if there are multiple offers?

Holding offers. How does that work?

How to handle multiple offers

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