What is a real estate bidding war, and why has it been happening in Silicon Valley?
First, let’s explain what it is. A bidding war is when multiple home buyers overbid a property that’s on the market and make increasingly stronger offers (improving price and terms) until one of them is accepted by the home owner and the bidding is over. Sometimes home buyers get a counter offer, but return their response with even more than the seller requested. At other times, they may not even wait for a counter offer – but up their contract’s purchase price or adjust the terms to make it more desirable to the seller.
Why does this happen? It is a supply and demand issue. When there’s not enough supply for the demand, buyers feel desperate – especially if they have offered on many homes and been rejected each time. With multiple offers, prices get pushed up – and sometimes up and up while the sellers are still reviewing the contracts in front of them. The process is accelerated (or exacerbated) when multiple offers also become bidding wars.
Digging deeper with bidding wars
When a lot of home buyers want the same property and write purchase offers for it, we have multiple offers. In some markets, multiple offers come in at or under list price (I have seen this in cooler markets, though not for many years). But when the realty market is an overheated seller’s market, inventory is too low for the demand, prices rise with those multiple bids. Additionally, the terms get so aggressive that buyers often have few, if any, rights. Remember, it’s always price AND terms – so things like cash versus a loan, larger downpayments, shorter or no contingencies, and things like free rent backs will also impact the outcome. It is not only price! When the offer process escalates, we have bidding wars.
How do bidding wars come about?
This can happen intentionally, as when home sellers knowingly under price the property to attract multiple buyers with the hope of bidding wars and the listing agent reveals to each one what has been offered so far to elicit higher & better offers, or it can happen unintentionally, when the owner and agent priced the home in line with the comps and the market, but there’s an unexpected avalanche of interest. (The latter has happened to me when I priced a listing to be exactly in line with the market, but got 20 offers and a lot of overbidding.) Either way, the result is similar. Buyers up their price and sweeten their terms to win the deal, and they keep trying until the home is under contract. Read the rest of this entry »