By Rebecca Wissink

In markets with scarce inventory and a glut of buyers it is almost inevitable that at least some properties are going to attract multiple offers. The more appealing that home is to you, the more likely the chance it appeals to someone else as well. If you are a buyer in this situation, say in Calgary right now, you might feel overwhelmed by the speed at which decisions must be made, unsure of how to proceed to buy a home, and maybe even feel a bit defeated if you have already lost out on other homes. This article is meant to help you put your best offer forward by suggesting some tips for increasing your chances of successfully buying a home. 

The Seller:  

First, let’s quickly take stock of your “opponent” in this situation – the one who currently owns the home. In a seller’s market, you must accept that the seller is in control of the process. It is they who decide which offer, if any, they will accept. Also know that their real estate agent is likely doing everything in their power to create multiple offers. However, you as a buyer still have some control over aspects of the process, most of which are covered under the latter section specific to the buyer.   

One thing you can appeal to in a seller is their emotional attachment to their home. Did they raise their kids there? Is there a unique feature about the home that will be hard to replicate elsewhere? If so, you can write a short letter to the homeowners explaining how you are the best buyer for that home because: 1) you want to raise your young children in the home (include a family photo); or 2) you’re the foremost Canadian Koi breeder and you’ll put that pond to good use and give them young fish to stock their next pond. In short, position yourself as having the same emotional attachment to the home that you think the sellers have. 

There are also two scenarios in which multiple offers can backfire for the seller. There is a remote possibility that the other buyer will revoke their offer. Sometimes, when informed of multiple offers, a buyer will choose not to engage. Cases have been documented where two buyers have come to the table, but when advised about the competition and asked to “improve their offer,” both buyers rescinded, leaving the seller with no offers. This may provide you with a chance to go back later with a new offer. The second scenario involves the bank declining financing if an offer has far exceeded what the home is appraised at. Lenders do have the option to decline financing, given the risk they absorb.  

Finally, you as the buyer may wonder if there are other offers on the table or if the seller’s agent is trying to boost the sale price of the home. In Calgary, it is illegal to make up such a farce to obtain a better price. However, it is legal for the seller’s agent to contact other agents that have shown the home to suggest that an offer is expected, even before that offer has materialized. So while it might be illegal to misrepresent a multiple offer situation, it is not illegal to try to create multiple offers.  

Different Jurisdictions: 

The last point brings up something valuable that must be acknowledged and is even more reason to use a licensedRealtor®: different jurisdictions have different laws. We’ll cover Calgary’s specific laws at the end of this article, but if you are reading from elsewhere, know that B. C. has just proposed a “cooling-off” period to protect the buyer. B.C.’s Minister of Finance, Selina Robinson, reports that later this spring details will be unveiled that “define the specific time homebuyers will have to exercise this right [to withdraw their offer] as well as the financial costs of retracting an offer.” This comes after data revealed that “70 per cent of offers ... over the past year [2021] were made without conditions, which can lead to major repair and renovation costs or the loss of a deposit if the buyer’s financing falls through.” B.C. will create a specific period during which the buyer can reconsider their offer, “ensure financing and obtain a home inspection, instead of feeling like they need to waive these conditions.” B.C. will be the first jurisdiction in Canada to bring in such a law for detached resales, although there is already a seven-day cooling-off period for pre-construction condominium sales in multiple jurisdictions. 

The Buyer: 

So, you’re a buyer, and you’re trying to navigate a red-hot market. Let’s get prepared for the instance in which you are in a multiple offer situation, starting with the obvious: you are not able to negotiate. Drop any idea that you can ask for fixtures not included in the listing, or a possession date that only suits your schedule. Next, I caution you to take a quick honest assessment of your personality: do you really want that specific home, or do you need to win? People who love to compete may struggle to walk away, but you do not want to overpay for a property just to soothe your ego. And finally, let’s state another obvious fact: the offer most likely to win is the one with the highest price and no conditions. No financing, no home inspection, absolutely no conditions. Meaning you as the buyer has zero protection in the transaction. Do you really need to buy a house right now? Do you really want to expose yourself to that level of risk with the largest purchase you will ever make in your life? If so, read on! 

Obviously, you want to put forth the best offer you can afford, which can involve nuances beyond the sales price:   

  • Act quickly. 

  • Include a large deposit. Instead of the typical 5% of the purchase price, increasing the deposit tells the buyer you are serious, so bump it up. You may want to double or even triple the deposit. The deposit not only suggests you can complete the purchase, but it also proves that you are serious about your offer. And because it forms part of your down payment, it doesn't cost you anything overall.  

  • Submit a pre-approval loan letter from a lender, which is different than a pre-qualification letter. Ensure that the pre-approval letter matches the price you are offering. 

  • You likely need to offer more than the amount the seller is asking. Do not offer less than the list price. You should assume you have only one chance to impress the seller, so offer the highest price you are comfortable with right at the start.  

  • Delay your possession after closing by at least a few days. It gives the seller a more relaxed pace in which to vacate the home. In fact, just be flexible with your possession date.  

  • Consider giving up any fixtures in the home that you think the seller might want to keep. 

  • You can remove the need for a home inspection, although this is a significant risk to you as the buyer. The other option is to have the home inspector with you when you see the home to conduct at least a cursory inspection.  

  • A short possession date may sway the seller, particularly if the home is already vacant, given it absolves the seller of their carrying costs such as interest on mortgage payments and utilities, etc.  

The Buyer’s Agent:  

I stress the need to work with an experienced Realtor®in this type of situation. You need an agent that can complete a market analysis to determine the correct price range for the property, particularly since it is not illegal for sellers to deliberately set a low price in order to generate multiple offers. Secondly, your agent can gain you an advantage through their professional relationship with the seller’s agent. There may be unspoken seller desires or listing agent expectations that would seal the deal. Obviously, if such a need is uncovered, and you can meet it, do so. In a multiple offer situation, your agent can get information which will help you write the best offer. 

Calgary Real Estate Board Rules Regarding Multiple Offers:  

  • The seller is able, by giving written notice to their agent, to refuse to disclosure multiple offers. However, if the seller hasn’t put that in writing, then the listing agent must inform all buyer’s agents of any written offers. 

  • The selling agent is under no obligation to supply the names of any agents that have submitted competing offers.  

  • The selling agent must inform the purchaser’s agent if a competing offer has been withdrawn. 

  • It is the seller’s decision whether they want to let potential buyers compete. 

If you’re in need of a Realtor® to guide you through home buying in Calgary’s hectic real estate market where you will likely encounter multiple offers on a property, contact an experienced Ross Pavl ELITE Real Estate Group Realtor® today.  

Calgary photo via creative commons courtesy of Wilson Hui

Koi photo via creative commons courtesy of Bernard Spragg

Posted by Ross PAVL ELITE Real Estate Group on


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