How Should a Listing Agent Manage a Bidding War?

In today’s seller’s market, it is common for a new listing to attract multiple offers. There are three ways for a listing agent to deal with competing offers. Above all, it is important that the method chosen is in the seller’s interest, since that’s the listing agent’s legal obligation.

The first approach, of course, is to do nothing — not advise buyers that you have multiple offers and simply accept the best one. This approach, however, assures that the seller won’t get the most money he or she could get for their home.

The more common approach is to inform buyer agents that there are multiple offers and instruct them to submit their “highest and best” offer by a particular deadline. Sometimes the listing agent will add that the seller “reserves the right to sell the home prior to that deadline.”

When I’m functioning as the buyer’s agent, I dislike that approach. Why? Because it could inspire my client, shooting in the dark, to offer more than he needs to in order to win the bidding war, but, worse, we could learn later that my buyer could have won the bidding war if he or she had only offered a little bit more.

HighGate Investment Properties

The third approach is our approach at Golden Real Estate — to function like an auctioneer. If you’ve been to an auction, you know how it works. Everyone knows what the highest bid is, and no one is blindsided. As I explain to buyers and agents, “The only way you will lose out is if you drop out.”  They universally appreciate this approach.

Using this approach, I got my 6th Avenue West listing featured in last week’s column under contract for $41,000 over the listing price. It’s unlikely that asking for “highest and best” would have produced an offer for that amount. The winning bidder’s agent had submitted a full-price offer initially, but, being updated on competing offers, she won the bidding war with her third submission. The other agents had the opportunity to win the bidding war, but they chose when to drop out. The result was that the winner was happy, the seller was very happy, and no one was angry or blindsided in the process. Disappointed, yet, but not angry.

In a bidding war on my other new listing, the price was bid up by about $16,000. In that case, the seller chose not to take the highest bidder (but not by much) because that buyer was an investor, and she preferred an owner occupant. That reflects an important point when handling multiple offers: The seller is always in charge.

Author: Golden Real Estate, Inc.

Golden Real Estate is a prominent member of the Denver/Jefferson County real estate scene. Based in Golden, we service both Denver and Jeffco, representing both buyers and sellers. We're well known for Broker Jim Smith's weekly "Real Estate Today" column published in the Denver and Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section each Thursday. The column also appears in several weekly newspapers and is archived at We have nine agents, all of whom are Realtors and EcoBrokers. Our office is Net Zero Energy since December 2017, and several of us drive electrics cars. Known for our sustainable practices, we accept polystyrene (aka "Styrofoam") for recycling, keeping 200 cubic yards per year out of area landfills.

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