How Listing Agents Handle Bidding Wars: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I have written in the past about how we handle multiple offers and bidding wars on our listings using an auction style, which we feel is best for our sellers and most fair to buyers and their agents.

Regrettably, very few listing agents handle multiple offers and bidding wars the way we do. Most are sticking with the “highest and best” approach, in which buyers submit an above-listing-price offer without knowing what other buyers are offering.

Usually agents maintain that their sellers won’t let them reveal the competing offers, but I find that hard to believe. Have they even had an honest discussion with their sellers about that? I have that discussion with every seller who hires me and invariably they agree that full transparency about offers in hand is not only going to net them the highest price for their home but is also fairest to the buyers.

I have written in the past that 4 days on the MLS before going under contract is the “sweet spot” when it comes to netting the best price for sellers, and I have supported that opinion statistically.

However, recently we have modified our policy because of more buyers submitting early offers which are too good to pass up. Do we keep our word not to sell before the 4th day, or take the offer?

Rule #1 is that the seller makes that decision, not us. If the seller wants to accept a particularly sweet offer on day one or day two, we ask for 24 hours’ lead time so that we can notify all other agents who have set showings that our timeline has changed. “We have this great offer, and the seller wants to accept it.” That gives those agents time to accelerate their timeline and compete (or not) with that particularly sweet offer.

Regardless of how an agent handles multiple offers, professional courtesy demands that they communicate with other agents and not just ignore the competing offers. Just call us and say, “My seller has decided to go with a better offer.” Give us a chance to recalibrate and resubmit. That’s best for your seller (to whom you owe “utmost good faith and fidelity”), and it’s only fair to the other bidders.

Sometime soon these bidding wars will subside, and we’ll go back to having a “balanced” market. I’d settle, frankly, for a seller’s market that is not crazy wild!

We are still seeing way too many homes that are selling with zero days on the market, often because the listing agent convinced the seller to accept a contract obtained by the listing agent, thereby allowing the listing agent to keep his or her entire commission instead of sharing it with a buyer’s agent.

The Colorado Real Estate Commission frowns upon this practice and has issued guidance that every listing agent should advise their sellers that they may be leaving money on the table (that is, getting less than they might for their home) if they don’t allow the home to be on the MLS for at least a few days so that all interested buyers have a chance to see it and make an offer.

Along that vein, the National Association of Realtors last November adopted a “Clear Cooperation Policy,” making it a violation to have “pocket listings” not on the MLS so agents can see and show it. On our MLS that carries a $1,500 fine.

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 www.JimSmithColumns.com. 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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