Are More Contracts Falling Because of Bidding Wars?

A contract on one of my listings fell on inspection last week, but the buyer would not say why and would not release the inspection report. Meanwhile, the inspector had met the seller during the inspection and expressed shock when told that the contract was terminated. The logical conclusion was that the contract fell due to buyer’s remorse, i.e., a change of mind about buying the home.

The buyer and their agent could have simply stated that, because it’s a perfectly valid reason for terminating under the inspection contingency. It practically says as much in the contract itself. (By the way, the home quickly went under contract again with a new buyer.)

The seller asked me how common buyer’s remorse terminations are, given the way buyers are being rushed into making purchase decisions (at inflated prices) due to bidding wars.

So I did some research and found that contracts are not falling at a statistically significant higher rate than they did, say, two years ago during the same week.

Here are the specifics from my   research on REcolorado.com:

Of the 100 highest priced closings in early July that were on the market 1 to 20 days, 8% had a contract fall before a successful closing. During the same time period in 2019, 7% listings had a fallen contract before their successful closing.

Of the 100 lowest priced closings in early July that were on the MLS 1 to 20 days, 15% had a contract fall, compared to the same time period in 2019, when 16% had a contract fall before a successful closing.

It was a reasonable theory, but not true.

An Update on the Ongoing Bidding Wars

This is my regular update on the real estate bidding wars. I was planning to do this analysis next week, but I’ve observed a definite slowing of the market, so I moved my report to this week, analyzing the closings that occurred last Thursday, July 1st, to see how the bidding wars have evolved since my last report. To my surprise, this analysis shows only a slight slowing, likely because those listings went under contract 30-45 days earlier.

As I did in previous months, I limited my analysis to sales within a 15-mile radius of downtown Denver. I limited my search to homes, condos and townhouses that were on the MLS at least one day but not more than 6 days before going under contract, since those are the homes with bidding wars. Once again I divided the results into listings which sold for up to $500,000 and those that sold for more.

On July 1st there were 33 closings up to $500,000, compared to 40 such closings on June 10th. The median home sold for 5.9% over its asking price, compared to 6.3% on June 10th. The highest ratio this time was 20% for a bungalow in Aurora compared to 19.6% on June 10th for a condo in Golden. Four listings sold for the asking price, and three sold for less than listing price, compared to none on June 10th.

There were 44 homes that closed on July 1st for more than $500,000, compared to 37 homes on June 10th. The median home in that group sold for 7.4% over its listing price, compared to 7.7% on June 10th. Only one sold for the listing price, and not one home sold for less than the listing price. The highest overbid was 29.7% for a contemporary 1969 home on Lookout Mountain, compared to 20.9% on June 10th.

To have a statistically significant number of closings over $1 million, I analyzed the 123 closings between June 16th and July 1st. The median closing for those high-end homes was 5.7% over listing price, compared to 6.1% from June 1-13. Fifteen homes sold for the listing price and 9 homes sold for less than the listing price. The highest overbid was for a 1985 home in “The Ridge” south of downtown Littleton which was listed at $900,000 and sold in five days for $1,200,000, 33.3% over listing price.  

Note: 27 of the 123 homes that sold for over $1 million were listed for under $1 million.

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.

Winning a Bidding War Is Harder Than Ever for Buyers

It is a lot harder working for buyers these days. You’d be hard pressed to find a buyer’s agent who hasn’t lost more bidding wars than he has won for his clients. I don’t mind admitting that has certainly been true for me.

Last Sunday, however, I had a big success. My buyer fell in love with a patio home that backed to her alma mater, a Jeffco high school. Like her, the seller was a single woman, so maybe there was some sympathy there — I wouldn’t know.

It’s not accepted nowadays to present “love letters” from buyers, because they could lead to a fair housing violation, but it is okay to say things in a cover message with the contract written by me, not the buyer, so I made a point of saying that my buyer was an alum of that high school and relished buying this house. I don’t know if that helped either, but it didn’t hurt and it didn’t constitute a fair housing violation.

What did help was that I learned from the listing agent that while the seller was moving out of state, she was going to move her furniture to a friend’s house in the greater metro area. We have a moving truck which we make available to our buyers and sellers, but we can also offer it free to another agent’s client if it will help us win a bidding war. That did the trick for my buyer in this situation, and it also saved her several thousand dollars. Here is how and why.

In our offer we added an “additional provision” that Golden Real Estate (not my buyer) would provide totally free moving of the seller’s furniture anywhere in the Front Range, using our own moving truck and personnel, moving boxes and packing material.

Then, instead of a typical “escalation clause” offering to beat any competing offer by one or two thousand dollars (or more), I wrote that “buyer requests the opportunity to match any competing offer in order to retain for the seller the above mentioned totally free moving benefit.”

It worked. We were told the dollar amount of the best competing offer and were allowed to match, not beat, it. My buyer is now happily under contract for her dream home.

Any agent could make the same offer on behalf of his or her buyer, paying for the cost of moving. It’s just that we have the economy of having our own truck and moving personnel.

Since I’m often on the listing side of a bidding war, I have seen other strategies used by agents hoping to win a bidding war for their clients. A common one is to make a quick first offer that is substantially over the asking price but with an early acceptance deadline, hoping to get it under contract before anyone else can submit. This can pose a dilemma for the listing agent when his strategy, like ours, is to wait four days so that every possible buyer gets a change to compete.

Agreeing to accept an early offer like that should be the seller’s decision, however, not mine. Yes I gave my word that we would not sell the home in less than four days, but now I modify that promise by saying that, “in the event the seller wants to accept a particularly attractive early offer, we will give sufficient notice to every agent who has set a showing so that they can accelerate their showing and offering schedule.” We don’t want any buyer or their agent to be blindsided. As we like to say, “the only way a buyer will lose out is if he or she drops out.”

Real Estate Bidding Wars Are Not Abating

This is my monthly update on the real estate bidding wars. This week I chose to analyze the closings that occurred last Thursday, June 10th, to see how the bidding wars have evolved over the past four weeks. The source for this monthly analysis is REcolorado.com, the Denver MLS.

As I did in previous months, I limited my analysis to sales within a 15-mile radius of downtown Denver. I limited my search to homes, condos and townhouses that were on the MLS at least one day and not more than 6 days before going under contract. Those are the homes with bidding wars. I divided the results into homes which sold up to $500,000 and those that sold for more.

As you can see in this chart, the bidding wars only took off in earnest during February 2021, and they have kept accelerating month by month, enough that it raised the average ratio of closing price to listing price over all sales, not just the homes which sold in six days or less.

On June 10th there were 40 closings up to $500,000, compared to 44 closings on May 13th. The median home sold for 6.2% over its asking price, compared to 8.7% on May 13th. The highest ratio this time was 19.6% for a condo in Golden compared to 15.7% on May 13th for a home in southwest Denver. Only one listing sold for the asking price, and only two sold for less than listing price.

There were 37 homes that closed on June 10th for more than $500,000, compared to 56 homes on May 13th. The median home in that group sold for 7.7% over its listing price, compared to 8.1% on May 13th. Only three sold for the listing price, and none sold for less than the listing price. The highest overbid in this group was 20.9% for a one-story home in Lakewood on June 10 compared to 29.4% on May 13.

To have a statistically significant number of closings over $1 million, I analyzed the 82 such closings over a longer period — June 1-13. The median closing for those high-end homes was 6.1% over listing price, compared to 6.0% in May. Four homes sold for the listing price and 9 homes sold for less than the listing price. The highest overbid was for a 1979 ranch-style home in Jeffco’s Sixth Avenue West subdivision, which was listed at $1,080,000 and sold in 6 days for $1,575,000, 45.8% over listing price.  

I’ll repeat this analysis on July 15.

An $850,000 Home In Littleton Just Sold for $1.1 Million

How High Are Bidding Wars Pushing Up Home Prices?

This is a reprise of my article on April 22nd, when I took a snapshot of closed listings on Friday, April 16th.  This week I did the same analysis, and the day I chose was last Thursday, May 13th, to see how the bidding wars have evolved in just the last four weeks. The source both times was REcolorado.com, Denver’s MLS.

As I did in April, I limited my analysis to sales within a 15-mile radius of downtown Denver. That takes in an area from Broomfield to Highlands Ranch and from Golden to Aurora. It does not include the City of Boulder.

I limited my search to homes, condos and townhouses that were on the MLS at least one day and not more than 6 days before going under contract. Those are the homes with bidding wars. I divided the results into homes which sold up to $500,000 and those that sold for more.

On May 13th there were 44 closings up to $500,000. The median home sold for 8.4% over its asking price. On April 16th, there were 48 closings, but the median home sold for “only” 4.7% over its asking price. The highest ratio this time was 15.7% for a home in southwest Denver that sold in 4 days.

There were 56 homes that closed on May 13th for more than $500,000. The median home in that group sold for 8.1% over its listing price.  On April 16th there were 68 such closings, and the median home sold for 8.3% over asking price, so little change there, but the highest overbid in this group on May 13th was 29.4% over listing for an $850,000 home in Littleton’s Sundown Ridge, which sold in 2 days for $1.1 million.  On April 16th, the highest overbid was “only” 18.8% over asking price for a home in Westminster. On May 13th, there were four homes with an overbid higher than that.

To have a statistically significant number of closings over $1 million, I analyzed the closings over a longer period — May 1-15. The median closing for those high-end homes was 6% over listing price. The highest was for a 1991 home in Denver’s Hyde Park at Polo Club subdivision, which was listed at $1,575,000 and sold in 6 days for $2,225,000, 41.3% over listing price.  In the first half of April, there were only 68 closings over $1 million, and the highest overbid was 24.9% over listing price. This time there were six closings with an overbid higher than that.

In my April analysis I predicted that the overbids would get even more intense, and that has proven to be the case. I’ll keep up this analysis in coming months. Stay tuned.

1,200+ Metro Area Homes Are Sitting on MLS – No Bidding Wars for Them

No buyer wants to be in a bidding war, but there are many listings on the MLS that aren’t selling, and submitting an offer won’t put you into a bidding war. You might even buy them for less than their listing prices.

As I write this on Sunday, there are 1,241 active (that is, unsold) listings on the MLS within 25 miles of downtown Denver that have been active 10 or more days. There are 764 that have been active a month or longer, and 483 that have been active 60 days or longer. And it’s not as if those 483 listings are in the boondocks. The map shown here (from REcolorado) shows where they are.

483 Homes on the MLS for 60 Days or Longer

As I’ve written before, any agent can set you up to receive only listings which have been on the MLS a certain number of days. It is a good way to avoid bidding wars.

    Let me or one of my broker associates below know if you’d like us to set up an email alert like that for you.

Jim Smith, 303-525-1851

Jim Swanson, 303-929-2727

Chuck Brown, 303-885-7855

David Dlugasch, 303-908-4835

Ty Scrable, 720-281-6783

Andrea Cox, 720-446-8674

How High Are Bidding Wars Pushing Up Home Prices?

We’ve all heard some crazy examples of bidding wars in which homes have sold for way over their listing prices, so I took a snapshot of just one day’s closings, limited to a 15-mile radius of downtown Denver. That takes in an area from Broomfield to Highlands Ranch and from Golden to Aurora. It does not include the City of Boulder.

The day I chose was last Friday. The source was REcolorado.com.

I limited my search to homes, condos and townhouses that were on the MLS at least one day and no more than 6 days before going under contract. Those are the listings that experienced bidding wars. I divided the results into homes which sold up to $500,000 and those that sold for more than that.

On April 16th there were 48 closings up to $500,000. The median home sold for 4.7% over its asking price. It was a tri-level home in Aurora listed at $420,000 which sold in 3 days for $440,000. Only 3 homes sold for the listing price and 2 sold for less. The highest ratio was 25.8% for a home in Aurora that sold in 1 day.

There were 68 homes that closed on April 16th for more than $500,000. The median home in that group sold for 8.3% over its listing price.  It was a 1950 ranch in Denver’s North Hilltop neighborhood listed for $600,000 that sold in 3 days for $650,000. The highest overbid in this group was 18.8% for a 2-story home in Westminster listed for $425,000 that sold in 5 days for $505,000. Only 5 sold for the listing price and 4 sold for less.

To get a statistically meaningful number of closings over $1 million, I looked at 68 such closings from April 1-16. The median ratio was 4.3% over listing price. The highest was for a 1954 bungalow in Denver which was listed at $965,000 and sold for $1,205,000, 24.9% over listing.

Note: These statistics reflect the bidding wars that were taking place during late March, when most of these listings went under contract. Today’s bidding wars appear to be even more intense. Stay tuned!

Want to Get More Money for Your Home? Don’t Sell too Quickly!

I have written before that 4 days on the MLS is the right amount of time to get the highest price for your home. That was based on an analysis I did several years ago, so  it’s time to do a new analysis.

Looking at the 4,015 most recent sales in Jefferson County, here’s what I discovered.

Roughly 5% of those sales showed zero days on the MLS, meaning that they weren’t even exposed to agents or the public until they were under contract.  The median ratio of sold price to listing price for them was 100%. Some sold for over the listing price and some for less, but the median was the listing price.

Meanwhile, 200 homes went under contract after being on the MLS only 1 day.  The median home for this group sold for 3.03% over its listing price.

There were 379 homes that were active on the MLS for 2 days before going under contract. The median home in that group sold for 3.08% over its listing price.

502 homes went under contract after 3 days on the MLS. The median home in that group sold for 3.3% over its listing price.

The highest number of homes, 608, were active on the MLS for 4 days before going under contract.  The median home in that group sold for 3.6% over its listing price.

As in my prior analysis, being on the MLS for 4 days netted the highest price for the seller.

413 homes went under contract after 5 days on the MLS.  The median home is that group sold for 3.3% over its listing price.

Another 206 homes went under contract after 6 days on the MLS, but the median home in that group sold for just 1.6% over listing price.

Skipping ahead to the homes that were on the MLS for 10 days before going under contract, the median home in that group sold for 0.4% below the listing price.

Those statistics are displayed graphically on the chart above. Not shown in that chart is how low the ratio of sold price to listing price went for homes that languished on the market, usually because they were overpriced at the beginning. Here’s that other data:

223 homes were active on the MLS for 30 to 45 days before going under contract, and the median home in that group sold for 3.8% below the listing price. Looking at the 106 homes that were active on the MLS for 46 to 60 days, the median home in that group sold for 4.3% below listing price.

Lastly, 285 homes were active on the MLS for over two months. The median home in that group sold for 5.7% below the listing price.

The lesson for sellers is that you need to price your home to attract multiple offers and not accept the first (or second) good offer that you receive. Four days is the right amount of time, with proper marketing, for all potential buyers to learn about your home and enter the competition for it.

Selling it without making it active on the MLS at all, as too many sellers are currently doing, may be convenient, but it likely leaves money on the table.

There’s another way that sellers leave money on the table, and that is to hire a listing agent who uses the “highest and best” approach to handling multiple offers. It is the most common method used, but the agents of Golden Real Estate use a better approach — being open and transparent, handling bids auction-style.

The auction style of handling multiple offers is simple, but it does require more work by the agent and more patience on the part of the seller. Buyers and their agents appreciate this approach — and sellers are likely to net more money.

I have a good example from last week. I listed a home for $595,000 and got it under contract for $725,000, and I did it with only four bidders. If I had asked for “highest and best,” I would have had many more offers, and maybe the highest and best would have been $625,000 or maybe $650,000. But because I let every agent know the details of every offer I received, I received fewer offers, and those I did receive knew when their offer was exceeded by another offer. At that point they could either resubmit or drop out.

This process truly resembles a public auction, in which everyone knows where they stand and can choose to raise their bid or drop out. No one is blindsided. The worst thing for a buyer is to discover later that if they had only offered a little more money they could have purchased the home they wanted.

It’s hard for me to understand why listing agents won’t reveal their highest offer to other agents. There is no rule against it, but some agents seem to think there is. Some agents claim that their seller doesn’t want them to reveal details of the offers in hand, but I don’t believe that. And if it’s true, then the seller wasn’t told about the advantages of the auction style of managing offers.

If you want to get the most money for your home, use an agent like those of us at Golden Real Estate who are willing to do the extra work of handling multiple offers auction-style.

Want to Avoid Bidding Wars?

   Sellers love bidding wars. Buyers not so much. If you’re a buyer and want to avoid a bidding war, simply ask one of our agents (below) to set up an MLS alert including this criterion: Days in MLS >9. As I write this, there are 1,021 listings that have been active on REcolorado 1 to 9 days on MLS, but 4,044 that have been active over 9 days. A listing that has been on the MLS 10 days or longer is far less likely to have multiple offers (unless it just posted a big price drop).

Jim Smith, 303-525-1851

Jim Swanson, 303-929-2727

Chuck Brown, 303-885-7855

David Dlugasch, 303-908-4835

Ty Scrable, 720-281-6783

Andrea Cox, 720-446-8674