What Is an ‘Escalation Clause’ and How Should Sellers Respond to One?

In our competitive seller’s market where a listing might attract five, ten or more competing offers, submitted contracts often include something called an “escalation clause.”

An escalation clause is an additional provision worded something like this: “In the event Seller receives a competing contract with a purchase price, net of concessions, in excess of the Purchase Price in this Contract, Buyer agrees to increase the Purchase Price of this Contract to $1,000 in excess of the purchase price of said competing contract, up to a maximum of $______.” I have seen contracts offering as much as $5,000 over a competing contract.

Two things you need to know about this strategy. Most importantly, the seller is completely free to ignore the escalation clause and does not even have to accept the best offer. Secondly, when it’s you submitting the contract with an escalation clause, I recommend not inserting a maximum price. That makes it more likely you’ll receive a call from the seller’s agent telling you what that higher offer is.