Dealing with a multiple-offer situation as a Quebec buyer
Entering a bidding war with another buyer isn’t ideal, but when the market is hot and the property well-priced, it’s bound to happen. Knowing the ins and outs of a multiple offer situation will help you come out the winner.
First come, first served?
The first thing to know is that it doesn’t matter who wrote their offer first – the seller is in the drivers’ seat. If a seller is confident, he’ll be getting a second offer, he may choose to wait to respond to you until he has received it and then review both offers at the same time. In this situation, the timing of your offer matters less than its terms.
Deadlines come into play here. A buyer who is interested in a hot property can put a short deadline on his offer. This offer is only binding on himself, committing him to buying the property at the given price and conditions until the specified deadline. If the seller does not accept before the deadline, the buyer can walk away. Sometimes, sellers won’t want to take the risk if the offer is good and will accept the first offer within the deadline. However, if the first offer is low or not what the sellers want, they don’t have to respond by the deadline, as the deadline is only binding for the buyer. Once the sellers counter a buyer’s offer, they are bound by the terms of the counter and its deadline and they cannot accept any other offer unconditionally until the deadline has passed. Unless your offer is amazing, the sellers will most likely wait to see what the second one has to offer. Remember: deadlines bind the person who wrote them, not the party receiving the offer or counter!
Once you’ve submitted your offer, be available to your broker! If a decision has to be made quickly, you should be available to decide and sign at a moment’s notice.
Your best possible offer
Should a second offer be presented to the seller, the seller’s broker must, by law, disclose this information to the first offer buyers. If the seller has not countered the first offer yet, they then have a chance to amend their offer. The second buyers knew there was an offer on the table when they wrote their offer, so they most likely came in with their best offer – not a preliminary offer (or a fishing expedition!). In Quebec, it is illegal for a real estate broker to divulge the amount and conditions of the other offer(s) to a buyer, as that would be favouring one buyer over the other. Offers must remain private between the parties.
If the sellers have already countered the first offer when the second offer is presented, the first buyers hold the power; if they accept the terms of the counter-offer, the deal is binding. If they, in turn, counter, they are opening the door for the seller to be free to accept the second offer.
If the seller hasn’t answered any offer yet and you are given the option to alter your offer – do it! In most cases the seller will just accept one offer without countering anyone. You may only get this one chance, so make it the best you can. It is not always the highest priced offer that is the best; it is the offer with the best conditions and a good price that usually wins the day. Remove any unnecessary conditions and make it a ‘clean’ offer. Then come in at your top price, and by this I mean the absolute highest amount you’re willing to pay before walking away.
Go over list if you love it, or offer a weird number, like $1,850 higher. People tend to offer full price or they offer 1, 2, 5, or 10 thousand dollars over -round numbers – so be different and offer $5001.00! It just might make the difference in being the better offer.
In a multiple offer situation, you only get one chance, so make sure you give it your best shot. Even after giving buyers this advice, I have still heard some walk away saying they would have paid what the second buyer paid. Put your best offer forward so that, in the event you don’t get the house, you won’t have any regrets about the one that got away.
Can a seller hold a mini auction? Yes!
The seller is holding the cards. If there are two or more offers in front of him but none of them are what wants or if he thinks he can push for more money, he can tell everyone to come back with their best price. He will ask everyone to amend their offers by a specific deadline (usually before the shortest deadline of all the offers, that way he is reducing the likelihood of someone walking away, which they might if he countered everyone). Once every buyer who wishes to change their offer has submitted their amendments, the seller will pick whichever offer he thinks is the best.
Can a seller accept two offers? Yes!
Few people realize that a seller can accept more than one offer at a time. Here’s how and why: if a seller accepts an offer from Buyer 1, he can accept an offer from Buyer 2 conditional on the first offer not fulfilling its conditions within the offer time frame. Sellers will do this to protect themselves. If all the offers they received have some conditions to them, then the house is not sold until the conditions are removed. So why not hold on to a second buyer just in case? It can also happen that the seller accepts an offer and then the next day a better one comes along, so he accepts that too on the condition that the first one can’t fulfill his financing or some other part of his offer. Buyer 2 will be given a deadline shorter than the first on all conditions so that it will be a firm offer before the first offer. That way if the first buyer even asks for an extension to fulfill his conditions the seller can refuse and Buyer 2 gets the house.
Remember, a sale is not firm until all conditions are removed. The seller can and should continue to market his home until he has a ‘firm’ offer.
So go in with your best offer, with the least amount of conditions possible. Do your building inspection before you write your offer, if you have the time. Or, if the vendors have said they will reply after the weekend, try and get all your conditions removed before Sunday night and send a revised offer Monday morning! Remember you only get one chance in a multiple offer situation, make sure your offer is the best it can be.
Multiple offers definitely favor the sellers but as a buyer, just understanding the process will help you come out on top with the keys to your dream home!
**The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**