How Do I Beat the Competition? A Note About “Gamesmanship”

Finally, a brief note on some of the more unseemly details of the offer process. Specifically, we often hear buyers (and other agents) talking about how to get a leg up on other bidders for a particular listing. There’s a lot of chatter about knowing the sellers, being friendly with the listing agent, having the inside story on how much the sellers are really expecting, or what other buyers are planning to bid. We’ll politely call this sort of thing “gamesmanship”.

We encourage buyers not to get caught up in this kind of thinking. In our experience, 95% of the time, it’s nothing but a distraction. Many agents are experts at convincing buyers and sellers that the only way to get the best deal (or any deal at all) is to work with them. We politely disagree.

Sellers’ agents are required by law to present every bona fide offer from each prospective buyer to their seller clients. Simply put, sellers are going to choose the best offer. Often that means the offer at the highest price. Sometimes it may mean an offer at a slightly lower price with no contingencies, or an all cash offer that doesn’t carry a financing risk. Sellers are rational people, and they’re making decisions with big financial implications. We’re not aware of a single seller who ever said, “I picked a worse offer because my real estate agent was friendly with the buyers and their agents.”

Sometimes there are opportunities to be creative, such as putting in an early, preemptive offer on a home that you know you just have to have, or considering a below-list-price offer on a listing that may have expired without going into contract. But in most cases, we believe buyers are best served by sticking to the game plan: narrow your search, evaluate specific properties carefully and completely, and when you’re ready to bid, put your best foot forward.

Here’s a powerful way to ensure you’re bidding competitively, but not psyching yourself out: ask yourself, “what’s the highest price at which I’d be disappointed if I didn’t win this home?” Bid at that amount. If you win, terrific! And if you don’t, you’ll know that you made a rational decision not to get distracted by the “gamesmanship” and overbid.

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