“Investors know that this is a great time to buy and that the market is going up,” Worthington said. “We’re past the bottom of the market pricing cycle. I’ve been through three dips before. We’re past the bottom of it. There’s no doubt about that.”
Reuter and Skellchock also experienced frustration as they tried to buy their first home. For the first house they put an offer on, they spent $1,500 on an inspection that revealed too many problems for them to go ahead with the purchase. After that, they gave up looking for a while.
“We can’t just waste a thousand dollars every time we like a house,” Reuter said.
Even though they had suspended their active search, Reuter kept looking on Redfin’s Web site. When the ranch-style home in Gaithersburg came on the market, she persuaded Skellchock to go look at it.
“We went there, and we’re like, ‘This house is awesome,’ ” Reuter said. The sellers “seemed like they were kind of joking. ‘You can have Buddy with the house, too.’ ”
Buddy seals the deal
Reuter and Skellchock had been thinking about getting another dog to keep Leo, their black snoodle (a schnauzer and poodle mix), company while they were at work. It seemed like a perfect situation. Their real estate agent, Karen Parnes, suggested they include their desire for the dog in the contract.
But first they wanted to make sure the dogs would like each other. So they made a playdate for Leo and Buddy. The dogs got along so well that they brought Leo back for another playdate during the home inspection.
When it came time to write a contract, Parnes wanted to include a clause about the dog, but the lender wouldn’t allow it. Even so, the sellers picked Reuter and Skellchock out of the offers they received. Buddy got to stay in his home, and Reuter and Skellchock got the house of their dreams. Unfortunately, not long after they moved in, Reuter developed allergies to Buddy and the dog is now living with friends of theirs whose pet recently died.
“Tons of jokes going around now,” Parnes said. “Maybe we can convey the kids. Somebody asked me if I can find a way to convey their mother-in-law.”
The experiences of Reuter and Skellchock and Bennett are not unusual. According to Ellis, more than half of the contracts Redfin’s agents have written this year have faced multiple offers. That’s left real estate agents and their buyers looking for unusual ways to encourage sellers to accept offers.
Rachel Musiker of Redfin has heard of buyers stalking sellers on social media — Facebook, Linkedin — to find out information they can use to their advantage, such as if the sellers are getting divorced or if they have friends in common.
Robyn Burdett, a real estate agent with Re/Max Allegiance, took a personal approach with her buyers. Her client needed to find a house fast. The military wife with five children had flown in from out of town and had four days to look at properties. She found one she liked, called her husband aboard the ship he was serving on in the Arabian Sea and put in an offer.
But before the offer was turned in, Burdett learned there were two more offers on the table. She went back to her clients, who agreed to strengthen their offer by proposing a two-month rent-back to the sellers.
Burdett told the listing agent that she wanted to drop off the offer in person and brought her client along in hopes that the seller would be home. The buyer and seller met and had so much in common that they ended up bonding. That evening, the listing agent called to say that the sellers “want [the buyer] to have the house,” Burdett said.
Finding a pre-market house
Suzanne Granoski, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty, also used a rent-back to win a bidding war. Because she knew the condominium in Arlington County that her buyers wanted would draw multiple offers, she called the listing agent to find out what the sellers’ needs and desires were. That’s when she learned that they hadn’t found their next home.
Granoski’s clients put in an escalation clause as well as an offer of a free rent-back for six weeks after settlement, an incentive valued in excess of $5,000.
“We won a multi-contract bidding war without having to increase our initial offer price,” Granoski said.
Koki Adasi, an associate broker with Long & Foster, said he tries to avoid bidding wars altogether.
“I’m getting more requests from buyers who are trying to find stuff offline, that have not hit the marketplace,” he said.
Adasi recently found a property for one of his clients just by being nosy. As he and his wife were coming back from playing basketball at a neighborhood park, Adasi noticed three houses under renovation. He stopped to talk to the contractor, who gave him the names of the owners. One owner said he wasn’t selling, but the other one was interested in making a deal before it went on the market.