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Bidding wars: what to do when you’ve got multiple offers

Most sellers can’t wait for their first offer to come in — but if they just keep coming? Congrats! Your house is in demand and buyers are queuing up. But it’s not just about the offers. How do you use your home's popularity to your advantage?


How to handle a bidding war

In an ideal world, you’ll be able to use multiple offers to get the best possible price for your home — but it’s not always that straightforward. Getting the most out of a bidding war is all about nailing down the details, working out the pros and cons of each offer, and maximising your leverage. Your estate agent should shine here, as it’s their job to make the most out of the negotiations. But it’s also down to what works for you. You should feel like you’re in the driver’s seat, with the estate agent working as a guide and go-between. 

First things first, how do bidding wars happen?

Can you start a bidding war?

A bidding war happens with multiple offers, so it's really more about the buyers. But, you can make your home as desirable as possible and priced realistically — which makes it more likely to start a bidding war.

So if you’ve gotten multiple offers, then take a moment to pat yourself on the back, thank your estate agent — and then start thinking about what to do next. 

Read the fine print

Believe it or not, the highest offer isn’t always the best. You need to look at the fine print to see what buyers really expect. No deal is done until the contracts (or missives, in Scotland) are exchanged. Offers that are ‘subject to contract’ could be revised downward or withdrawn completely if the buyer is not satisfied with the survey results.

Check the length of the chain

A chain can make such a difference to any sale. According to Which?, 28% of people have had a property sale fall through — and a good proportion of unsuccessful sales relate to the chain. If your best offer is coming from a buyer in the middle of a chain, the timing of the deal will be subject to a series of other purchases going through without a hitch.

And there are no guarantees that will happen. Some people like to avoid chains altogether if they can. A chain-free buyer might be more desirable, even if they’re offering a little lower. 

Be sure about the buyer profile

Avoiding the chain isn’t the only consideration. You need to decide which type of buyer is best. For instance, if you’re considering selling to a first-time buyer, you might escape the chain — but you’ll face a whole new set of potential pitfalls. Before accepting their offer, make sure they have a decision in principle on a mortgage. Your estate agent will make sure that their offer is solid and that they have the funds to follow through, so you can always reach out to them if you need any guidance. 

Talk about timing

If you need to move quickly, you’ll want a buyer who’s willing to do the same. But be careful when revealing these details – if you give too much away you might weaken your negotiating position. In contrast, if you’re in no rush, you can sit back and wait on multiple offers or encourage higher bids from those who need somewhere fast.

Ideally, you'll find someone who is on rougly the same timeline — that way, you're both equally motivated to make the sale happen.

The thing to remember about all of these risks is that, if they’re handled correctly, they’re great leverage. You can take them back to the buyer to explain why you’re unsure about accepting their offer. When you use them to negotiate like a pro, they can actually bring you reassurances, or even a higher offer to sweeten the deal. Your estate agent should help turn your offers into the perfect sale — whatever that looks like for you.