Massachusetts Real Estate


Handling Multiple Offers for a seller in Real Estate

                                                                                                                                                   offer contract real estate in Massachusetts

The handling of multiple offers can be a tricky subject in Real Estate. Let's just say they are every buyer's agents nightmare and something that most listing agents look forward to. I say most because some Realtors try to avoid controversy at all costs and a multiple offer situation can sometimes get contentious.

Before getting into the art of handling multiple offers lets 1st discuss some basic parameters of an offer in general. In Massachusetts all offers whether verbal or written MUST be presented to the seller.

It is not at the listing brokers discretion to determine what is or isn't worth the sellers time to listen to. No matter how ridiculous an offer sounds, it is not up to the listing agent to be the judge of the offer. It is a violation of the code of ethics to withhold any offers whether verbal or written.

According to the Real Estate code of ethics Realtors shall submit offers and counter offers objectively and as quick as possible.

There are a few different scenario's in which a multiple offer situation could arise. You could have multiple offers come in around the same time in a given day in which case all of the offers should be presented to the seller at the same time or you could be in the middle of negotiations with a buyer and suddenly find out you are getting one or more additional offers.

In the 1st scenario the listing agent should be informing the buyers agents that there are multiple offers being presented to the seller. The buyer's agents at this point should be instructing their buyer clients to think about what their best offer on the property could potentially be.

selling home in Massachusetts and getting multiple offersOne point that should be made clear is that a listing agent is not allowed to reveal the terms of a buyers offer to another buyer or their agent unless they have written permission from the seller. The code of ethics requires that real estate agents treat prospective buyers honestly and fairly.

A Realtor who reveals the terms and conditions of a competing offer to one buyer gives that buyer an obvious advantage over the others which breaches the duty of fairness owed to the other buyers. 

In most circumstances it would be in the sellers best interest to instruct their listing agent to ask all parties to come back with their "best offer".

The seller stands to benefit greatly as none of the buyers has any idea what the other offers are. If the buyers want the home they will be forced to step up to the plate and possibly pay more than they originally expected to.

Once the seller has received all the bids back, it is to them how they would like to proceed. It is possible that the seller could do one of the following:

  • Reject all of the offers. Maybe the price isn't high enough or the closing date does not work. It is up to the sellers discretion on what is acceptable or not.
  • Reject one of the offers and work with the others. Maybe this buyers financing was too risky no matter how good all the other terms are. In this scenario the seller could make a counter-offer to one of the other offers.
  • Accept one of the offers and reject the others. This is the most common scenario because in most multiple offer situations the seller ends up getting the terms they desire.

The second scenario in which you have already been negotiating an offer and additional offer/offers come in needs a lot more care from the sellers/listing agent, as this is a scenario where emotions can create major problems.

Let me 1st state emphatically that there does NOT necessarily need to be any special treatment given to the 1st offer. After all, as a sellers agent it is your fiduciary responsibility to get your seller client the best terms and conditions.

man with multiple offer in Real EstateIs it possible that the buyers agent is going to have steam coming out of his or her ears when this scenario comes up?

It sure is and you better plan for it. There are plenty of Realtors that don't know any better and will give a sellers agent an earful.You need to stand your ground and calmly remind the other agent what your job entails as a listing broker.

The code of ethics is very clear on this issue. "When acting as listing brokers, Realtors shall continue to submit to the seller all offers and counter offers until closing or until execution of the contract unless the seller has waived this obligation in writing."

The goal as a listing agent should always be to get the sellers the best terms and conditions. Is it frustrating to be in this situation as a buyer's bet it is!! Rules are rules though and this is how the Real Estate game is played.

Multiple offers are always a sellers best friend so to speak. In most circumstances a seller is going to walk away with more than if the multiple offer situation did not exist. The seller will most likely be in the drivers seat if minor issues come up with inspections as well. The buyer may fear the seller jumping to one of the other buyers who lost out if they raise too many issues.

Looking at the mutiple offer situation from a buyer's agents point of view should be to find out exactly what the seller is expecting for terms and conditions. It should not be assumed that PRICE is going to be the only deciding factor. Maybe the closing date or the amount of money the buyer is financing is just as important to the seller.

Over the years I have been involved with many multiple offers where the seller did not choose the highest bid. An example on a few occasions has been one of the parties being more flexible with extending a closing date so the kids could finish school. As a buyers agent you should never loose site of what could be important to the seller.

Besides increasing the price here are a few examples of what the buyer could do to make their offer more attractive.

  1. Shorten the time to get inspections done.
  2. Shorten the mortgage contingency date or remove it all together if the buyer is 100% certain they will get approved.
  3. Increase the escrow deposit over the normal standard for the area.

success in negotiating multiple offers in Real EstateA few other thoughts about multiple offer scenerios....Make sure you document everything! As a Massachusetts Realtor for the past twenty three years, I have learned that being involved in a multiple offer situation can be a highly emotional event.

Buyers and their agents can get really ticked off when they are not the winning bid. It is wise to have your basis covered in the event someone accuses you of a wrong doing!

One last rule and I don't know why you would want to do this but it is not required that you inform other agents of the fact there is more than one offer on a property.

In fact it is at the SELLER'S sole discretion and choice whether this disclosure takes place. When the seller does give authorization, Realtors shall also disclose whether offers were obtained by the listing agent, another agent in the same company, or a cooperating broker.

Frankly I love getting multiple offers! I know when this occurs my seller clients are real happy and my list price to sale price ratio has gone up up up.

Thinking of selling your home in Massachusets? See....

Preparing your Massachusetts Home for the Spring selling season

Selling your home in a buyer's market

Top ten mistakes to avoid when selling your Massachusetts home


About the Author: The above Real Estate information on Handling multiple offer for a seller in Real EstateRE/MAX Executive Realty Hopkinton Mass was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at or by phone at 508-435-5356. 

Have a home to sell in Metrowest Mass? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise! 

For Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate and homes see Metrowest Mass Real Estate. Want to have MLS access to beat other buyers to your dream home? Sign up with no obligation at my MLS Property Finder Site.

I service the following towns in Metrowest Massachusetts: Hopkinton, Milford, Upton, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Grafton, Northbridge, Uxbridge, Franklin, Douglas, and Framingham MA.

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Building lasting relationships by helping people move in and out of Metrowest Massachusetts for the last 23 years.

Bill Gassett is a thirty-two year veteran to the real estate industry. He enjoys providing helpful information to buyers, sellers and fellow real estate agents to make sound decisions. His work has been featured on RIS Media, National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Placester, RESAAS, Credit Sesame and others.

Comment balloon 102 commentsBill Gassett • February 22 2009 11:10AM


Hi Bill !

Great Summary ! -- I think I always hear "Please come back with your 'Highest & Best' offer" when I compete with multiple offers.

Your response choices will be helpful to sellers reading this.

Nicely done !

Cheers !

Sheldon :o)

Posted by Sheldon Neal, That British Agent Bergen County NJ (Bergen County, NJ - RE/MAX Real Estate Limited) over 10 years ago

Bill - What an abundance of information!  This is bookmark material if there ever was any.  Reading this type of stuff not only gives people some wonderful insight as consumers into the home buying process, but it also is important for us Mortgage Folks to wrap our heads around.  Love the fortune cookie pic, by the way.  I learned a thing or two here, but I think I will stick to mortgages;)

Posted by Jason Sardi, Your Agent for Life (Auto & Home & Life Insurance throughout North Carolina) over 10 years ago

Thanks Sheldon. I love being in a multiple offer situation. I know my seller clients are going to be thrilled!

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Jason - Thanks my friend. Mortgages are a full time job for sure:) I appreciate the compliments on my article.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Great information, Bill - I have flagged this for a feature.  Multiple offer situations aren't so common these days, but they're tricky in any market.

Posted by Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Margaret you are right they do not happen as often as a few years ago but occasionally when you have a real attractive home that is well priced.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Bill--I have been involved in several multiple situations these past few months when submitting offers on foreclosures. Sheldon has it write for buyers in this situation, come back with highest & best offer if you really want the house. Not too many traditional sellers are in this situation now, but if they plan to price to compete with foreclosures, they just might be. :)

Posted by Teri Eckholm, REALTOR Serving Mpls/St Paul North & East Metro (Boardman Realty) over 10 years ago

Teri - I find that on nearly ever occasion it has been in the seller's best interest for the buyers to come back with their "best and final offer". I have been involved with a few bank on properties myself but has the buyer's agent. The last one my buyer was the high to love that:)

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Dave as a Realtor I do not think you are allowed to reveal another buyer's offer to other competing agents. At least that is the way I have always understood the laws governing proper etiquette.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Bill - You have clearly stated perfectly all the scenarios we face with multiple offers and the importance of our fiduciary responsiblity to our sellers if we're the listing agent.   I've been on both sides of the table and it can be a real roller coaster ride sometimes.

Posted by Julie Dumaine-Russell (RE/MAX Alliance) over 10 years ago

Donna it sure can be a roller coaster. As Realtors we need to remember the basics in each scenerio. We should be working for the best interests of our clients. It bothers me when agents become short sighted on this subject.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Bill, Very nice.  You have given some real great information.  I always try to put my feet in the listing agents shoes if I am a buyers agent in a multiple offer situation. I hate it when steam comes out my ears!  This is business and sometimes people get too emotional.  I really agree with your thoughts that price may not be the key to winning! Terms sometimes get over looked. Great post!

Posted by Jo Olson, Retired - HOMEFRONT Realty @ LAKE Roosevelt (HOMEFRONT Realty) over 10 years ago

Bill ~ Great information on how to handle "multiple offers for a seller." Many may be surprised but we are still seeing multiple offers on some properties here in Nevada. When a listing is priced competitively, buyers are interested! This is great information to share! Thanks.

Posted by Terrie Leighton, Reno Real Estate Agent ~ Selling Homes in Reno (Ferrari-Lund Real Estate ) over 10 years ago

Bill, PERFECT POST! PERFECT! This is partly how agents get a bad name. I showed a foreclosure to a young couple, wrote up the paperwork and made the "heads-up call" to the listing agency. Right out of their mouths was...that one is pending. I asked deeper questions and as it turned out they had an offer that was submitted on the house in January and had finally received a pre-approval and were awaiting the final addendums to be signed.

Nothing signed I asked? nope.

So, I then had to go into the fact that she wasn't doing her Seller justice if she didn't at least present the offer to them for consideration. Finally they buckled...I literally had to argue with her to get her to present a good offer!

At this moment still I don't know if she did. I'm suppose to find out tomorrow what the lender has to say about it. I don't trust that I will really find out.

Wish me luck...and my kids that really want the house.

Later in the rain~Deb

Posted by Deb Brooks (Brooks Prime Properties Wichita Falls Texas) over 10 years ago

Right on about the "price" comments.  For instance, closing by the end of the same month and avoiding another mortgage payment (or missed mortgage payment) could be priceless in the seller's eyes.

Posted by Stephen Kappre, Helping You Home (KW Hometown) over 10 years ago

Jo - We have all been in this situation before. Agents just need to keep their emotions in check and realize that each party has a job to do.

Terrie - I have seen them myself. A home that is priced below market will almost always garner multiple bids. On occasion the seller can net more than they otherwise would have if the home was priced higher.

Deb - Your were smart to press hard on this matter. You are right about agents losing perspective on what is best for their clients. I am sure the agent just wanted to make her life simpler instead of really doing the best she could for her client. Hope it works out for you.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Steve - No doubt about it. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago


I resent that remark :)

Don't worry. I'll behave. Sort of :)


Posted by "The Lovely Wife" (Broker Bryantnulls Wife) The One And Only TLW. (President-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Great post - and timely.  I have 3 offers on the same property coming in today.  I have told each agent/party to bring their best offer.  Seller plans to review them at 5 p.m.  Price isn't the only consideration - strength of financing or contingency waived has a strong impact.  Nicely said.

Posted by Ryan Shaughnessy, Broker/Attorney - Your Lafayette Square Real Estate Partner (PREA Signature Realty - over 10 years ago

Hey Bill, good post. Humm H&B done a few of them. Very frustrating for the buyer especially when theiroffer is not accepted and the sale price is the amount the buyer offered. It is hard to try to make them understand many factors effect the decision. I hate when they think it is all just a game. Such as when same offer price but a hubbard is involved. Thanks again for the great info.

Posted by Lisa Glowacki, Real Estate Broker - RI & MA (Lisa Glowacki - Rhode Island & Massachusetts) over 10 years ago

Bill, what a great informative post on how to handle multiple offers for sellers.  We get a few multiple offers in this area.... Bookmarked for sure! 

Posted by Rebecca Gaujot, Realtor®, Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate (Vision Quest Realty) over 10 years ago

In our market it is taking so long to get answers on short sales that we might have an offer in for consideration and 2 weeks later another offer comes in and the bank and the seller want to review it before they make a decision. We need to keep the sellers best interest in mind but in some cases the seller will not get any of the proceeds so they don't care who buys it.

Posted by Terry & Bonnie Westbrook, Westbrook Realty - Grand Rapids Forest Hills MI Re (Westbrook Realty Broker-Owner) over 10 years ago

Bill - I was just in a multiples situation where one of the "selling agents" demanded I tell him the details of the other offer on the table.  I was dumbfounded.  He is a very experienced agent.  He informed me that his most recent Ethics class required this from Listing agents.  It's a strange world out there.  Thanks for the post!

Posted by Kent Anderson, from Schweitzer to the Lake (Coldwell Banker Realty-Schweitzer Mountain, Sandpoint, Idaho) over 10 years ago

Bill, So much good information. Nice to be thinking about multiple offers again. One caution: when your seller counters, please state that the seller "will consider" the following offer. This will protect you from accepting more than one contract on the same property. And on the same idea..l.. seller signs AFTER all the changes and negotiations are made.

I have seen this backfire when telling other agents there are multiple offers. Have had the buyer say we will not compete, you call us if the house is still available. IMHO ..Never say there is another offer if you don't have it in writing.


Posted by Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland, Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome ( HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400) over 10 years ago

Hi Bill -- Great post, and you are right, it requires a solid understanding of how multiple offers works, both on the listing agent and the buyer's agent sides, in order for everyone to be well represented.

Agents' who haven't had exceptionally thorough training in this topic, should partner with their office manager, broker, or someone who will ensure this process is handled legally and with respect for all parties.

Knowledge, communication, and clarity is important.

2 of my last 3 listings sold in multiple offers, and while they can help a seller most of the time, sometimes it can backfire and all buyers walk away.

Posted by Chris Olsen, Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate (Olsen Ziegler Realty) over 10 years ago

Hi Bill. Really good information. as multiple offers can be daunting. Just a couple of comments....another choice the seller has besides accepting one offer and countering the others is to counter all offers. And in regards to Margaret's comment, I always write something like: "Buyer understands that seller has received more than one offer and is countering more than one party. Should more than one party accept seller's counter offer, seller reserves the right to choose which offer to accept in first position."

Posted by Cecily Parks (iMove Group, Knipe Realty NW, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Bill - great post !  Multiple offers use to be the norm a few years ago and in some cases, it is coming back.  Not long ago, had 4 offers on one of our listings... is a great place to be.   As a buyers agent I think it is not a horrible thing as it shows that buyers need to act quickly and be motivated too as it can get them off the fence for the next property and not wait too long or come in too low.  ~  Chris Somers

Posted by The Somers Team, Real People. Real Dreams. Real Estate. (The Somers Team at RE/MAX Access) over 10 years ago

Bill I bookmarked this also.  Multiple offers as everyone else has commented can be very confusing if you have not had experience with them.  Partnering with  someone who is familiar with multiple offers as Chris stated makes good sense,  great post.  

Posted by Sue Berger, Gladwin MI over 10 years ago

I have come up with some strategies that really do help buyers compete in multiple offer situations -- One of them you hit on the head -- "price" is not everything!  I can't give away all my secrets, so I will leave it at that! 

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) over 10 years ago

Hi Bill, A great dissertation on Multiple offers ( which is also really nice that these are taking place again). There are several points in your post that I am cogitating on as they differ a bit from our practice in California for example,verbal offers and discussion of the presence of multiple offers. I am sure our contracts vary on the disclosure of multiple offers as well. But I will park and read with interest some of the varying comments you receive , especially from Ca. agents. Well done my friend and congrats on the feature.

Posted by William Johnson, Retired Real Estate Professional (Retired) over 10 years ago

Bill - Great post on this very nerve wracking situation that we can sometimes find ourselves in!  It IS a great problem to have but surely works better when handled properly.  You and I think alike.  Thanks for the refresher course!  I just went through this scenario a few weeks ago and ended up with a primary, 2 back up contracts and a HAPPY Seller. 

Posted by Debbie Hutchins over 10 years ago

Congratulations on the gold star!

I love negotiating multiple offers. It gives me a new height of adrenalin rush. And yes, in my market, I can still happen. I was involved in several multiple offer situations in my market last year.

Posted by Loreena and Michael Yeo, Real Estate Agents (3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Prosper TX Real Estate Co.) over 10 years ago

Multiple offers can be tricky and dangerous. Make sure you discuss with the seller what the seller wants to do - don't make any assumptions. And yes, from experience, I can assure you that the buyer's agent who didn't get the deal can be very angry!

Posted by Tim Bradley, Commercial Real Estate Expert in Jackson Hole, WY (Contour Investment Properties) over 10 years ago

Good afternoon Bill, great post on how to best handle multiple offers. I always try to suggest highest and best with a deadline for the offers, allowing all buyers ample opportunity. That and communication with all parties as to the process certainly helps.

Posted by Samantha Nichols, Massachusetts Real Estate Specialist (ERA Belsito and Associates) over 10 years ago

Congrats on the feature.  More importantly, good tips on handling multiple offers.  There are many agents that have still not experienced that.

Posted by John Cannata, Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance (214-728-0449 over 10 years ago

Multiple offers????  I'd settle for just one. 

Posted by Sandra Paulow, REALTOR, Associate Broker, GRI, SFR (Aspen Properties, Inc. ) over 10 years ago

Thanks TLW ... You need to behave on this one:)

Margaret - In a multiple offer situation giving all interested parties the best and final is usually the best course of action because you don't want to be caught in a situation where you are having more than one party accept a sellers counter. Of course it is never a done deal until the seller signs the offer anyway at least here in Massachusetts.

Terry - The listing brokers are really not following the best protocol in a short sale. The seller should be picking the best offer, signing it, and submitting it to the bank for approval. If I was representing a buyer in a short sale and the agent said they were going to continue accepting offers I would encourage them not to go forward. Your example is a clear case on an agent not knowing how to do a proper short sale transaction.

Dave -  After doing further research the disclosure of terms in a buyers offer is actually a state to state thing. Here is a quote from NAR'S regulations:

"In some cases state law or real estate regulations may limit the ability of brokers to disclose the existence or terms of offers to third parties."

It looks like in Nebraska you are allowed to disclose.

Cecily - I would say would make more sense to give all the agents "a best and final offer" 1st and then if one of them is not acceptable to the seller counter all of them.

William - It may be different in California about verbal offers. I know in Massachusetts they must be presented to the seller.

Erica- I after being on both sides of the fence you can appreciate these situations. Above all else it is important to remain honest and ethical.

Everyone that I did not address individually thanks for your comments - I really appreciate them!




Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago


Nice post with a lot of great info. I read something that addresses this in the new Realtor magazine. Price is not everything. It is always nice to know in these times that the buyer actually has money and can get the loan! Great info!

Posted by Kristi DeFazio, Colorado Springs Rea lEstate 719-459-5468 (RE/MAX Advantage) over 10 years ago

The one thing to remember about multiple offer is to be upfront and fair to everyone. Of course it is the sellers choice of which offer to accept or reject.

Posted by Roland Woodworth, Q Realty - Power In Real Estate (Q Realty) over 10 years ago

Bill excellent post as usual. Lately we have been (representing buyers) inundated with multiple offer situations and the buyers can't believe it. Also, this year we have a new rule that states along the lines of... the seller will make the determination whether to disclose to the buyers/buyers agent that there are multiple offers. ~Rita

Posted by Brian Burke, Broker & Advising Expert-Denver Luxury Real Estate (Kenna Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Kristi - I saw the quick question about multiple offers as well. It actually sparked the thought for my to write about this topic:)

Roland - I always like being fair to all parties while trying to get my seller client the best terms and conditions.

Rita - It is in the code of ethics for Realtors that the seller makes the determination whether or not to disclose whether there are offers on the property.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

You did Yoeman's work Bill.  This should be required reading by evern new agent.  I cannot tell you have many contracts my buyers have gotten over the years that were not the highest offer.  I'm maticulous about the contract, lender letters, buyer financial statements, etc. 

Know your market, take the time to do a good job on the offer and your buyer will have a much better chance. 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Thanks Lenn but who is Richard - LOL I have no doubt you do a fantastic job representing your buyers!

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Hi Bill,

Not to be too much of a nit picker but I'm pretty familiar with our Code of Ethics and I don't recall anything anywhere in it that says we owe anyone a duty of "fairness" whatever that means.

"The code of ethics requires that real estate agents treat prospective buyers honestly and fairly.

A Realtor who reveals the terms and conditions of a competing offer to one buyer gives that buyer an obvious advantage over the others which breaches the duty of fairness owed to the other buyers."

We do have an obligation in the COE to treat all parties honestly.

Posted by Jim Lee, Portsmouth NH Realtor, Portsmouth, NH (RE/MAX Shoreline) over 10 years ago

Nice post....the tone of the voice of the selling agent is such a key as the attitude can make or break one or all deals......

Posted by TIM MONCRIEF, Over 2,000 homes sold….. (Tim Monciref) over 10 years ago

Sorry Bill.  I had just made a listing referral to a "Richard" and just dozed off for a minute. 

I believe that Jim Lee is correct.  "Fair" was removed from the COE about 4 years ago give or take a year or two. 

The word "fair" is incompatible with advocacy.  It's an interesting point because I often, too often read agents describing their transactions and they believe that as dual dudes and dudettes, they merely have to be "fair".

I have no intention of ever being "fair" in a real estate transaction.  My procedure is to find the soft spot (seller needs), find the money and go for the jugular. 


Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Bill,  Here in VA we only have to present offers that are in writing.  Also, we don't have the word "fair" in our state regs,  Karen

Posted by Karen Kruschka, - "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS" (RE/MAX Executives) over 10 years ago

What an enlightening post! I feel I've just attended a mini-class on this subject, especially after reading through all the comments. Tomorrow, I'll be READY to handle multiple offers (not too common here yet, but a wave of foreclosures is upon us). This was very educational for me. I'm so glad you selected this topic :-)

Posted by Mara Hawks, Inactive-2012 REALTOR - Homes for Sale Auburn Real Estate, AL (First Realty Auburn ) over 10 years ago

Bill, Excellent post. I have always reminded other agents that I will not disclose multiple bids unless instructed by the seller to do so. Two years ago, I had a rather high priced listing which received an offer about 40K under asking, by a very solid and we felt, a very serious buyer.  The next day we received another offer for 50K under asking price. In the meantime we had negotiatied the first buyer up to 20K under asking. So now we had one offer 20K under and another 50K under. As I recall, we had been on the market for 4 months. The seller and I discussed the ramifications of the multiple bids and he felt that the first offerer was close to what he wanted and did not want to rock the boat, so he instructed me not to tell the other agent of the offer we already had. He successfully negotiated the first offer and the next day instructed me to tell the other agent that the home was sold. Some agents do get really angry but then  I have to remind them that it is not my decision to disclose offers to anyone. I'm glad you mentioned in your post that it is at the sole discretion of the seller whether or not to disclose. They do sometimes backfire. And I find that too many agents make decisions for their sellers that they ought not to be making.

Posted by Barb Szabo, CRS, E-pro Realtor, Cleveland Ohio Homes (RE/MAX Trinity Brecksville Ohio) over 10 years ago


I submit everything until one contract is fully executed....then I would only take backup offers unless the seller directs me differently in the listing agreement. I had one case where I had received an offer and my partner verbally told the buyer agent that chances were good that his offer would be accepted. 10 minutes later we received another offer and all offers could only be mailed to this client.

Believe it or not...they didn't have an email address or a fax machine so we had to overnight it. The first agent was trying to get us to mail the his and then mail the other. He also was trying to tell me what was in my listing agreement when he had not idea what it said so he ended up losing anyway due to the other offer being better for the seller.

I think the seller wouldnt have been happy if they knew what the first agent said to me.

Posted by Neal Bloom, Realtor CRS-Weston FL Real Estate (Brokered by eXp Realty LLC) over 10 years ago

Jim maybe we are just getting into semantics with the meaning of the words. It would seem to me that treating a buyer honestly and fairly is the same as owing a duty of fairness?

Tim - Very true. We need to treat our fellow agents with respect and honestly in tall situations but especially in negotiating multiple offers.

Lenn - I want one of those:) Love your comment about going for the juglar!

Karen - It is interesting how states differ on what is required.

Mara - Thanks. It was one of the longest articles I have ever written. There was a lot to cover:)

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Barb - Good to hear it worked out for you. I am more of a gambler and would have tried to get buyer number one to increase their offer by informing them of the 2nd offer. I know everyone is different but I have never lost a buyer by informing another agent about multiple bids.

Neal it is interesting when an agent tries to persuade you to do something totally unethical. I just shake my head!

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Bill -

Not only was this an outstanding article, the comments and your follow-up were exceptional.

Some would be surprised to know that there are multiple offer situations going on right now.  I'm so glad that I subscribe to your blog... A fantastic resource for REALTORS and consumers alike.


Posted by Debbie Summers (Charles Rutenberg Realty ) over 10 years ago

Bill, What an informative article, I just learned a lot from you.  I recently came from a home here that the buyer had just moved into; she'd mentioned to me that there had actually been a bidding war on the house.  Wonderful to know that this is still happening as well as multiple offers.  Thank you for sharing so much information I wasn't aware of.

Posted by Laura Cerrano, Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher (Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island) over 10 years ago

Bill, What is a multiple offer?  ROTFL...It's been so long since I've been involved with one, until today.  Whew!  I did write one up today that, according to the listing agent, is supposed to have 2 more offers come in.  It is priced below market.  We put our best foot forward, nice clean contract, loads of earnest money and an approval letter.  T's are crossed and I's are dotted.  Now, to wait.  It's killing me :)  I'm banking on the other offers to be full of contingencies...keep your fingers crossed! 

All of your advice is right on! 

Posted by Elizabeth Cooper-Golden, Huntsville AL MLS (Huntsville Alabama Real Estate, (@ Homes Realty Group)) over 10 years ago

Bill, great post.  This is a topic we need to explore more in our industry, especially with short sales and REOs, as there are specific circumstances for those (for example, the lender-sellers of REOs think they can write their own rules and not abide by any laws or professional conduct).

Some of the REO lender-sellers will purposely keep the offers open for 1-2 months by ignoring the first offer, purposely waiting until they have several offers.  That is bad business and bad faith.  Then they send out a counter offer to all buyers that asks the buyers to submit their "highest and best offer" which is just plain laziness.  Come on, just tell us what price/terms you want, based on the offers provided, and let the buyers continue with the game or drop out and move on!  Then they take 1-2 months to decide on an offer.  While they continue to take other offers. THEN they want the lucky "winner" buyer to suddenly agree to a 5-day inspection period and sign all docs immediately (including their homemade addendums which are not always legal).  That is bad business, I predict they will be sued very soon for these practices.

That's why I disagree with your advice for the selling agent to counter with a "highest & best offer" counter offer.  In my opinion, the Sellers should inform all the buyers that they are receiving multiple counter offers, and give them the opportunity to re-submit their offer if they wish -- by telling them WHAT DAY the seller will be responding to the offers.  THEN the seller should review all offers, and decide what price and terms HE wants.  Then send the EXACT same counter-offer back to ALL buyers (since he's now in a position to call the shots).  Be sure to mark the box that says "Counter offers being submitted to multiple buyers" so everyone is informed and hopefully the losers are less emotional.

By having multiple counter offers, that really shows the true market value of a property AND gets the seller the best price / terms.  After all, that is the point, isn't it!

Join my new AR group and post your blog at

Regina P. Brown

Posted by Regina P. Brown, M.B.A., Broker, Instructor (MBA Broker Consultants) over 10 years ago

Hi Bill!  This post certainly is feature-worthy!  Congrats on that little gold star!  I'm with Sheldon--we use the 'highest and best' request and that nearly ALWAYS means that the home will be sold above list price!  OH, how I long for those days again!  Although, I did compete with a bid a few weeks ago--that is a rarity right now.

Debe in Charlotte NC

Posted by Debe Maxwell, CRS, Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods ( | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310) over 10 years ago

And regarding the topic of revealing mulltiple offer prices/terms to other buyers -- YES you can!  If it will help your seller's situation.  Unless your seller has asked you NOT to disclose it, and why would they if it's in their best interest?  That is the law in CA, not sure about other states, as posed by Dave Matney above.

Sometimes as a Seller's agent, I'll get a 2nd offer buyer's agent calling me to ask if I already have offers.  I may say, "yes and it's very close to the asking price" so they will know that they need to come in at asking price if they are to compete.  That helps my seller to get a higher price, and helps the buyer to make a better offer, and helps not to waste everyone's time!  Negotiating is a learned skill that is a MUST for our profession!

Posted by Regina P. Brown, M.B.A., Broker, Instructor (MBA Broker Consultants) over 10 years ago

Hey Bill,

A great read. Believe it or not, we're seeing multiple offers again here in Princeton NJ (of course it's all about proper pricing!) I always felt it a good idea to have a discussion with my sellers early in the game about how to handle multiple offers if they should arise. Of particular concern is what they do and don't want shared with everyone if new dance partners show up. You are correct...the Code does not require disclosure. In fact, advising the parties that there is competition could jeopardize all of the offers, so a well planned strategy is important. I can't tell you how many times I've seen qualified buyers scared away from making an offer on a property because the listing agent casually told them "we already have an offer on the table". If their seller ever found out, the liability could be severe...  

Posted by Harold "Hal" Benz, Helping Home Sellers Preserve Their Home Equity (Local Impact Real Estate Network) over 10 years ago

Hi Bill, as always, this was a well written, well thought out post.  Funny that you chose this topic since just today I was involved in a multiple offer situation as a buyer's agent.  As you suggested, I advised my client to make his "best offer".  We are waiting to hear from the seller.  I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Posted by Zilkia Olmeda-Martins, GRI, Realtor, San Antonio Texas Luxury Homes (RE/MAX North - San Antonio) over 10 years ago

Debe & Carole thanks for the compliments. It took me a while to write this one:)

Elizabeth - Best of luck with your offer. I hope it gets accepted.

Regina - I think we are talking about two different things here. I never said that the seller should not respond in a timely fashion. They should always do that. In my experience an offer that is delt with immediately stand a much greater chance of getting done. I am not sure I understand your comment:

"That's why I disagree with your advice for the selling agent to counter with a "highest & best offer" counter offer.  In my opinion, the Sellers should inform all the buyers that they are receiving multiple counter offers, and give them the opportunity to re-submit their offer if they wish -- by telling them WHAT DAY the seller will be responding to the offers.  THEN the seller should review all offers, and decide what price and terms HE wants.  Then send the EXACT same counter-offer back to ALL buyers (since he's now in a position to call the shots)."  When you ask a buyer to come back with their best offer you are in fact getting the buyer to submit a new offer which should be their best offer? You can not send the same counter offer to all buyers unless you want to potentially be stuck in a situation where they all say YES!!

In regards to disclosure of a buyers offer terms it varies from state to state.

Debe in my experience when you give the "highest and best offer" the seller will make out very very well. In fact more often than not the accepted offer is either full price or over full price.

Hal - I guess I have been lucky but I have never lost a deal because I disclosed that there were competing offers on the table. I would say 95% of the time the seller makes out well in this circumstance.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Bill, what a well-thought out and easy to read post! Multiple offers can get really tricky and messy if not handled properly. Your post is a great refresher and eye-opener. Thank you.

Posted by AMBER NOBLE GARLAND - Top Real Estate Expert, Property Tax Appeal Specialist & Author, - The Agent You Can Trust To Deliver REAL Results! (Strategic Marketing Expert & Relocation Specialist Serving New Jersey and nationwide!) over 10 years ago

Bill, in CA I guess it's a little different than your state.  Sellers here CAN do multiple counter-offers if they check the box "multiple counter offers" on the form.  That allows them to basically write their own ticket!  Because they can then receive multiple responses back, and accept only the final "winner" that they select.  A much better process, in my humble opinion, than the scenario you outlined of only selecting 1 offer to respond to.

What I meant about "highest and best offer" is that a seller should not use that term as a counter-offer to an offer.  That's what the REO lender-sellers do, because they are too lazy to actually write out their counter offer.  Or maybe it's because they are not following standard counter-offer procedure for CA, which is the paragraph I outlined above.  Which is to make multiple counter-offers on the Seller's terms.  Otherwise, the buyer is in the "dark" and doesn't know where to begin.  Should start AT the asking price?  5% above it?  Should they NOT ask for closing costs?  With a vague "highest and best" response from the seller, there is no direction, and everything's a shot in the dark for the buyer.  However, if the seller actually responds with a minimum price and best-case terms for them, buyers know where to start, or if they should back out and move on.  I had a buyer who was strung along for 2+ months in an REO lender-seller's process before he quit the game, and by then was unhappy that he missed other opportunities.  Anyway, just my 2 cents worth, hope I explained it better this time!

Posted by Regina P. Brown, M.B.A., Broker, Instructor (MBA Broker Consultants) over 10 years ago

Bill - This situation is certainly one the seller appreciates.  I have had multiple offers where the buyer's agents were upset, I did my job and in the end only one person can win.

As usual a terrific recap of a process.


Posted by Jennifer Fivelsdal, Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection ( JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571) over 10 years ago

Bill-Nicely composed and thought out post. It's great to have a multiple offer "refresher" as they are not the norm here in MI. I do feel the winds of change coming soon! Best to you~

Posted by Mary Kent, Grand Rapids to the Lake Shore (Five Star Real Estate ) over 10 years ago

Very well done post, Bill.  You really hit everything.  We here in Lancaster County just recently got a new nondisclosure addendum that many buyer agents now submit to the seller when there's the possibility of multiple offers.  It's taped to outside of the offer packet and the sellers/agent have to sign it before breaking the seal of the envelope.  Yes, we're that serious about avoiding the "auction" style of doing business.

Posted by Jeff R. Geoghan, REALTOR, Marketing Manager (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 10 years ago

Fabulous!  I've been in these situations and they can be "sticky."

You've laid out the procedure so clearly that there really is no room for emotion or uncertainty.  Just remember your responsibility!

Great job!

Posted by Gail Szeluga & JoAnna Siminerio, Fostering Community Spirit Through Real Estate (Weichert Realtors - Manalapan - Marlboro) over 10 years ago

I came over to check out your new blog.  Very nice.

Yep, multiple offers are character building for all involved.  The first one I was involved in, I represented one of three buyers offering on a property.  All three were countered and all three walked.  The home was on the market for another 1 1/2 years after that, which made such an impression on me, I will NEVER forget it.  I try to keep that in mind when presenting multiple offers to my sellers.

Good post,

Posted by Fran over 10 years ago

Oh Bill, you know I love this post. I'd love to have a few like you in my referral box. Did I tell you I fell asleep thinking of you in a Cowboy hat and boots?? ;-)

Posted by Susie Blackmon, Ocala, Horses, Western Wear, Horse Farms, Marketing over 10 years ago

Bill - fantastic info as always - multiple offers are not back in Charleston SC yet but I have high hopes!!

Posted by Randall Sandin, 843-209-9667 - Search for Charleston SC Real Estate (Carolina One Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Regina from the sellers perspective I am going to disagree with you. If you are a buyer and you are competing for a home you REALLY want and have absolutley no idea what the other buyers have offered in many cases you will bid over asking. Sometimes way over asking!! The scenerio I outlined works better for the seller in almost every instance. So if you are talking about your suggestion from a buyers perspective, I would agree with you. I think California is in the minority when it comes to how offers are negotiated.

As far as REO'S that is a completely different animal. We all know that banks are not the best role models when it comes to anything to do with Real Estate.

Amber, Jennifer, Mary, Jeff, Jo Anna - Thanks for the compliments on my article.

Susie - Why am I not surprised - LOL

Randall - I long for a sellers market again as well!


Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Cowboy hat and boots. Now there's a visual :)


Posted by "The Lovely Wife" (Broker Bryantnulls Wife) The One And Only TLW. (President-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc.) over 10 years ago

This is excellent information - a great refresher!  We have multiple offer situations at times and I always document everything.  It is great for my Sellers, in most situations, they come out with an accepted offer and favorable terms. 

Posted by Susan Jackowski, Lake Norman NC & Hudson Valley NY (Lake Norman NC) over 10 years ago

Bill, This is excellent information, you've provided great advice on dealing with multiple offers. I had this very situation a few weeks ago with one of my listings. Congratulations on a well deserved gold star.

Posted by Debbie Malone, From Lynchburg To The Lake (434) 546-0369 (Londeree's Real Estate & Property Management) over 10 years ago

Bill - Great post on dealing with multiple offers.  I was actually in a multiple offer situation this weekend and it wasn't even a foreclosure.  So they can still happen even in this market.

Posted by Pam Dent, REALTOR® - Charlottesville Virginia Homes / Horse (Gayle Harvey Real Estate, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Susan, Debbie, Pam, Erica -   Thanks for all your comments on negotiating multiple offers for a seller!

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

great post Bill, after a few years of lisitng agents just begging to get ANY offer, we are finally returnign to multiple offer scenarios more and more.  It is especially important that the lisitng agent remember, as you clearly point out, that their job is to get the highest and best offer for their seller.  Not necessarliy their owne buyer or their agent friend or the first offer in, the best for the SELLER period!

Posted by Janie Coffey, Uniting Extraordinary Homes w/ Extraordinary Lives (First Coast Sotheby’s International Realty) over 10 years ago

Thanks Janie. Above all else we should always strive for what is best for the client and nobody else including ourselves. That is a trademark of an excellent Realtor! It is a major reason why some agents get referral business and others don't.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Bill you are my real estate hero!  You who my agent would be if ever I move in your neck of the woods! 

Posted by Midori Miller, Online Marketing For Real Estate Professionals (Talk 2 Midori, LLC) over 10 years ago


Great post..great advice..thanks for sharing.

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) over 10 years ago

Midori & Dorie - I am glad you appreciated my artitcle about negotiating multiple offers for a seller. As most know the negotiation can be a little tricky sometimes and there are a lot of emotions involved. Keeping the sellers best interests at heart is always the best course of action.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

It's my understanding that, in Colorado, details of a competing offer can be disclosed only with the seller's permission.  The ethical duty is to act in the seller's best interest, and I don't believe there are very many situations where disclosing the other offer is best for the seller.  The element of mystery about the competing offer generally drives the price up to the buyer's true "highest and best."  I had one multiple offer situation where the first buyer had given us a lowball offer before the second offer came in.  They wound up offering 75% over their original offer -- and still didn't get it!

What amazes me is when I've got a listing in a multiple bid situation, I ask for "highest and best", and the agent whose buyers didn't get it says "Wow, I expected to see a counter. We would have dropped the closing costs request" or whatever.  I'm never sure which part of "highest and best" isn't clear to them!

Posted by Mary Beth Bonacci, CRS, SRES (RE/MAX Alliance) over 10 years ago

Mary Beth I have been in similar circumstances where I made it very clear that "best and final offer" means best and final offer. I guess sometimes Real Estate agents hear what they want to hear. I often wonder how that conversation works out with their client.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

This is good information, after being in a dead zone in December and January the snow melted and they all came out of the woodwork. I wrote 4 offers last week and 2 of them were in multiples. One went to the other party because they did not have an inspection contingency and the other one is a short sale and we are bidding against 2 other.

Posted by Mary Corrigan, CDPE, ABR, e-PRO (Progressive Urban Real Estate (PURE)) over 10 years ago

Bill, very nice and I would say in reading the posts over the past week that your multiple offer advice is good timing.

Posted by Rebecca Levinson, Real Estate Marketing and Online Advertising Consultant (Real Skillz-Clear Marketing for Your Real Estate Vision) over 10 years ago

Mary -The market was similar here in the Winter/holiday months as well. There has been a noticable increase in activity. Between now and Spring there will be plenty of well priced homes that receive multiple offers.

Rebecca - Thanks. There are plenty of homes that will see multiple offers. In fact I have a listing right now that I just put on the market that has had lots of activity. I would not be surprised if this home has multiple bidders.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Great article Bill and well worthy of the !!  Your advise to document everything is gold too.  Here's to a heated spring market for all of us - multiple offers and all!

Posted by Lee & Pamela St. Peter, Making Connections to Success in Real Estate (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices YSU Realty: (919) 645-2522) over 10 years ago

Lee & Pam - Always better to be safe than sorry in Real Estate. Unfortunately many times their are hurt feelings when there shouldn't be.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Great blog, Bill.  Keep it up.

Posted by Marzena Melby, Counselor Realty, Minneapolis, MN over 10 years ago

Marzena - Thanks very much for your compliments on my article about handeling multiple offers.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Hi Bill, Congratulations on another gold star.  Thanks for all the info about multiple offers.

Posted by Shirley Parks, Broker, 210-414-0966, San Antonio TX Real Estate (Sands Realty 210-414-0966) over 10 years ago

Good stuff..see you in Vegas....cheers,




Posted by Jay McHugh, YOUR SendOutCard Mentor (SendOutCards-Appreciation Marketing Expert) over 10 years ago


This is a potentially sticky situation. and as always, you've provided a ton of information and advice to both agents and consumers.


Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 10 years ago

Christine - Thanks. Believe it or not I have been involved in a few multiple offer situations lately and they were not even bank owned or short sales.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Good stuff!

It seems that the thing to do for sellers is list a very low price in order to get attention and attract buyers. If the seller does not have to disclose or show any offers, all his listing agent has to do is tell the only offer that there are multiple (even though there aren't any other) and this alone will hopefully encourage buyer to go close to the price that the seller was hoping to get prior to listing the low.

Jason Brigett, Investor   San Diego CA




Posted by Jason over 10 years ago

Jason - I would never encourage anyone to lie. That is just plain wrong and bad business. It is against the code of ethics for a Realtor to do that. In every business there are a few bad seeds. I am not one of them!!

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 10 years ago

Hi Bill, Excellent description of handling multiple offers.  Congrats on being featured and I hope you don't mind if I re-blog this one.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) over 9 years ago

Gabe by all means go right ahead. I am glad you enjoyed the article!

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 9 years ago

This is a great tutorial on multiple listings!

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) over 9 years ago

This post along with the comments has been a huge help to me today.  So glad to have found it.

Posted by Anonymous over 9 years ago

  You people all make me sick.  You are forgetting the most important people.....the buyers.  The ones with the money!  What about the young wife that falls in love with the kitchen or the little boy who falls in love with the big back yard. How many days do you think they cry themselves to sleep at night?  It may be a great game for you but it is turning what used to be an exciting experience for the buyer into a nightmare.  Speaking from experience, I will never buy another house again as long as I live.  It was too painful of an experience for me.  You people are cold.  Playing with others lives just so you can get a kick or more money squeezed out of them.  You should be ashamed of yourself.  You are to blame for the foreclosure problem too.    Yes it is just business but how many businesses have closed their doors because of poor customer satisfaction?  How many "for sale by owner" signs do you see in yards?  Why do you think that realtors are now clasified as snakes like lawyers?

Posted by Linda Byrd almost 9 years ago

Linda why does someone doing their job make you upset? If the tables were turned and you were the one selling your home I am sure your thought process would be a lot different. An listing agent getting the most money for their client is what they were hired to do.

Not trying to accomplish that would be unprofessional. Like it or not this is how Real Estate or any business for that matter works.

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) almost 9 years ago

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