Toronto’s real estate market has seen unprecedented price increases in the last year.
The average sale price was $552,925 in 2015 and $631,092 in 2016, a 14.1% increase in just 12 months. There were slightly more sales this year, with slightly fewer new listings. It’s rare now, especially so far in 2016, to see a property not sold above the listing price.
Because the market is so competitive, buyers have begun resorting to bully offers, a pre-emptive offer that tempts sellers to accept before their formal offer dates. The offer is typically above the asking price and has a short window to accept—24 or 48 hours, for example. Bully offers are to avoid bidding wars, and are aggressive ways of trying to land homes that buyers really want.
Despite having properties that are sure to have multiple offers, some buyers are accepting bully offers because they are typically above the asking price. This is more tempting than it may seem; sellers have to weigh a sure sale against the uncertainty of offer day.
There are stories of winning on both sides, but equally of losing: sellers taking the bully offer when they would have received much more had they waited, and sellers rejecting a bully offer only to be offered less on offer day.
So, how do you know if you should accept or reject a bully offer?
Ask your agent what they expect
If the bully offer is only slightly above asking and the market is extremely competitive, as it is right now with real estate in Toronto, your agent will likely discourage you from accepting. Your listing agent will have set the price of your home based on its market value, so they’ll know the minimum you should get, as well as the range in which you can anticipate offers.
Inquire how many offers are coming
Although bully offers can come in extremely early, hopefully you’ve had a bunch of people through your home. Your agent should be in touch with other agents before offer day so they should know if any of the buyers who saw your home are interested. Weigh the amount of offers against the bully offer to determine how much you can actually expect. For example, if you only have two offers coming in, the bully offer might be best; if you have seven offers, your odds are better to wait.
How competitive is the market?
In the off-chance that you’re in a buyer’s market and you still get a bully offer, you may want to take it. Bully offers typically don’t have conditions and are above asking, so if you’re unsure of getting an offer at all, the bully offer will be a welcome surprise.
If I’m a buyer, should I submit a bully offer?
If you’re on the other side of the coin and are buying a home in a seller’s market, submitting a pre-emptive offer might be the right course of action, but you have to be careful.
Let’s say you view a home and you and your agent agree that you should submit an offer. If you saw the home on its first day listed and you think it will get a lot of attention, a bully offer could be the right course of action. You can sneak through and give the sellers something to consider, well before they have other bullies or prospective buyers to deal with.
That said, you have to use caution. If you submit a bully and the sellers are not interested in pre-emptive offers, you likely won’t have the chance to submit an offer with other buyers. Most sellers won’t look at offers from buyers who’ve already submitted a bully offer on the same property, so be sure it’s the right move. Have your agent ask whether or not the sellers are taking bully offers before considering this as an option.