How to start a bidding war when it’s time to sell your home

You live in Denver, you’ve outgrown your current home, and you want to take advantage of this extreme seller’s market. Sound about right? Then you’re one lucky duck, and it’s time to put your house on the market and bring on the bidding war.

Wait, what’s a bidding war you ask? Friend, it’s the golden ticket for all sellers and right now in Denver, the pump is primed for this exact scenario. A bidding war breaks out when two or more buyers, after viewing your amazing abode, offer more than list price in an effort to outbid each other and win your home. In addition to a killer monetary offer, you may also be wooed by such enticements as money towards low appraisals, limited or waived inspections, and the flexibility to rent back your own home until a time when it’s convenient for you to move. In short, your house is the smart, pretty girl that everyone is vying to take to prom. What could be better?

But like all dream offers, this one has a caveat: you’ve got to take an active role in setting yourself and your home up for a successful sale. Starting a bidding war requires more than just a wish written over and over in your diary with purple ink and bubble letters. Even our girl Cinderella needed that fairy godmother to show up and bippity-boppity-boo her into shape. Lucky for you, you’ve got two fairy godmothers at your service.

At Dwell, the magic goes a little something like this:

  • BIPPITY: Price your house well to get the attention of the most people.
  • BOPPITY: Make your house look stunning (not “okay,” not “good enough,” but drop-dead gorgeous), and then get it in front of qualified buyers.
  • BOO: Make the buyers feel like they have a good chance of losing their dream home if they don’t make a big play.

Still wondering exactly how it all works? No secrets here among us friends; we’ll break it down for you even further!


A Price That Gets Attention

Pricing is the single most important factor when listing your home, and starting with your giant dream number actually works against you to kill upward momentum with buyers. With a bloated initial price tag, they may enter into the process with a bad taste in their mouths before the negotiations even begin. The results definitely work against you.

A bitter buyer will take their bad feelings out on the seller with tougher inspections and a low motivation to offer any competitive extras. This dwindling level of emotional goodwill on the part of your buyers will remove any sense of urgency they have in the bidding process. As a result, your overpriced house tends to sit longer on the market. Potential buyers start to wonder “What’s wrong with this house? Why hasn’t it sold yet?” and bid lower than asking.

On the flip side, a well-priced home is a guaranteed belle of the ball. Added bonus: we can do this part for you! A real estate agent who knows their job will be able to provide a Comparable Market Analysis (comps), determine what your house should sell for based on a winning combo of your comps and their real-life market experience, and put your home on the market for just under that ideal price. Buyers who win the resulting bidding war are so excited to be “chosen” that their goodwill carries them, and you, through the entire transaction.


Make it Beautiful

Everyone loves a transformation, and you definitely want your buyer to think of their current home as Before and your home as their (Happily Ever) After. Whether you’re the unofficial heir to the Martha Stewart decorating empire, or a person who struggles with where to hang a picture, all sellers should take part in a staging consultation.

Staging is fun! We’ll work with you to determine what to pre-pack and how to arrange what remains to show off your house to its best advantage. Your personal items get minimized so that buyers can see their own memories and mementos filling in the gaps. But a totally blank canvas doesn’t necessarily work in your favor. If you are moving everything out before you sell, seriously consider spending a few thousand bucks on professional staging. Often, this investment pays for itself as statistics show staged houses sell faster and for more money than their empty counterparts.

Next, professional photos are a must. 99% of all buyers start their house hunt online. That virtual hunt accounts for basically everyone who will see your home! Agent- or self-shot phone pics are not going to cut it. We’ll get a seasoned real estate photography company out to the house after staging (and cleaning!) to take professional marketing photos. Buyers may not even visit a home they don’t like online, so you definitely don’t want to lose your buyer to a lesser home in the neighborhood who happens to have better images. Homes with beautiful pictures tend to sell first and for more money than comps with inferior shots.

So you’ve staged and gotten great images, but now what? This is when we step in with our marketing prowess and get to work on tactics such as e-fliers and printed materials. When shopping for an agent (even us!), you should ask to see their marketing materials for previous homes and determine if their work entices you. Good writing matters! Buyers want to be able to see the pictures and then read about whether the house is close to trails, boasts a bonus room that can double as an office, or has that oversized tub they’ve been dreaming of. Common mistakes and turn-offs can include bad grammar, inaccurate descriptions, or our personal fave WRITING IN ALL CAPS TO SHOW EXCITEMENT BUT ACTUALLY MAKING A READER FEEL THAT THEY ARE BEING YELLED AT WITHOUT INVOKING ANY EXCITEMENT AT ALL. Exhausting, right? In addition to good writing, a top-tier agent should rely on a talented graphic designer. Amateur marketing materials look cheap and will emotionally signal buyers to assume that the house itself is of lower value.


Market to Qualified Buyers

To goal now is to promote your home everywhere that qualified buyers will see it. And what’s a “qualified” buyer? We are specifically targeting buyers who are truly in the market to buy, looking in the price range that the house is listed in, already have a lender letter in hand, are (most likely) already working with an agent, and are ready to commit to offering a solid price.

The MLS listing is the most accurate place to list for qualified buyers. Apps such as Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com among others all pull from the MLS, so it’s crucial that your agent has an agreement that her listings get pushed to these sites. We do. Secondary listing outlets could include your agent’s brokerage website, Craigslist, Facebook, and other highly-trafficked social media outlets.

And now for the Open House. Just kidding, as it’s not gonna happen. Why? Mythbuster: Open Houses do not sell homes! Most people who attend open houses are your neighbors and looky-loos who love to wander through other people’s homes on the weekend after brunch. If we may be so bold (and I think we may), Open Houses are the fallback of a rookie agent, or they’re a tool for an agent to market themselves to buyers who may not have contracted a buyer’s agent yet. Sure, some qualified buyers may wander in, but in most cases, they are already using an agent and would prefer a private showing anyway. It’s just not an efficient or effective way to introduce your home to buyers and actually wastes that first crucial 72-hour window on the market.


Fear of Missing Out

FOMO is real friends, and in the case of house-hunting it’s your new best friend. It may sound mean, but there’s only one of your home and only one winner, so it’s just the reality of the situation. After we’ve successfully done our job and prepped your sale, droves of qualified buyers will be going through your house and formulating their strategies for outbidding the competition. In this market, buyers know that if they don’t come out of the gate with a strong offer you’ll move on to someone else and they’ll lose out on their dream home. Ouch!

With this in mind, make sure you’ve selected an agent who can talk you through his or her negotiation strategy. Of course, we want that to be us, but if it isn’t we still want the best for you! It is vital that your agent has excellent negotiation skills so that they can strengthen the offers as they come in. An inexperienced agent can fumble a bidding war and sellers can still walk away with less than they asked for. A pro will handle the offers as they come in, bid the best against the best to drive up the offer, and ensure that everything the buyers promised is contracted and delivered by closing.

See? With an expert sales team, the whole process is easier than you think. Once you’ve partnered with Dwell and started this journey, the best thing you can do for yourself is take a vacation. Really. Get out of town and relax that first weekend your home is on the market and let us set up a “go and show” that allows qualified buyers and their agents open access to your home and enables them to see it as much as possible. Who knows? Your perfect buyer could come in Saturday morning, return on Sunday, and the bidding war can be well underway by Monday morning.