Q: I’m getting ready to start looking at houses, and I’m really nervous I’m going to have trouble getting a house with all of the competition from other buyers out there. If I find a few houses I like, can I write offers on all of them? Then if they all get accepted I can just move forward with the house I like the most?
A: I know it’s tough shopping in a seller’s market. Sometimes you miss out on houses because someone saw them first or made a better offer, or because there are multiple buyers for a house. In some areas, houses are selling their first few days on the market when sellers get the most activity. But think about what you’re considering and how this impacts the sellers of these houses. With any given house, the seller has put their house on the market knowing they’re going to get the most showings in the first week the house is listed. If you come along and make an offer and don’t disclose to them that you are making offers on multiple houses, they will naturally assume you are as serious a buyer as any other buyer and will consider your offer along with any others they receive. If they were to accept your offer, and you walk away because a house you like better came though, you might very well have lost the seller any of the other buyers they had and they could be on the market for months, when they could have sold in the first week. As you might imagine, those could be pretty frustrating to a seller and could even come with legal consequences (though you’d have to talk to a real estate attorney about that).
So, the only ethical way to do this would be to disclose to all of the sellers you are making multiple offers and no seller would even consider an offer like that if they have others from which to choose. So, the advantage you were hoping to gain from making offers on more than one house would go away once they know you are making offers on more than one house.
The only time I could see where this would make sense is when you’re actually planning to buy more than one house for investment or other purposes. Unless that’s the case, the best plan is to have your top two or three houses identified and pursue your favorite first, but have your Realtor stay in touch with the listing brokers of the other two houses to keep track of their progress in case your initial negotiation falls through. Yes, you could lose out on the houses, but it’s the best course of action to take while staying honest and ethical.
Talia Freedman is the owner of Talia Freedman and Co.