Relative Bid Offers–Safe or Insane?

Among other tactics used in multiple offer situations, is the use of relative bids, also referred to with somewhat of a negative connotation as “Sharp Bids”. This tactic is sometimes Frequently Unasked Questionsemployed in purchase agreements for real estate when competing buyers are vying for a property.

Here’s how a relative bid might work. A buyer wishing to avail themselves of this tactic should prepare their offer with an initial stated offer price, and a caveat that their offer shall be “X” amount higher than the highest verifiable offer up to the buyer’s desired price cap—the highest the buyer would be willing to go in a worst case scenario. That’s the correct way to prepare a relative bid—a baseline, the overbid, and a cap.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of relative bids?

The main disadvantage is that most real estate agents do not know how to handle relative bids and/or write them for their clients. In fact, one of the largest reals estate companies in the Bay Area disallows their agents from employing or even entertaining this type of bid for fear they might muck it up and end up in a lawsuit.

To us, that’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

One specious argument against relative bid offers is that your relative bid may place you at an offer price above an inferior offer, perhaps rife with contingencies. A logical and practical rebuttal to this is that sellers use inferior offers all of the time to counter lower price offers with superior terms to match higher price offers which they have no intention of accepting.

The advantage for a buyer is they are no longer bidding blindly against themselves. Say for example a home is listed for $900,000 and there are 17 competing offers, as there were for a home we recently listed in Redwood City. Buyers have no real idea how high to bid to secure the property and in many cases bid far higher than the next closest bidder—effectively bidding against themselves.

A relative bid allows them to offer a specific amount higher than the highest offer and have control over how much they over bid in a multiple offer situation—but only if it’s done properly.

Is it legal? Absolutely. In fact another large company (with whom we have previously worked) in the South Bay actually recommends to their agents that they make the option of a relative bid known to their buyers to avert a claim of a lapse in the agent’s fiduciary duty—by not explaining all potential bidding options to one’s client.

For a seller the advantage is that they may get a higher price than they would have should they choose to invoke the relative bid offer, since typically relative bid caps are the buyers “best and highest” price they would possibly entertain—their worst case scenario if you will.

As a seller and a buyer, wouldn’t you want to know that you have all the tools available to you when buying or selling a home? At RE/MAX, we are not only allowed to accept and write relative bid offers, we have used them to our advantage in several strategic and crucial situations—much to the satisfaction of our prevailing clients.



Drew & Christine Morgan are REALTORS/NOTARY PUBLIC in Belmont, CA. with more than 20 years of experience helping sellers and buyers in their community. They may be reached at (650) 508.1441.
The information contained in this article is educational and intended for informational purposes only. It does not constitute real estate, tax or legal advice, nor does it substitute for advice specific to your situation. Always consult an appropriate professional familiar with your scenario.





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