Adventures in Ill-Timed House Hunting, Part 2: Our First Bidding War

With a record high median home price in June, mortgage rates threatening to climb further, low inventory in popular neighborhoods, and Nashville’s new “it city” status, WPLN’s Mack Linebaugh is experiencing first-hand what it’s like to be a buyer in a seller’s real estate market:

The stage could not be more perfectly set for a bidding war to ensue, our real estate agent warns.

First, there’s the house itself. It’s a cottagey ranch like many others in the neighborhood, but the home’s exterior and lawn look like a Southern Living photo shoot. The contrast in paint color from wall to windowsill deserves a golf clap. (At the open house, Holly whispers “If we don’t get the house, maybe we can get these paint colors”. ) The gables are sided with classy cedar shingles. How did this cozy lodge spring from 1950s middle class architecture?

RealTracs, Zillow, and Google Maps are open in some combination throughout each morning. We use a smartphone app to add our signatures to offers. Image: Holly Clark Linebaugh

RealTracs, Zillow, and Google Maps are open in some combination throughout each morning. We use a smartphone app to add our signatures to offers. Image: Holly Clark Linebaugh

The sale is perfectly timed, too. Posted on Wednesday, the listing says in all caps “NO SHOWINGS UNTIL THE OPEN HOUSE”, which is scheduled for Sunday from 2-4. Four days to stir us weary shoppers into the “this could be the one” frenzy.

We arrive at 2:10 and know immediately that unlike many disappointing homes we’ve trudged through, here is one we want to live in. I’m uneasy when I recognize the same emotion in the eyes of the half dozen other couples milling about.

Pull The Trigger

After just a few minutes, we’ve pretty much decided to submit the offer we asked our agent Brian to prepare in advance, just in case. Holly and I communicate this to each other in glances and nods. We wander through the rest of the house, not so much evaluating as admiring.

I slip out and call Brian from the back yard. “This place is a no-brainer, but there are 30 other people here thinking the same thing.” As I’m telling him this, a woman appears from behind the garage and looks me over without attempting to mask her leery eavesdropping – I adjust my volume to a whisper.

Brian remains calm and asks if this house is the most complete actualization of our vision since our hunt began. “Yes, absolutely. No doubt” I say. “O.k., call me when you leave there” he says.

My mind races for some way to exert control. Should I be schmoozing the listing agent? All I’ve done is shake his hand and grab a cookie. Is it important for him to like us? The 6 or 7 affable home shoppers surrounding him seem to think so. Fortunately, Holly is doing a better job of turning on the charm, and it couldn’t hurt that she’s carrying our adorable toddler. I develop a fantasy that the seller will want our little family to live in this house and will bend over backwards to make it happen.

The other house hunters seem like nice people, like we’d be friends under different circumstances. But the fact that we all want the same thing that only one of us can have makes social overtures awkward. Finding the tension intolerable, we hightail it. We call Brian from the car and ask him to pull the trigger. “Ok” He says, “fingers crossed”. Baby Wren crosses her fingers in the car seat.

Wren, fingers crossed. Image: Holly Clark Linebaugh

Wren, fingers crossed. Image: Holly Clark Linebaugh

Then Wait

Brian submits our offer promptly at 4pm, as the open house is ending. He is notified shortly thereafter that we are in “a multiple offer situation”. We are given a deadline of noon the following day to submit our best offer before the seller’s agent will deliver the bids to his client.

This is gut check time. The number we submitted is pretty good, we think. It is above list price, but is it really our best?

In a traditional auction, you know what the highest bid is. But in this scenario, it’s quite possible – maybe even common – to drive up the cost by bidding against a paranoid guess of what someone else is willing to pay.

Though this is our first rodeo, we’ve gotten the good advice from Brian to offer only what feels right to us and not worry about what anyone else is doing. Our offer is absolutely as high as we’re willing to go, so there’s nothing for us to do but wait.

So, we wait. At 2pm Monday, almost exactly 24 hours after we’d first seen the place, Brian sends us a gently worded text message that the seller has accepted another offer.

Then What?

We won’t know the final sale price of the house until the deal closes and that information becomes public record. We do know that the accepted offer came from a cash buyer (I imagine a briefcase handcuffed to a wrist). Was that buyer’s offer actually higher than ours, or did the ease and certainty of payment method outweigh the amount? This is the second time a cash offer has knocked us out of the game. Not sure how we compete.

Holly replies to Brian’s text:

“Who has that kinda cash???

It’s okay. We were prepared for this.

Onward!”

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