When “Best and Final” Isn’t

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Over the weekend, the New York Times examined that phenomenon familiar to Brooklyn house hunters during boom times: the “shift the goalpost” home sale, as they termed it. A buyer makes an offer, it is accepted and then, before the contract is signed, the sellers say they have another offer on the table and would the buyer like to increase his or her offer? Or one bidder wins a “best and final” match, only for the seller to turn around and ask for more later.

Is there any way to know if the seller really has another offer on the table or is just trying to get more? Not really. Even brokers decried the tactic. “It’s surprising how ugly it’s getting,” said a real estate lawyer who said now he sees about one deal like this a week, and said attorneys are complaining about having to draw up multiple contracts for some deals. “If you don’t hear back about a contract in two days,” he said, “there are usually some shenanigans going on.”

The “Shift the Goalpost” Home Sale [NY Times]
Photo by Roberto Greco

16 Comment

  • Simple solution – tell sellers you are making your best and final bid, but under any circumstance if the sellers try to engage you in a bidding war, or any shenanigans, you will walk (you have to mean it and make clear you mean it).
    If they give you any B.S., then walk – in a phrase Fucjk them.

    • WALK AWAY?!?!?!
      Inventory is low.
      We want to live in prime Brooklyn.
      We’re desperate to get into a home in the greatest Boro on earth.
      We’ll even bid on sh!tholes and badly renovated homes.
      We’ll up and up our offer.
      Fucjk people who say walk away.

    • Yes, this is how to do it. I worded my offer this way on my father’s advice when I bought my first house in CA. That was many years ago in my 20s so ithis practice is nothing new which means it’s pretty terrible buyers’ brokers and lawyers aren’t advising them properly. As for being afraid you’ll lose the house, you just have to not care. The one most willing to walk away is the one who will win.

    • landlord

      Yea, and the. The owner ends up getting 150k over your best and final. I highly doubt the owner would give a rats ass if you walk away….certainly not in this market.
      Just learn how to play the game.

  • @ brklynmind – you have it right.

    This is not a new phenomenon., but the current market allows it to happen more often. In 1993, we were looking for a brownstone in Carroll Gardens and made an offer, which was countered, and another, higher offer. We were close to the asking price with that offer. The broker responded that there was another offer that just came in but that if we raised our bid by X (it was so long ago I dont recall the amount), we would definitely get the house. We smelled BS from a mile away and told the broker that we were holding firm and that they should accept the higher offer. We essentially told them we were willing to walk away.

    Lo and behold, the other offer never materialized and we got the house for our previous and final offer.

    I think what was at work here was a greedy a-hole owner (who was already walking away with piles of profit on the sale), and an unscrupulous broker who was working to maximize his fee. He and his agency are still in business and despite being tempted to use, I never would.

    I think my mother’s advice was the best when she said there is always another house. Even in this market its true. Dont fall in love with something before you own it.

  • Bedford Brownstone did this to us in a extremely shady way.

  • We made an offer on an apartment we ended up buying that had had an accepted offer for 5(!) weeks and *still* was not in contract. I feel badly that the potential buyers lost the apartment, but we got into contract in 3 days.

    Just saying there are two sides to every coin.

  • williamsburgguys

    Corcoran and/or seller combo did this to us a few years ago on a house we really liked in Bedstuy (they went up 3 different times) and we finally did walk at the last time. They then started backtracking and trying to deal but we told them to F themselves. Last I heard the house went into foreclosure. Not sure if they ever got out of it or lost it. Hopefully the latter. Karma is a biotch.

  • Yes, it does take two to play the bidding war game, buyers and sellers (or, at least three, I guess, as you need two buyers at least.) Since you can’t tell whether the other simply oral offers are real or not, I refused to get into any when I bought. I let the seller’s broker know this. If more buyers did this, because they don’t want to be jerked around, the occurrence of bidding wars would decrease.

  • Don’t get emotional people. It’s a market based on supply and demand. Have a number you are willing to pay and stick to it. Start lower if you think you can get away with it and if you can’t give it your best shot. That’s all you can do. The bottom line is that it will go to the highest bidder.

  • The broker does not really have the power to give her “word”. In this state, seller’s agent must legally present all offers to the seller. That’s where the feeling of slime comes from i think. “Its definitely yours, you have my word” is at the very least disingenuous. Its about solid as that hottie at the bar telling you they are “definitely calling, trust me” after they get you their number.

    But even the honest brokers must start somewhere to get the process moving.

    If you’re going to threaten to “walk” in this market you should wear a really comfortable new pair of shoes, because they’ll could wear out before you find a place.

    If you want an extremely desired commodity in very short supply, you’re not going to win unless you fatigue everyone else out with your insatiable bidding appetite. Who knows if you will be correct 3-5 years from now, but that’s how you get it today.