Beating The Bully At Their Own Game!


10 minute read

April 3, 2023

Last week, I was standing out front of an east-end home with clients who were interested and who had a few questions about the process.

“So offers are on Monday?” they asked me.

I confirmed that was the case.

“Would we be told if an offer came in ahead of time?” they asked.

I again confirmed this, but added, “Unless it’s a really bad agent not doing his or her job, but yeah, any bully offer registered on the property should trigger an email from the listing brokerage to all of the buyer agents.”

“So we would have time to respond?” they asked.

“The deadline on that bully offer, or the ‘irrevocable date,’ could be an hour or two hours, you never know.  But in this market, if a seller elects to work with a bully offer, and more importantly – the listing agent decides to upend his or her entire listing and offer process to work with the bully offer, they’re going to ensure that there’s at least a few hours of irrevocability so that other buyers can respond.”

The clients nodded along.

Then I summarized what we had just discussed by explaining something that I detail to all my buyer clients when they’re asking about offers on a property that has an offer date:

“You guys can submit an offer on this property in one of three ways,” I told them.

1) You’ll make an offer on the scheduled offer night.
2) You’ll make an offer in response to a bully offer submitted by a competing buyer ahead of the scheduled offer date.
3) You, yourselves, will make a bully offer ahead of the scheduled offer date.

Those are the three ways in which anybody makes an offer, for a property that has a scheduled “offer date” ahead.

The buyers didn’t make a bully offer and aren’t going to.  There also isn’t any bully offer registered.  If these buyers are going to make an offer on the property, it will be on Monday night with everybody else.  “Everybody” being one, two, or twenty offers.  That’s how it goes.

For the record, I’m a big fan of using the “bully offer” as a tactic in a hot market.

The market we’re in right now is “hot” but I feel it’s about to trend into “red hot.”  And in times like these, a bully offer can be used as an effective tool to purchase a home, often for less than you think or fear it might have sold for on the scheduled offer night.

And as I have explained before many times on TRB, if you submit a bully offer that is not accepted, then you now have some inside information regarding price expectations on behalf of the seller.  That’s information that no other buyer has.

On Thursday, I was showing a North Toronto home to a different set of buyers.

This home was priced at $1,498,000 and I told the buyers in my initial email, “This has $1,800,000 written all over it.”

The house was a semi-detached but on an extremely wide 27.48-foot lot.  The “average” North Toronto semi-detached is probably somewhere around 23-24 feet, and many are on 20’s or less.  Throughout the central core, it’s not unusual to see 16-18 foot semi-detached lots.  There’s a property in the Junction which is going to fetch $2.2-$2.3M next week and it’s on an 18-footer!

Suffice it to say, this 27.48-foot lot was impressive.  The property had legal front pad parking, it was within a great school district, access to transit was exceptional, and it checked all the boxes for my clients.

It didn’t have flash, however.  The dated bathroom might deter some buyers but my clients are savvy and they knew that in order to get a house like this in their price range, there would have to be drawbacks that bothered other buyers, but that didn’t bother them.

The kitchen was also closed to the dining area, whereas so many homes in this neighbourhood feature open concept.

Other than those two items, it was absolutely turnkey.  And thanks to those two items, we figured maybe, maybe the market would allow it to fall to us in our price range.

I’ll be honest: I figured that with our absolute max pre-approval at $1,800,000, we had a fair chance at being successful on an offer night.  Based on the market in this area, and the market in general, I could see somebody paying a whole whack more for the house.

My clients and I stood in the basement of the house and discussed the offer process, ironically as another group of buyers stood outside waiting for their turn to view the home.

We discussed the price range for this house; essentially anything from a floor of $1,750,000 to that “omg” price of, say, $1,950,000, and figured that we had a shot at $1,800,000.

They asked, “If a pre-emptive offer were received, would we be notified?”

I confirmed that we would be.

I explained that this could happen, and suggested that if we were interested in making an offer next week on the scheduled “offer night,” then we would want to be prepared to compete if a bully offer were submitted.

We saw the house at 2:00pm and by 2:30pm, we were standing out front of the house, talking about the home inspection, discussing the closing date, and outlining which chattels and fixtures were included in the sale and which were excluded.

I said, “Okay guys, I’m heading to the office and I’ll email you with that info in an hour or so.”

We parted ways and I got in my car and began to drive.

About six or seven minutes later, I checked my phone and I saw an email from the listing agent for the property we had just viewed with “Offer Instructions.”  I scrolled down and read the usual: the seller’s desired closing date, the inclusions/exclusions, process for offers, the listing agent doesn’t have his own, etc, etc.”

“Why is he sending this now?” I wondered aloud.  Offers were six days away.

At the next stoplight, I checked that email again and this time I noticed the most important part of the email:

Pre-Emptive Offer Registered. Offer Date Changed To Tonight @ 8:00pm. Offer Instructions Herein.




What began in my mind as a sarcastic, “great” turned into a literal, positive, gleeful, “great.”

This could work in our favour.

Unless somebody blew the doors off, this could actually prevent extreme price escalation on an offer night.

I know the listing agent quite well so I called her and said, “Two Million?”

She laughed.

“Two-point-two,” she said, not giving anything away.

“Is it good?” I asked.

“Good enough that my sellers want to move up their offer date,” she said, again not giving anything away.

“I don’t want to waste my time,” I told her, which is a classic line that I loathe when agents use it on me.  But she’s no dummy.  She knew what I was angling for and she knew she’d have to pull me on side.

“My guys can go to $1,800,000, but I don’t think that does it,” I said, strategically.  “Maybe we just sit this one out?”

“Bring me the offer, David,” she said.  “You know I want to work with you.”

I told her I’d do my best and we ended the call.

Now, there’s a good chance that in a situation like this, the listing agent is simply baiting me.  She could have $1,900,000 and she simply wants my offer to have leverage.  I have to know this and acknowledge this going in to any situation like this.

However, and maybe parts of the general public don’t want to hear this, but too bad.  In our industry, there are 72,000 agents licensed under TRREB and maybe a few thousand do 99% of the work.  There’s a professional courtesy, respect, and working relationship among many agents, and it’s not uncommon to treat one agent differently than another.

Boo-hoo, if you don’t like it.

I’m sure in your industry, there’s zero preferential treatment.

But this agent and I have known each other for a long time in a professional manner and we work well together.  She knows that my buyers, working with me, would be serious.  They would close the deal.  They would have a deposit.  They would represent a perfect scenario for her seller-clients, and that’s working for your client, right there.  Know who’s on the other side of of the offer table because that’s part of the job.

Now, I had to let my clients know!

It was a classic, “Hey guys, I have good news and I have bad news…”

I told them that while the bad news was, there’s a bully offer, the good news was, they could buy this house tonight!

They were so chill.  Honestly.

There was no emotion.  It was just a series of checks and balances for them as they said, “What do we do now?”

“Would you like to compete?” I asked.


“Would you like to submit an offer for $1,800,000?” I asked.


“Are you able to get a deposit cheque in the next two hours?” I asked.

“Sure, if you need us to, we could.”

Their level of chill and ability to think critically at a time when most people can’t help but experience emotions – excitement, anxiety, nervousness, et al, was what enabled them to be successful.  I can’t stress how important this was.

I began to draft the offer and he sprinted to the bank before it closed to get a deposit cheque while she went through the home inspection and the draft offer, and we regrouped in an hour.

“I can only get a cheque for $51,000,” he told me.  “Should I bother?”

A deposit is typically 5% of the purchase price, or more in a market like this.  Ideally, we’d have had $100,000, but in a situation like this, it’s better to have something than nothing.

“Please get the cheque and we’ll make it work,” I told him.

A short while later, we went over the offer, signed it, and prepared to move forward.

The bully offer had submitted an irrevocable of 9:30pm so the listing agent wanted offers at 8:00pm.

We waited until 6:00pm to register our offer and then submitted at 8:00pm.

I called her and said, “I sent my offer over.  I’m gonna put my daughter to bed now.”

She said, “Yeah, I’ve got two kids in the bath over here, my phone is blowing up, there’s a third offer now, maybe a fourth.”

I asked, “How are we looking?” and she said, “Your price is good, I’ll keep you posted.”

I actually was doing bed time at home, by the way.  It wasn’t a rouse but rather a way to further connect with the listing agent.

She called me back and said, “Hey, I’m just ducking out of story-time here.  Can you revise your irrevocable to 11:00pm?  You gave me 9:30pm and I’m not going to speak to the sellers until 9:30pm on Zoom.”

I said, “No problem, consider it done,” and that’s simply providing my word over a signed document, but she took it as golden.

I put my daughter to bed, which took longer than usual, and at about 9:10pm, I sent my clients a revised offer to sign, extending the irrevocable to 11:00pm.

The listing agent called me around 9:30pm and said, “Hey, how come your deposit is so low?”

I could hear her kids in the background.  Some things never go to plan.

“You got your handsful eh?  Listen, my guys could only get $51,000 today in such a short time, but the money is there,” I explained.  “You know my guys are serious,” I told her.

She said, “Yeah, for sure, I told the sellers you’re a solid agent.  Your buyers are solid.  They’re just looking at the other offer with a huge cheque and wondering why yours is low.”

At this point, the discussion was about the deposit and not about the price so I figured we were looking good.  So I suggested something that might bridge the gap.

“Why don’t we re-submit our offer with a clause in Schedule A saying we’ll pay a further sum of $49,000 within three business days, to bring the deposit up to $100,000 in total?”

“Do it,” she said.  “I’ll circle back with you shortly.”

I revised our offer once again and sent to my clients to sign, which they did.  I then sent it to the listing agent.

She called me back and said, “The other offer revised; they came up in price.”

I knew that was on the table, of course, but my guys were maxed out.

“You know I’m maxed here,” I told her.

Short of having the buyers call my mortgage broker and get the thumbs up to eke out another $20,000, we had no moves when it came to price.

“I know you are,” she told me.  “It’s probably fine,” she said.  “These other guys don’t have the right cheque,” she told me.

“What do you mean ‘the right’ cheque?” I asked.

She said, “Well, they did bring a big, fat deposit cheque, but it’s made payable to Century 21 Ltd Brokerage.”

The problem?

The house was listed by Royal LePage.

She told me, “They made an offer on a house on Monday night but they didn’t go back to the bank to re-deposit the funds and then get a new cheque made payable to our brokerage,” she told me.  “So we’ve got a cheque as a ‘sign of good faith’ but it’s nothing we can cash tomorrow,” she said.

I was starting to feel really good about our chances, even as she said, “My phone is absolutely blowing the fuck up right now.  I’m not answering.”

I went upstairs and changed into jeans and a t-shirt and went and got my coat.

Worse case: I felt stupid later.  Best case: I was getting a head start.

I got in my car and started to drive to my clients’ condo, waiting for my phone to ring.

The listing agent called me.

“The other offer came up and they want to come up more,” she said.

More would mean higher than our price, and we would be beat.  Dammit.  Now I was just out for a late-night drive…

“But the sellers don’t like this Century 21 cheque situation,” she said.  “Like, if they beat you by $10,000, who cares, right?  With no cheque, it’s like, fuck it.  Let’s take David’s offer and get his cheque in hand and get this deal done!”

And with that said, I made a right turn onto my clients’ street and pulled up in front of their condo.

“Congrats, buddy!” she said.  “I”ll send you the accepted offer shortly.”

I called my clients and told them we’d won and that I was coming by to pick up the deposit cheque.

“Let us know when you arrive,” they said, to which I had to respond, “Um, the thing is, I’m actually already here…”

I got the deposit, drove it to the listing agent’s house, and we shook hands in what has become an “old-fashioned” way of doing business, but which I think is making a comeback as we get into a very complicated market where personal relationships are going to help agents consummate deals.

The next day, my clients obtained the “further deposit” of $49,000, submitted it to the listing brokerage, and we put the finishing touches on a solid purchase.

Who am I to say that this property would have sold for more on offer night, right?  But I think it could have.  Or would have.  And if it did, my clients never could have competed.”

In the end, the fact that somebody else submitted a bully offer on the house, and started the whole process a week early, is what helped us get the deal.

Well, that, and my relationship with the listing agent, my buyers’ ability to swiftly obtain a deposit cheque, and the desire of a seller to work with a buyer agent and buyers who showed up to the table with all the requirements to lock in a deal.

This was a solid buy for my clients and I honestly couldn’t be happier for them.

So if you’re a buyer out there and you’re afraid of the big, bad, bully, well, don’t be.

They’re not that tough.  They get beat all the time.

Don’t be afraid to get in the sandbox with them and mix it up…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Marina

    at 9:44 am

    I think the critical part of this story is your clients, not the bully offer part. I’d love a fresh blog post on “How to be a successful buyer” and another on “How to be a successful seller” for today’s market (I’m sure you’ve done them before, but things are everchanging). Basically a summary of all your stories on how not to be a self-defeating dumba$$ 🙂

  2. Ace Goodheart

    at 10:06 am

    Quite suspenseful to read as you don’t find out until the end that they were the successful buyers.

    I had always as a rule instructed my Agent to refuse to consider all bully offers, and actually put that in the listing (no pre-emptive offers will be considered) as you get a better price if you wait until offer night.

    The bathroom issue is classic. The rule is “all that glitters, is not gold”. A bathroom is 10-15K to fix, a kitchen 60-80K. When you are offering multiples of six figures over ask, what is the issue with spending 10K to fix a dated bathroom?

    There are only two things that should really scare you away from a house –

    1. The basement moisture reading (and you want to make sure they turn off all the dehumidifiers BEFORE you do the reading, so you are not getting the fake numbers generated by having dehumidifiers running down there).

    2. A bad foundation.

    Those go hand in hand usually, but not always. A high moisture reading means excavation of the foundation, inside and out, fixing a destroyed or non existent weeping system and physically removing the entire basement including furnace, AC, appliances, and everything else that is down there, and then digging down to the footings, inside and out.

    A bad foundation means structural shoring, an expensive permit that is difficult to obtain, at least two engineers (soil and structural) and dangerous and expensive work that can often go horribly wrong (the leaning house in Roncy is an example, although I think they tore it down now).

    And yet people continue to fight offer wars over houses with high basement moisture readings and dodgy foundations, so long as they have designer bathrooms and kitchens.

    You can fix pretty much any pile of Toronto s*$t as long as the basement is dry and the foundation is sound.

    Knob and tube? 50K for an electrician takes care of that.

    1920’s style plumbing? 40K for a plumber and a small amount of basement excavation will get you back into modern living.

    But stay away from those damp basements. They are literally hell to fix.

    1. Sirgruper

      at 6:51 pm

      Agreed and good advice Ace! One of my best buys ever has a dead rat that that the agent wouldn’t dispose of (the place was rough but still).

      Still never understand the certified deposit. I have bought many properties over the years and always tendered the deposit within 24 hours of closing as set out in the MLS form. That said, I agree, certified funds only improve the offer.

  3. Libertarian

    at 2:25 pm

    David, if you were the listing agent in this scenario and received these far-from perfect bully offers, would you have told those bidders to come back on offer night?

    If I were the seller, that’s what I would have instructed my agent to do. Tell these bully offers to firm up their offers and come back on offer night ready to finalize a deal.

    1. Different David

      at 9:18 am

      Suppose they get buyer’s remorse, sleep on it, change their mind etc. etc. and decide not to resubmit on offer night? David’s clients get turned off and suddenly you have zero buyers.

      As David has mentioned, offer with zero conditions, submitted by a trusted associate…are you really going to risk it for a few thousand dollars on $1.8M?

      1. Ace Goodheart

        at 10:01 am

        You always get a better price if you wait until offer night and refuse to consider pre-emptive offers.

        Back when I was buying houses, I actually got excluded from a number of offer contests, where I would have been able to, and would have, out bid the high bidder, because of pre-emptive “bully offers”.

        A particular house sold for 1.6 million to a bully bid. I would have gone to 1.8 on that house. But I couldn’t, because they took a bully bid, gave me a few hours to get my offer ready, and I was at work at the time and could not free myself up to do that.

        So they lost 200K (at least, maybe more) by excluding me from the bidding. I would have cut them a cheque for 1.8 million (and I had the cash to do it).

        You always, always, always get a better deal if you wait until offer night. The bully bid process only benefits the buyers. If you are a seller, you should refuse all bullies. If you are a buyer, as David says, bully bids are your friend and can help you, if you find a seller who is willing to consider them.

        1. Jennifer

          at 6:04 pm

          This is not always the case. I heard a story of a bully offered submitted, buyer rejected said ill wait to offer night, offer night comes there are 0 offers (bully didn’t come back and why would they). Ended up selling it for over $300,000 less than the bully offer. This is always the risk the seller has to weigh – who will show up on offer night. And even if you say “won’t consider pre-emptive” people can still submit them, and you may still be in the same position of few to no offers on offer night.

    2. Ace Goodheart

      at 10:15 am

      The bully bid process allows a single buyer to take over the sale process, set their own offer night, give a time limited ultimatum to every other potential buyer, and set a floor price for the house, which they can then work up from.

      Any seller who allows this to happen is, in my estimation, a fool.

      One thing you know about business is, control is everything. Give away control of your sale process to a single buyer, and everything that happens after that, only benefits that buyer and perhaps a few lucky other ones who can dance to the same tune.

      Stick to your offer night. You control the sale process, not one of your buyers. Offers come when you say, how you say, and according to the timeline that you set out.

      1. Different David

        at 12:57 pm

        Great thoughts…except when offer night comes and goes and you don’t get what you want.

        Then you have to relist and become the example in one of David’s posts on what happens when you have to relist and reprice your property.

        Unless you have a crystal ball, you can’t say that offer night will always be better. There was a post a while back where David asked the sellers what their bottom line price was, what they would like to get, and their “Oh my god, this in F***n unreal” number was. Keep that in mind when dealing with a bully offer.

        1. Libertarian

          at 3:01 pm

          This is why I asked the question. Earlier in the post, David said this house could get $1.95 million. HIs clients offer $1.8, but has a small deposit. The other bidder went higher, but the deposit was wrong. Why did the seller work with these offers if they could get $1.95 on offer night?

          So if I was the seller, like Ace and all the reasons he listed, I would have taken my chances and gone to offer night.

        2. Ace Goodheart

          at 3:34 pm

          It’s a hot market right now.

          If your house is priced right and staged and presented properly, you’ll be swamped with bids.

          There is no need to deal with bullies.

          When houses weren’t selling, sure take a bully. Might be the only one you’ll get. But right now anything for sale is flying off the shelf and the seller is in full control of the process.

          1. Crofty

            at 5:42 pm

            Totally agree. When the market’s hot (or even lukewarm) The bully offer folk(s) will almost surely see it through to offer night.

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