Has The “Bully Offer” Ever Been More Confusing?

Opinion | April 16, 2018

Because it shouldn’t be!

It’s not a new concept, and yet at each and every turn, I’m seeing crazy things happening in the world of bully offers.

Let me describe a few interactions I had over the past two weeks with agents who wanted to submit bully offers on my listings, and explain why I think the bar among agents has seriously never been lower…


“I feel bad for these people.”

That’s what I told a colleague last week, in response to some of the terrible offers I’ve seen on my listings, in competiton.

You have a listing at $600,000, that sells for $700,000 with a dozen offers.

Who is the buyer submitting a conditional offer, with no deposit cheque, for $600,000?

Sure, the buyer might be clueless.  But it’s the buyer agent that has to bear the responsibilty for the cluelessness.

There are 50,000 licensed Realtors in the GTA, and many of them have absolutely no idea what they’re doing.  And what’s worse, is that they get hired!  These agents have clients!  And these clients put their trust and their faith in their agent to help guide them through the biggest purchase decision they’ll ever make, when all the while, the agent has no idea what he or she is doing.

When it comes to multiple offer situations, I’m seeing crazy things.

But when it comes to bully offers, it’s even worse.

Last week, and agent called me about making a bully offer on one of my listings, and I told her what I tell every agent who asks that question:

“Our intention is to wait until our scheduled offer date, but I can’t stop a buyer-agent from sending a bully offer.”

It’s honest, and to the point.  And it’s accurate.  Nobody can stop a buyer agent from drafting a bully offer and sending it over, so I’m just providing the most basic explanation possible.

I can’t answer whether or not my sellers would accept a bully offer, or what price they’d accept.

But it doesn’t stop agents from calling and asking!

So we received the “bully” offer, which wasn’t really a bully.

There’s this saying with bully offers, “To be a bully, you need to punch, not push.”  So when I get a bully offer for 4% over the list price, it’s barely a nudge.

I told the buyer agent that we were flattered by the offer, and we were grateful, but that we were going to wait until our scheduled offer date.

That’s when something odd happened.  She replied, “Okay, but you’re doing offers any time now, correct?”

It made no sense.

I said, “No, we’re doing offers next Thursday at 7:00pm, as per the listing.”

She said, “Yes, that was the case before.  But we made our offer and you turned it down.  So now the door is open for offers, I take it?”

It made absolutely, positively no sense.

And this wasn’t the case of a language barrier, as is so often the case.  This was just somebody who didn’t understand the terminology, and who didn’t understand the process.

She further explained, “If we make our offer and you look at it, then you don’t have an offer date anymore.  That’s out the window.”

It was like the jury leading the cross-examination, of the judge.  It was just non-sensical.

Not really understanding any of what she meant, I just sort of trailed off, and tried to end the call.  I never heard back from her.

Later in the week, I got a call from a young agent who started the conversation by saying, “I’m new to the business,” which is probably the single-worst thing you could say to a competing agent.

He then said, “I don’t really know what I’m doing,” and I realized that is actually the single-worst thing you can say to a competing agent, and “I’m new to the business” is a distant second.

After explaining that his client saw the property and really liked it, he asked me, verbatim, “How do I do a bully?”

And this was around the same time that this was happening:


Tell me you saw this!

I’m straying way off topic here, but I spent all week laughing at these Zuckerberg/Congress memes.

I’d lay in bed at night reading them on my phone, laughing so hard I woke up my wife.

The idea that these old men who probably have a computer password that’s “1234” or “password” are grilling one of the foremost Internet experts in the world, is hilarious.

Again, very off topic here, but let me share my other favourites, and then I’ll get back on point…




Okay, okay, I know I have to stop or I’ll do this all day.

But honestly, wasn’t that a riot?

Back to the agent who asked me, “How do I do a bully,” and let be honest and say that part of me thought he was kidding.  Except since he opened with “I’m new,” and “I really don’t know what I’m doing,” it was obvious that he really was asking me how to do his job, and guaranteeing his place on my blog in the process.

I told him, “You’d put an offer together, and send it over,” very simply.

He asked, “What would that offer look like?”

I said, “That’s up to you and your buyer.”

“Right,” he said.  “So I’d probably have to chat with him first.”

Just, wow.  I could feel the wheel spinning in his head.

He then asked, “Do you mind if I ask you to speak to your seller first?”  I asked him, “About what?” and he said, “About the price.  What price your seller would accept, so then I could tell my buyer, and he could decide whether to do the bully.”

I told him, “That’s not really how it works,” and he just said, “Oh, oh….okay.   I got it.”

I actually felt kind of bad.

“So maybe then, maybe I’ll just talk to him, and see what he wants to do?  Like what price, and what closing, and what conditions and that sort of thing?”

I didn’t stop him here, by the way.  About the “conditions,” that is.  Although we would never accept a conditional offer, especially not with a bully offer, it’s not my job to tell him how to do his.  It’s not my place to tell him, “We wouldn’t accept a conditional offer,” because at the end of the day, we’ll be happy to review as many offers as are registered, and theoretically the more that are registered, the higher the sale price.

I know many of you hate that, and I’d feel the same way in your position.  But what am I supposed to do here?  Should I educate this young, naive, inexperienced agent, and cost my seller money in the process?  Or maybe that agent should have signed on with a full-service brokerage that runs a training course for new agents?


The next interaction I had with a bully-agent was the strangest.

This agent called me no less than seven times betwen 8pm and 10pm, each time asking me a question she should know the answer to.

The worst question an agent can ask: “What is your email address?”

It drives me nuts.

It’s on the goddam listing.  Every listing.  Every time.

But more to the point, she asked me about the closing date (on the listing), what’s included in the sale (on the listing), whether she needs a Form 801 (all offers need this), etc.  And every question was in a subsequent phone call.

She called me at 10:25pm and said, “We need your sellers to look at this tonight.”

I simply told her, “It’s 10:25pm.”

She said, “Yes.”

There was a language barrier, to be fair.  But time comes in only one language.  When she said, “We have an 11pm irrevocable,” I simply said, “I’m going to bed in ten minutes.”

I wasn’t going to bed, for what it’s worth.  But I wanted her to realize that providing an offer with a 35-minute irrevocable, after 10pm, wasn’t reasonable.

She said, “Okay, okay.  One more question: the offer – can it be the listing price?”

I just about lost my mind.

I asked her what I thought was a rhetorical question: “Do you think that my sellers, after having 20-plus showings booked in the first two days of the listing, will forego the rest of the week’s showings, the weekend open house, and the scheduled offer night, to accept an offer of the list price?”

She simply said, “Yes, the list price.”

Again, language barrier and all, but come on, folks.  How in the world do these people have clients?

The next morning, I woke up to her email from about 12:15am, with a 28 MB file.  She had taken photographs of each page of the offer and somehow put them together in a PDF.  That was only half the offer, however.  The second half came in another 25 MB file.

The offer was just over the list price, and once again, I thanked her for her time and told her we’d be waiting until our scheduled offer night.

Last but not least, I received another bully offer from an agent who, after I told him we’d be waiting until our offer night, said, “Why don’t you get me a sign-back?”

A sign-back?

What did he think?  That we were going to start negotiating?

Forget about the fact that in order to work with a bully offer, I’d have to call every agent who booked a showing on the property to tell them there was an offer, that we would be working with it, and when the offer would expire (or at what time we’d be looking at the offer).

Surely this agent knew that:
a) It’s a seller’s market here (for a downtown condo)
b) Ten offers are better than one, ie. his
c) We had all the leverage

Kudos to him for trying, but I don’t think this was some sort of evil genius, trying to get us into a sign-back-and-forth.  I think he just didn’t know how bully offers work, like everybody else from today’s story.

You don’t sign back a bully offer.  You could, theoretically.  But again, if you’re doing things right – you’re calling ALL the agents who have shown the property to let them know.  If you sign back that offer, and it’s accepted, you’ve broken the rules, and those other agents who you didn’t call will have your blood.

Last week’s bully offer experiences weren’t all bad, however.

On Friday night, I received a bully offer in the way that it’s supposed to be done: sneak attack.

At 6:30pm, I received an email with a bully offer at a very good price, from an agent who didn’t call me in advance to ask me if he could send it.  He just drafted it, had it signed, and sent it.

That is how a bully offer should be sent.

Don’t call the listing agent and ask for permission!  The whole purpose of a bully is to back somebody into a corner.  If you ask the listing agent “Can I send you a bully offer?” he can say “No.”  Then what do you do?

If you’re going to do it, the best way is to just do it.

In this case, once again, we elected to wait until the offer night.  So far this year, and this is probably another blog topic, all of the bully offers my sellers have turned down have been beaten on offer night.  In fact, the more I read through this post, the more I realize that this topic of bully offers is something we’ll come back to later this week, or the next.

So what’s the conclusion to today’s blog?

That I’m rude to other agents?

That I’m calling out the poor behaviour of my industry “colleagues” once again?

I’m not sure, you’re free to opine as you see fit.

But as I said at the onset, I feel bad for a lot of these buyers who get absolutely awful advice and representation.

I actually thought about writing a blog called, “The Bar Has Never Been Lower,” and just hammering away on this topic, but I don’t know where that gets us.  I’ve just never seen this level of cluelessness among buyer agents, and every time my phone rang, or my email buzzed last week, it was another agent with idea what he or she was doing.

This epidemic plays out in its worst form on “offer night,” when there is competition, and by association, during the attempts at making bully offers

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  1. Geoff

    at 9:21 am

    I think the conclusion is most people pick their agents based on cheapest “price”, and ignore quality or experience. Also I think some people pick their realtors with less care than they pick a high-end restaurant.

    1. craijiji

      at 9:47 am

      Cheapest price? Have you bought a house before? Agents don’t get paid by the buyer and since this was highlighting the shortcomings of buyer agents, I’m not sure your comment makes any sense.

      1. Condodweller

        at 10:18 am

        I know you usually get what you pay for but in this case, I would still want a competent agent representing me who will get me a place for the lowest possible price, regardless who pays for him/her.

      2. Geoff

        at 11:27 am

        because first, I made an assumption that at least some of these buyer agents are also selling their client’s homes – but fair enough, they might not be. also second, why don’t you chillax a little bit.

      3. Libertarian

        at 11:32 am

        This idea that buyers don’t pay anything is ridiculous. The buyer is paying for the property, so the buyer is paying everything. The money goes from the buyer to the seller to the agents. And if people think that the property would have been the same price if there were no commission, that’s also ridiculous. Of course sellers are expecting a higher price because they have to hand over 5% to the agents. That’s why most sellers take the highest bid, all else considered.

        1. Condodweller

          at 7:38 pm

          Who pays the commission can be debated until the cows come home. The way I look at it is that most buyers become sellers at some point therefore buyers do pay it’s just the question of when.

          1. Libertarian

            at 3:21 pm

            Perhaps for real estate investors, which I believe you are, who do lots of transactions, the commissions all equal themselves out. But the vast majority of people are not investors. They stay in their property for a long time. So to think that five percent 15 years ago is equivalent to five percent today is inaccurate.

            I know what people will say….”But the price of their property has gone up in those 15 years, so they’re better off.” First, that’s using hindsight – can’t predict prices will go up forever. Second, in most cases, the person would need the extra funds as a buyer rather than as seller. A first-time home buyer needs money to buy furniture, paint, etc. Fifteen years later as a seller, the person is probably in a better financial position.

          2. Condodweller

            at 1:21 pm


            Make no mistake, the commission scheme was engineered to perfection. The seller has to pay for it because it’s easy to withhold the commission from the sizable asset before handing the proceeds over to the seller. Imagine the headaches realtors would have trying to collect a $50,000 commission from a buyer who is already strapped financially due to the high LT costs/moving/furniture etc. It would be like collecting a payday loan except it’s a huge amount vs a few thousand dollars.

            High transaction fees hurt an investor just as much it hurts an owner/occupier. I agree with you that it’s much worse 40 years later but again it’s by design. 40 years ago you may have paid $1,500 on a $30,000 house where today that 5% is $75,000 on a 1.5 million house. RE sales is in need of a major disruption.

      4. iwill

        at 1:03 pm

        Some buyer agents will rebate a portion of the fee to the buyer. All commissions are negotiable!

    2. Ralph Cramdown

      at 9:48 am

      But how can an inexperienced agent afford to discount? Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t most agents start out on a 50/50 split with their brokers? Find a buyer for a $400k condo and rebate him 1%, and you’re taking home a cheque for $1,000. No, I think it’s only the big producers on a 90/10 split or a fixed per-deal fee who can afford to discount.

      That’s my understanding, anyway.

      1. iwill

        at 1:04 pm

        splits are not 50/50… many are sliding scale starting at 60/40 going up to 90/10 as production increases.

  2. Sarah

    at 9:42 am

    As someone who is currently completing her licencing & also has worked in the industry for a year and a half (prior to doing her licencing) – I can confidently say that the licencing courses do just about nothing to prepare an agent for the field.

    Sure they walk you through the ‘offer’ and basic clauses (i.e. conditional of financing, inspection, etc.) but really… there is no preparation for “the real world”.

    There is a ton of speculation on where the licencing requirements are going to go for real estate professionals in the near future (as it is certain changes are going to be made)… But might I suggest to OREA & RECO to make a mandatory two year “shadowing” period? That way new agents can watch and participate in work real-time with a more experienced agent.

    Just my $0.02

    1. Housing Bear

      at 10:57 am

      Its funny, a financial adviser has to go through years of schooling and rigorous tests and certifications before he/she can give advice to the public. Meanwhile a home is usually the largest financial investment the average person will make and as you say, RE school is a joke.

      1. Ralph Cramdown

        at 11:53 am

        Eh? I’ve taken the Canadian Securities Course and the RR exam (as it then was, now “Conduct and Practices”). They weren’t all that, and it doesn’t look like they’ve changed much. The licensing bar is even lower to peddle mutual funds in a bank branch. The CFA is another level, but not required for most industry jobs. I imagine things are similar in insurance.

        If the job is mostly sales, a lot of people will wash out. Nobody commits to years of expensive full time education for a career with a 75% washout rate, so the qualifying courses have to be fairly quick and easy.

        Organized real estate, I believe, relies upon a lot of fresh meat to fund TREB, OREA and CREA, staff open houses, and rope in friends and family as first time buyers. Most of them wash out within a few years, but that’s OK. Thus, as much as top producers complain about the antics of noobs and amateurs (this is called marketing), nothing significant will change. Provincial governments have delegated self-regulation upon the industry, and, absent a public revolt, the industry already works the way it prefers.

        It is possible that if the industry organizations worked on a “one deal side, one vote” basis rather than one vote per member, things might change a bit. But maybe not much. Every successful practitioner succeeded under the current system, and started off with zero completed deals, trying to convince people he was worth the same commission as a seasoned veteran. Likely opening with “buyers don’t pay commission!”

        1. housing bear

          at 12:18 pm

          Fair enough Ralph. The bar is low for all of those who give financial advice to the general public.

  3. EDWIN

    at 9:55 am

    Can you please elaborate on why language barrier problems exist in the market? How could someone work in Canada without a proper grasp of the English language?

    1. Geoff

      at 11:24 am

      Because their clients don’t have one, either and most people prefer to work with people in languages they’re fluent in. How’s your Mandarin?

      1. Edwin

        at 12:26 pm

        Oh I understand the issue. I was hoping to get David to elaborate on his language comment which seems to imply a large presence of foreign buyers (which he has also implied previously) in the condo market.

        1. Jennifer

          at 1:11 pm

          I dont think that implies that. There are plenty of recent immigrants/students to Toronto who are not considered foreign buyers. And you can easily work in Canada without speaking English well – why is that a barrier? On the other hand, maybe the real estate board should have some sort of English proficiency test before getting a license since communication is key to the business?

        2. Housing bear

          at 7:53 pm

          Foreign buyers are not the actual problem. Yes they serve as the marginal buyer that can drive up prices but this is more of a way to generate more fomo (Buy now or else foreigners will own everything) and to create a narrative that local fundamentals do not matter anymore ( it doesn’t matter that prices make no sense vs incomes……. every rich person in the world wants to experience ice storms in April). The real issue is local speculation (number of people with multiple properties has grown by a factor of 6 since 2000), and end users that have stretched themselves to the absolute limit despite the fact we had record low mortgage rates. If the local population wasn’t willing to shackle themselves to unplayable debt to bid up prices then the foreigners would put their money to work elsewhere. The debt squeeze that is starting to take hold which will collapse our economy is only possible if locals over extend. Over extend they did

        3. Anon

          at 5:23 pm

          No this has nothing to do with foreign buyers/ownership- There is *many* working agents who do not speak fluent English or any remotely close version of the language.
          I can completely understand the need for a client to have an agent who speaks their language… HOWEVER – if you are an agent trying to transact/cooperate with other agents & brokers in CANADA, more so in TORONTO, where the predominant langue in which businesses operate is English… please oh please have a complete understanding of the English language. Think: if I cannot book a showing on your property because of a language barrier, there is a problem… You are doing yourself, your business and your client a disservice.

          I agree with Jennifer. Both a written & verbal proficiency test should be mandatory.

          *end rant*

  4. Condodweller

    at 10:10 am

    Sad state of affairs indeed. I suspect the recent market has seen an increasing amount of new agents enter the fold. What I don’t get about the agent asking David about how to do her job is don’t these agents work for a brokerage? Don’t brokerages have a resource to answer all these questions? Would a brokerage not have a reputation to protect and be in their interest to make sure new agents don’t do these kind of things?

    If an agent asked you how much you would accept, could you not “guide” them by giving them a number well above what you can reasonably expect to receive and say you feel they may entertain that?

    Regarding the facebook “grilling” LOL, I wanted to watch it but they didn’t broadcast the full sessions as in other hearings I suspect, to help the representatives save face? I think many of the memes are fake but that doesn’t mean the panel had idea how facebook works.

  5. Jennifer

    at 1:18 pm

    Maybe in your next post, can you also consider whether it is time to ban the offer date practice? Consider pros and cons? Is the offer date, in part, to “blame” on the huge increases in prices in the last 5-10 years? List a price to sell, review all offers as they come in, and accept when you reach a price you are happy with, as opposed to these bidding wars?

    I’m also curious about bully offers – do people go in usually a bit lower than what they would on offer date (have you seen bully offers being turned down, only for the same buyer to return on offer date with a higher offer) or does the buyer go unnecessarily high in that they could have gotten it for lower on offer date?

    1. Pkap07

      at 5:18 pm

      LOL…so as a seller. Now I am to be told how to sell and realize best price for my principal or investment property??? I would think just open the bidding for all open auction that’s way better IMO than some ban on not having offer date..

      1. Jennifer

        at 2:19 pm

        Sure, that’s another way of doing it. I just don’t think the present way is the best way. You can have three offers hovering around the list price and one come in at say $150,000 over those. That person just overpaid by $149,999 and now that is the new expected selling price of houses on that street/area. All because one person way overbid.

        I also don’t see why everyone is excited about high prices other than speculators or those who inherited a home or are downsizing. Selling in a high market but buying in a high market is a net sum of nil. I have many friends who want to sell and would realize a good gain, only to be sucked up into the new house. The real estate market and agents would do just fine if people looked at houses for what they are, did not constantly talk about the market going up up and up/a crash, and didn’t look at it as a place to earn returns (there are umpteen articles that talk about how a house is not an investment).

        With that in mind, I think there are better ways to sell houses than the current practice that would be fair to all – buyers, sellers and agents – and would not have these artificially low, meaningless list prices, which in my view is false advertising.

  6. Appraiser

    at 2:00 pm

    TREB 1st Quarter Condo Report is out today. Year-Over-Year numbers are as follows:

    2018 2017

    Sales 5,084 7,234 -29.7%
    New Listings 8,030 9,037 -11.1%
    Active Listings 3,012 1,922 56.7%
    Average Price $533,447 $489,599 9.0%

  7. CB

    at 6:38 pm

    So David, please educate me a bit about bully offers. I would imagine that if I saw a property that I really wanted, I’d be in a good position to make a bully offer if I had the following:
    a. An all cash offer.
    b. A bid significantly over the asking price, enough to make the owners think they couldn’t possibly do better on offer night. (But isn’t this counterintuitive? Buyers think, if this person will pay X, maybe on offer night, I’ll get X + $1?)
    c. No contingencies.
    Anything else?
    How often are bully offers accepted?

    1. Natrx

      at 10:11 am

      Based on following the market for awhile, having bought a property last year, there are many motivations for seller.

      1) Very enticing. All Cash probably can swing it as icing on top since there is very little worry about closing.

      2) This is the big ‘IF’. It’s a function of how many people have been putting in offers in the surrounding comparable properties. More, the harder it is to get away with a bully offer. A rule of thumb is take the taxes paid, get the % number based on recent comparables (i.e. $3000 taxes, $750K sold = 0.40%). If a multi-bid night has been resulting around , the bully offer even slightly above (i.e. 760K) has a higher chance.

      If comparable bidding results has the higher end (i.e. 0.37%, 0.38%, 0.40%, 0.41%), than that bully bid has to be higher (i.e. 850K) to work. Now of course, no conditions, all cash, can lower that to let’s say $835K. But all in all, the higher that % number is, the better chance of success. Motivation of seller is also important. Are they trying to maximze since they’ve overstretched themselves or have a set number in mind? I’ve heard of cases where a seller didn’t want to go through a scheduled open house, was retired, didn’t care about a few $$ so took a bully offer that wasn’t too too high but in-line.

      Note, often agents that have expressed interest or even have registered an offer maybe be notified by the seller agent that there is a bully offer in place. What has been going on now is buyers see ‘weakness’ or stableness in the market. So they’re trying circumvent that and get a win by thinking “this will save the seller the time and headache of waiting as they should also be grateful they’re getting a real offer”.

      3) No contingencies is always good. But there is still a limit as to how much impact it’ll have and stress tolerance of seller.

  8. JDF

    at 10:31 pm

    You are making the assumption that all listing agents are competent and are working in the best interest of their client and sellers are knowledgeable about the current state of the market and are not prone to act emotionally.

    We were successful in submitting a true bully offer (no conditions, quick close, significant deposit) within 24 hours of a property hitting the market at list because both the seller and the agent wanted it to be done quickly. The listing agent did call the other buying agents who had shown the property but we were pretty inflexible on our irrevocable ( we did give them 5pm till noon the next day – which was very generous) and no other serious, competing offers emerged. The quicker you are with your bully, the less competition there will be.

    Never underestimate the temptation of being able to get a firm deal at the price you wanted when it is literally dangled in front of you. From looking at the sold transactions over the last couple of weeks. I am seeing properties (not condos) in the core with DOM < 3 selling for slightly under list prices. It looks sellers may indeed be open to getting the deal done as opposed to taking a chance……

  9. Pkap07

    at 7:42 am

    Same exp as JDF…we bought a house couple of years back..the place had been on market for some time and had seen some reduction in price..our agent called seller agent got to know that closing had to be in a month and there was another offer we gave a 5 hr revocable with about 25k under and after a little back nd forth settled 20k under listing price..same scenario both sets were eager to close the deal..got to know later that there was another offer in mix that was about 30 under and had a 10hr revocable so lucky us I guess.

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