Real Estate

How to Avoid a Bidding War in Washington’s Hot Housing Market

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“Close down the open house.”

That’s what some agents call it when buyers convince a seller to accept their offer before the first open house even happens. To accomplish this, you’ll likely have to deploy the typical strategies: Offer above list price with a solid preapproval letter and down payment, waive contingencies, and agree to close on the seller’s timeline. But agents say a little detective work is what can really make the difference.

Build rapport with the seller’s agent to learn what will motivate her client. For instance, Long & Foster’s Leigh Reed once found out that a seller had to go to Afghanistan for work. She advised her buyers to include in their offer a “dumpster clause” stating that the seller could leave everything he didn’t want in the house and they would dispose of it for him. It worked.

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She oversees the magazine’s real estate and home design coverage, and writes long-form feature stories. She was a 2020 Livingston Award finalist for her two-part investigation into a possible wrongful conviction stemming from a murder in rural Virginia. Kashino lives in Northeast DC.

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