“We’re not seeing crazy-high bids,” said Fred Kendrick, an agent with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty in Georgetown. “It’s difficult for people to go much over the asking price because of the lack of financing. . . . In the old market, everything appraised” because the next sales went so fast and drove the appraisals higher. “Today, the question is: How much over the price can you go before you run into problems with the lender?”
During the boom, “escalation clauses were all over the place,” said Bonnie Roberts-Burke, an agent with Evers & Co. near Dupont Circle. “It was a moving target, and appraisers knew it was a moving target. But appraisers were not having problems [with lenders] then because they knew the value would be going higher. Now buyers are much more cautious with escalation clauses.”
More skirmish than war
There usually are fewer bidders now compared with the boom times, agents say. “Most of my scenarios involve perhaps two to four bidders and anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 extra, depending on the price range of the property, although one seller got more than $70,000 more with only three buyers in competition,” said Valerie Blake, associate broker with Prudential Carruthers Realtors in Upper Northwest.
Blake finds most multiple offers occurring at the first-time buyer level — up to $400,000 — and in the move-up price range up to $725,000. But others say they’re seeing competition in all categories, including the million-plus bracket.
About 10 percent of Trudy Severa’s contracts get multiple bids these days, but with only three or four bidders, said the Reston-based Long & Foster agent. They’re most likely, she said, in pockets of Reston — which, like Bethesda, attracts buyers because of proximity to shopping, restaurants and Metro — and in Falls Church.
Some agents say multiple offers were more frequent in the early spring, when buyers were bubbling over with pent-up demand from the inventory-deprived winter. But, even in the recent 90-degree days when “it’s difficult to slog through this heat to look” at properties, “we are still seeing [multiple bids] whenever a property is well-priced,” Roberts-Burke said.
And the mega-war still pops up with some frequency. Agents say they’ve seen situations in which real estate offices have stopped taking offers or showing houses because interest was too high to keep up with.