How to Whip Up a Bidding War (and Win One, Too)











“Property Brothers: Buying & Selling” stars Jonathan and Drew Scott know plenty about how to survive and thrive in a seller’s market—in which sellers have the upper hand because buyer demand is high and bidding wars are sparked.

“Nobody likes bidding wars when they’re the buyer, but everybody likes them when they’re the seller,” says Jonathan. So true, my friend!

In the latest episode, titled “A Bidding War of Their Own,” clients Siobhan and David see their seller’s market as a mixed blessing, because they want to both sell their current home and buy another nearby. The couple, who have two young daughters, want to move up into a detached home with more space in the same New York City neighborhood, but they lost in the bidding process. So they ask the Scott brothers to help.

Contractor Jonathan promises to help them renovate their home to appeal to buyers. Meanwhile, Drew vows to help them master the cunning craft of winning a new home they’ll adore. Here’s how it’s done.

To sell in a seller’s market, don’t renovate too much

Because buyers in a seller’s market are more forgiving than most, “you want to be careful,” says Jonathan. “You want to do just enough to raise the value of the home, but you don’t want to put more money in than you have to.”

Some of the rooms in the family’s small home will be fine with simple cosmetic fixes.

Finish the basement

David, it turns out, is quite handy and has done quite a bit of work on the house, finishing the basement and adding a bathroom to boot. Jonathan is impressed when he sees the quality of work David has done.

“Finishing the basement and adding a bathroom adds a lot of value,” he says.

Don’t get too attached

The drawback of David having done so much work on the house is that he doesn’t want to relinquish renovation control to Jonathan. He’s especially invested in his dark oak staircase, doors, and trim—and he doesn’t want Jonathan to paint any of it. He prefers an authentic look to Jonathan’s plan of making the home look fresher, lighter, and brighter.

“He’s fighting for what his own taste is as though he’s staying in the house,” Jonathan explains. “It’s simple economics: The more people you appeal to, the better price you’re going to get.”

In the end, Siobhan persuades her husband to concede, saying, “Maybe you’re too attached. It’s just a building.”

Expose brick to add character

David also shows Jonathan an area of the house with exposed brick. He suggests Jonathan expose the brick on the stairway wall as well, and Jonathan agrees that it would add character to the home. Maybe they could save money if David did the work himself?

He’s all too willing. “Let’s get dirty!” David says.

A tiny kitchen island is better than none

This home, like so many in this neighborhood, shares a wall with its neighbor, so it has a long, narrow floor plan. By making the kitchen counters along the walls narrow (only 18 inches wide), Jonathan is able to fit in a small island.

“Even though it’s not a very big island and it’s pretty narrow, it’s still adding a lot more function, a lot more prep space, and that’s a huge value-add,” Jonathan says.

Low furniture makes a room look bigger

The master bedroom is small—and the bed overwhelms the room because it’s so high. Jonathan jokingly asks petite Siobhan if she needs a Sherpa to climb it. He notes that there’s an easy fix to make the room look bigger: a lighter coat of paint, a lower bed, and minimal, low-profile furniture.

To start a bidding war, price your home low

That might be contrary to common sense, but Drew advises the couple to list their newly renovated home “just under market value.”

He explains: “Because then people look around at all the comparable-priced homes, and all of a sudden they say, ‘Wow! We get all this?'” They become very invested, and a bidding frenzy frequently ensues.

The couple are hoping to get at least $700,000 for their home, but Drew suggests they list it for $680,000. They reluctantly agree—and are so glad they do once buyers see their newly renovated home and swoon. They receive multiple offers and accept the highest, at $750,000.

To buy in a seller’s market, make a ‘bully offer’

Drew also finds the family a new home of their dreams, and it’s valued in the high $800,000s, which is actually under their $910,000 budget. But here’s the thing: It’s not on the market yet. The owner plans to list it the very next day. Drew explains that if David and Siobhan make a high-enough offer, or a “bully offer,” the owner won’t have to go to the hassle of listing it, and the couple will get the house without a bidding war.

Drew suggests they come in strong at $950,000. And lo and behold, their offer is accepted. They are thrilled to see that, in this case, being a “bully” pays off.