Get the Best Price for Your House with a Bidding War

After several sluggish years, agents say North Shore real estate activity is heating up.

In fact, desirable houses that are priced competitively might even attract offers from multiple buyers, leading to a so-called “bidding war.”

Winnetka realtor Joanne Hudson says that 43 percent of her company’s 2012 listings have received multiple offers. The majority of those properties sold within 10 days, Hudson says.

“One example that comes to mind is a home we had listed in Winnetka in the lower two million range,” Hudson says. “By the end of the first week we had three offers and the house ended up selling for $55,000 over the list price.”

Before you get dollar signs in your eyes, Winnetka realtor Lori Neuschel cautions: “Sellers cannot take this market activity as a sign that prices are going back up.”

On the contrary, she explains that bidding wars are becoming more common because sellers have adjusted expectations and are pricing houses competitively. On top of that, buyers are motivated by low interest rates and a belief that prices are hovering near bottom, Neuschel says. As a result, “multiple offer situations are happening left and right on the North Shore,” Neuschel says.

Multiple offers increase your chances of selling at the high end of your house’s fair market value, Neuschel says. Here are her tips for improving your odds:

Dress it up: “Forget this has been your home for 10 or 30 years,” Neuschel says. “It is now a product.” Get your “product” in top shape. Buyers might not have extra cash, so Neuschel advises taking care of maintenance and renovating kitchens and bathrooms before going to market.

Spread the word: If you’re hoping to snag multiple offers, Neuschel recommends pre-marketing. “Have your agent start reaching out to the agent community before it comes on,” she says. “That will generate activity and energy before it even hits the market.”

Price it right: Today’s buyers are extremely educated, and they know good value when they see it. That means your house must be priced accurately and strategically, Neuschel says. “Your agent really needs to be engaged in this market and do a lot of homework in terms of comparisons to what has traded in the last few months.”

Finding your house at the center of a bidding war can be exciting, but Lake Forest realtor Jean Royster reminds sellers that deals do fall apart. That’s why she advises her clients to handle negotiations carefully.

“If you’ve treated everyone really respectfully and the first offer doesn’t go through, other buyers might come back in,” Royster says.