Are bully offers legal?

Yes, pre-emptive or “bully” offers are legal.

In a hot sellers’ market like the one we currently have in many parts of the province, it has become quite common for multiple buyers to be interested in the same property. The seller’s agent is required to convey an offer to the homeowner as soon as reasonably possible, unless the seller has given specific instructions to hold the offers until a certain date.

In sellers’ markets, some sellers will ask their agents to hold all offers and not present them until a particular date and time. This is done to optimize the property’s exposure and possibly attract competing offers.

Even with a date and time specified to review offers, some buyers may try to jump the queue and submit a “take-it-or-leave-it offer” that typically gives the seller limited time to consider and accept it. This is commonly referred to as a bully offer.

Essentially, the tactic is to submit a strong offer early to entice the seller to abandon the date and time they scheduled to review competing bids. Contents of bully offers may differ from property to property. Some may offer more than the asking price, while others may drop conditions like home inspections and financing.

Bully offers can be quite common under certain market conditions. Listing agents are legally required to present such offers to their clients when they come in, unless the seller has given specific written direction to do otherwise.

If the seller changes their written direction to start seeing offers, the listing agent is expected to change the presentation timeline in the listing notes and alert all parties who had booked a showing, expressed interest in the property or submitted an offer.

As you continue your home search, you might feel the urge to try a bully offer of your own on a property where there is a scheduled offer date. Discuss the pros and cons with your agent who should be able to provide a market analysis, help you determine the value of the property, and give advice on whether your offer is competitive.

Remember, the asking price is not necessarily what the property is expected to sell for — it might be underpriced, priced at market or overpriced.

Though a strong offer may increase your chances of being the successful bidder, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be successful. And it may not be in your best financial interests to go that high on an offer.

Assess whether the amount you’re offering is something you can comfortably afford and please be very wary of removing protective conditions like financing or home inspection.

All the best!

This column is for general information purposes only and is not meant as legal or professional advice on real estate transactions.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at

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