In theory, it takes only one interested buyer to successfully sell your home. Nevertheless, bringing in multiple offers to purchase your house puts you in a powerful position: You can expect the price to go higher than it otherwise would have, you might receive offers in which the buyers drop various standard contingencies, you can pick and choose among buyers, and after having chosen, you can negotiate hard, knowing that your buyer will be aware of the other people standing in line.
So, how do you maximize your chances of receiving multiple offers on your house? Not all of the factors are within a home seller's control, but some are.
You can't control whether your property is within a region that has a "hot" or "seller's market" (with more interested buyers than available properties) or a "buyer's market" (the reverse).
But you can respond to the market with your pricing and marketing strategy.
In a hot seller's market, it's said that homes practically sell themselves. But that's not entirely true. Hordes of eager buyers tend to focus on the "it" houses being shown one week, and might overlook others. Clearly, you want to make your house the one that everyone is flocking to (as discussed below).
In a buyer's market, you'll have more of a challenge inspiring multiple offers. But the steps described here can help you at least bring in one or more.
Before a buyer can become interested in making an offer on your home, that buyer has to become interested in looking at more online pictures of, or setting foot inside the home. Price is a key element in making sure buyers do that.
In a seller's market, it's often wise to set your price below the amount you know you could sell it for. How far below? Enough that it puts you into a different tier of online searches (which filter based on price, among other factors), but not so much that people wonder about hidden flaws. Your real estate agent can help you arrive at an exact dollar amount.
In a buyer's market, listing your house closer to it's "real" value is usually wise. You are not in the power position, and don't want to give away too much too soon. Again, your agent can help with this decision.
More and more buyers want homes they won't have to fix up and fuss over before starting to live there. To the extent you can afford it, make sure it's clean, in good repair, and up to date.
For information on the types of home improvements most likely to impress buyers, see Do Home Improvements Add Value?
If a lot of people know your house is for sale, that maximizes the chances of people becoming interested enough to bid; or telling their friends about the place.
Your real estate agent should take the lead on marketing, for example by commissioning professional photos of the home, creating a website for it, listing it on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and his or her agency website, holding open houses for buyers and brokers, and sending postcards about the sale to neighbors and more.
You have a role to play, too. It starts with being a team player in the process of cleaning your house in preparation for photos and showings, and keeping it tidy, arranging for pet care during open houses, and so on. If you've chosen a good agent, you should feel confident in that person's suggestions about decor, hiring a stager, and more.
Your agent should also listen to and possibly help with your own marketing suggestions, for example if you wish to hold an open house/party just for friends and neighbors. And you can spread the word informally, via your social media accounts, on your neighborhood "NextDoor" or equivalent service, when you visit local service providers, and so on.
There's an art to managing a bidding war. The real estate agent will need to stir up excitement before bids even come in, for example by dropping hints about the level of interest without revealing too much and breaching buyers' confidentiality.
The agent will need to be organized enough to handle any required pre-offer paperwork and get it into the many buyers' agents hands, and follow up if they make last-minute inquiries to see whether it's worth putting in an offer on your house at all.
The agent will also need to be smart about setting a deadline for receiving offers and scheduling buyers' agents to make those offers in person, which is often done during a single stretch of time.
All of this takes skill, experience, and a certain maturity with regard to relationships with other agents. Choose your agent well.
And with a bunch of offers on the table, you'll definitely want the agent's help in deciding whether to accept the highest-price offer or look at other criteria.