There may be times when you receive multiple offers for the same property listing: how do you review these offers and determine which one seems the most beneficial for your client? In this guide, we explore how to handle multiple offers of purchase on real property.

“Buyers and sellers need to appreciate that in multiple offer situations only one offer will result in a sale, and the other buyers will often be disappointed their offers were not accepted.

While little can be done to assuage that disappointment, fair and honest treatment throughout the offer and negotiation process, coupled with prompt, ongoing and open communication, can enhance the chances that all buyers – successful or not – will feel they were treated fairly and honestly.”

Source: A Buyers’ and Sellers’ Guide to Multiple Offer Negotiations, (National Association of REALTORS®, 2005).


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Legal & Ethical Considerations

Typically, state governments establish laws addressing client confidentiality and disclosure, and may even denote the timeframe within which one must respond to an offer of purchase on real property. The REALTOR® Code of Ethics also establishes requirements on responding to offers and protecting the interests of clients:

  • Article 1, Standard of Practice 1-6 denotes that, “REALTORS® shall submit offers and counter-offers objectively and as quickly as possible.”
  • Article 1, Standard of Practice 1-15 addresses REALTORS®’ obligation in multiple-offer situations: “REALTORS®, in response to inquiries from buyers or cooperating brokers shall, with the sellers’ approval, disclose the existence of offers on the property. Where disclosure is authorized, REALTORS® shall also disclose, if asked, whether offers were obtained by the listing licensee, another licensee in the listing firm, or by a cooperating broker.”
  • Article 1, Standard of Practice 1-7 denotes that, “When acting as listing brokers, REALTORS® shall continue to submit to the seller/landlord all offers and counter-offers until closing or execution of a lease unless the seller/landlord has waived this obligation in writing. REALTORS® shall not be obligated to continue to market the property after an offer has been accepted by the seller/landlord. REALTORS® shall recommend that sellers/landlords obtain the advice of legal counsel prior to acceptance of a subsequent offer except where the acceptance is contingent on the termination of the pre-existing purchase contract or lease.”
  • Article 1, Standard of Practice 1-8 denotes that “REALTORS®, acting as agents or brokers of buyers/tenants, shall submit to buyers/tenants all offers and counter-offers until acceptance but have no obligation to continue to show properties to their clients after an offer has been accepted unless otherwise agreed in writing.”
  • Article 1 denotes that “When representing a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant, or other client as an agent, REALTORS® pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their client.”
  • Article 1, Standard of Practice 1-9 establishes requirements for ensuring client confidentiality and non-disclosure compliance.

Find the full text of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics here.

Advice for Real Estate Professionals

Staying Mum on Multiple Offers (REALTOR® Magazine, Mar. 2018)

Buyers Use Escalation Clauses to Win Bidding Wars (REALTOR® Magazine, Feb. 2018)

Bidding Wars: Don’t Blindly Take Highest Offer (REALTOR® Magazine, Aug. 2017)

The Negotiation Dance (REALTOR® Magazine, Sep. 2015)

12 Tips for Negotiating Multiple Offers (RIS Media, Jun. 2015)

Code of Ethics & Arbitration Manual, Part 4, Appendix IX: Presenting and Negotiating Multiple Offers (National Association of REALTORS®)

Speak Up When Offer Arrives (REALTOR® Magazine, Jul. 2013)

How to Survive a Multiple Offer Situation in 8 Easy Steps (Chicago Agent Magazine, May 16, 2013)

Best Strategies for Presenting and Negotiating Offers (Chicago Agent Magazine, Apr. 15, 2013)

Mistakes to avoid when negotiating multiple offers (Inman News, Mar. 7, 2013)

Keeping Your Clients Cool During Multiple Offers (Chicago Agent Magazine, Jan. 14, 2013)

No surrender: 4 tips for winning multiple offer situations (Curbed Boston, Dec. 26, 2012)

Don’t let multiple offers kill your sale; Tips for assessing bid quality, escalation clauses (Inman News, Nov. 12, 2012)

Best Practices for Multiple Offers Situations (YPN Lounge, June 21, 2012)

What to Disclose Amid Multiple Offers? (REALTOR® Magazine, Jan. 2012)

Insights into Multiple Offers (Multiple Offers Tool Kit) (REALTOR® Magazine)

Advice for Clients

How to Prevail in a Competitive Market (REALTOR® Magazine, May 2017)

How to Lose a Bidding War (but Also How to Win One) (realtor.com®, April 2, 2015)

Real Estate: Craft a Strategy for a Quick Offer (Democrat & Chronicle, May 31, 2014)

Ask Ann: Dealing With Multiple Offers on Your Home (Tennessean, May 27, 2014)

Gaining the upper hand in bidding (The New York Times, June 2, 2013)

A Buyers’ and Sellers’ Guide to Multiple Offer Negotiations (National Association of REALTORS®, 2005)

eBooks & Other Resources


The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:

Closing That Sale (eBook)
Improvisational Negotiation (eBook, Kindle)
Negotiation Genius (eBook, Kindle)

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