What is a bully offer? You’ve probably heard this term time and time again, if you’ve been watching Canadian real estate over the past couple of years. But many Canadians still don’t know what it means. A bully offer, also called a pre-emptive offer, is an offer to buy a home that is intended to entice sellers to accept before the offer date. Some follow-up questions likely include:

  • What is the bully offer process?
  • How much should a bully offer be?
  • Should I accept a bully offer?
  • Should I make a bully offer?
  • Are bully offers ethical?

All great questions, and ones you should know the answers to if you’re planning to engage in the housing market. Of course, a professional real estate agent can help answer these questions and more. So, if you aren’t already working with an agent, find one. In the meantime, here are some answers about bully offers.

What is a Bully Offer?

A bully offer is an offer to purchase a home tendered before the offer presentation date. A bully offer is typically over asking price and usually time-limited. The idea here is to entice and put pressure on the seller to accept this offer, before other offers start rolling in.

In a hot market, it’s not uncommon for buyers to make offers on multiple listings, only to lose out to another buyer with a better offer. In desperation, the buyer may choose to make a bully offer in an attempt to get ahead of other buyers.

Sometimes a buyer waits until the offer presentation date to make their offer. Then they find out that the home is already sold. In this scenario, the seller has likely been targeted by a bully. You might say the buyer is “bullying” their way past other buyers.

What is the Bully Offer Process?

Bully offers are more common in a hot market, when competition between buyers is high. The homebuyer finds a home that piques their interest. Their agent will arrange for a showing as soon as possible, and ideally a home inspection happens. If all goes well then the buyer can choose to make an offer before the seller’s specified offer presentation date.

The listing agent presents this pre-emptive offer to their client. The seller reviews and decides whether to accept, or wait until the offer presentation date to see if they get a better offer.

If the seller accepts the offer, the rest of the process is fairly standard in that the home is taken off the market and the paperwork that follows. If the seller rejects the offer, they would proceed to their offer date and review those offers as they are received.

How Much Should a Bully Offer Be?

The objective of a bully offer is to entice the seller, so these types of offers are typically over asking price with conditions that are favourable to the seller. The bully offer won’t be successful unless it really wows the seller. It’s not recommended to buy a home without getting a home inspection first. But against this advice, buyers sometimes forgo this step in a hot market.

Should I Accept a Bully Offer?

A bully offer has its pros and cons for the seller, and it’s something the seller should discuss with their listing agent and their family/co-owners. Sellers can benefit in the form of a high price, a quick sale, and eliminating the need for a slew of showings and offer reviews. On the other hand, the seller doesn’t know what other offers may come, since they won’t have a chance to see them. When deciding if this approach is right for you, discuss market conditions with your real estate agent, including buyer demand and competition, and selling prices of comparable listings.

Should I Make a Bully Offer?

Buyer beware – a bully offer isn’t a way to get a deal on a home, but it is a way to get the home you really want. Some buyers choose to make a pre-emptive offer if they are consistently getting outbid on a number of other opportunities. The buyer should consider how badly they want this home, if they can afford it, and what their competition is like under current market conditions and in this specific neighbourhood. Discuss these factors with a real estate agent, who may advise that a pre-emptive offer is unnecessary. Ultimately, it is up to the homebuyer to decide how they’d like to proceed.

Are Bully Offers Ethical?

Bully offers have become a hot topic since the Canadian real estate market hit a peak during the pandemic. It was not uncommon for one listing to receive 75 offers in some of the country’s most active housing markets. Since there can only be one buyer, this left 74 still-hopeful homebuyers returning to browse listings and in some cases, make a pre-emptive offer on the next home. Real estate industry experts attribute this spike in demand and rising prices to a critical housing supply shortage, which will likely intensify without imminent intervention. This, despite tempering demand and moderating price growth in the wake of the Bank of Canada’s interest rate increases this year. Needless to day, home-buying is a tough go for many homebuyers, and particularly first-timers.

In an effort to increase fairness in the home-buying process, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) recommended the elimination of bully offers back in 2019. OREA’s Vision for a Modern REBBA: Getting to the Highest Professional Standards in North America outlined 28 recommendations that would modernize real estate rules and professionalism in the industry. One of these targeted bully offers.

“If a home listing includes an offer date, that’s the date on which all offers should be considered; an offer made before that date, which is known as a pre-emptive, or ‘bully offers’, should not be allowed,” said Karen Cox, then-president of OREA. “This will ensure that all interested buyers of a particular home get a fair shot at making an offer. For sellers, it means they will have a chance to work with their REALTOR® to carefully and thoughtfully consider all offers without feeling like they are in a pressure cooker.”

Still Have Questions?

That’s okay, you’re not alone. RE/MAX Canada hit the streets in a new video series, to find out just how much (or how little) the average person knows about Canadian real estate, and to offer some answers in the process.


Knowledge is power. Connect with a RE/MAX agent for answers to all your real estate questions.