What's an Escalation Clause and does it work?

Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Olympia WA

What is an Escalation Clause in real estate and does it work in a multiple offer situation?


Escalation ClauseEscalation Clause

Here in Olympia, WA, an Escalation Clause is sometimes added to an offer when a buyer is competing with other buyers on the same home.     

The Escalation Clause tells the seller:

1. what the maximum price the buyer is willing to pay for the home, and

2. how much the buyer is willing to escalate their offer against the other offer(s).


For example, a property is listed for $200,000, and there are two buyers making an offer.  

Buyer One includes the escalation clause in their offer which states the maximum price they are willing to pay for the home is $225,000, and they will offer $2,000 over the other offer.

Buyer Two does not include an escalation clause but offers $220,000.

With everything being equal, the seller would choose Buyer One's offer because their offer would be at $222,000 ($2,000 more than the other offer but still under their max price of $225,000).


Does this strategy work?

Sometimes.  For buyers, using an escalation clause can be a double-edged sword


Negotiating leverage diminished

As a buyer using an Escalation Clause, the buyer is revealing to the seller how much the buyer is willing to pay for the home.  This takes away potential leverage down the road.  The seller knows the buyer wants this home, knows how much the buyer is willing to pay for this home, and this could potentially harm the buyer in future negotiations with the seller, such as negotiating for repairs.  The seller could be less likely to agree to repairs, for example.


Misunderstood Clause

This can backfire for buyers as sellers and even agents may not fully understand the Escalation Clause and how to use it.  For example, I represented a buyer and we knew we were competing.  We decided NOT to include an escalation clause and just write our best offer.  The seller chose our offer, even though I learned later the other buyer's escalation clause would have netted the seller more money.  The reason: the seller felt the escalation clause was a negative tactic and felt "icky."  Our offer was "clean."

Yes, an escalation clause can feel that way if the parties don't fully understand the purpose.


Sharing other offers

Sellers may not want to provide Buyer(s) with the other offers.  In order to reach mutual acceptance (having a binding offer), the seller must also present the buyer the full offer(s) from the other buyer(s). This is good for buyers because otherwise sellers could easily state untruthfully the facts about the terms of the other offers or even if there were any other offers.  



Then why use an Escalation Clause?

The Escalation Clause attempts to keep the seller engaged.  If a seller is presented with multiple offers, many times, the seller will not counter, and they will just choose the best offer.  Since the buyers most likely won't know the terms of the other offers, the Escalation Clause can elevate the offer over the others by stating how much the buyer is willing to go over the next best offer.


Do I use Escalation Clauses?

Typically I do not.  Again it depends upon the situation, the brokers involved and the buyers and sellers.  My advice to my buyers is to write their best offer and not to depend upon a seller countering back.  

In a busy market with more buyers than inventory, buyers need to be ready to write strong, compelling offers that sellers just can't refuse!


Posted by


Francine Viola, Realtor
In Tune with your Real Estate Needs


Serving Buyers and Sellers in Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey and Thurston County, WA

Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Inc.  |  Olympia, WA


Cell:      (360) 359-0689

Email:  Francine.Viola@cbolympia.com

Web:     www.FrancineViola.com





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Mike Wong
Keller Williams Realty Southwest - Sugar Land, TX
Realtor: Commercial, Residential, Leasing, Invest

Great post and explaination. I do not use escalation clauses in my transactions however the subject comes up often among my buyers and new students. 

Apr 19, 2016 07:14 AM #1
Francine Viola
Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Olympia WA - Olympia, WA
REALTOR®, In Tune with your Real Estate Needs

Hi Mike Wong - thanks for stopping by and I hope you are surviving the flooding!

Apr 19, 2016 07:22 AM #2
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

In CA, we use this kind of the escalator clause: Into the purchase agreement goes language like this:

“Purchase price shall be $1,000 more than the next highest offer, up to a maximum price of $xxx,000. Buyer shall have the right to verify the legitimacy of all competing offers, with Seller to disclose competing offers to Buyer.”

Dec 13, 2016 08:35 AM #3
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Francine Viola

REALTOR®, In Tune with your Real Estate Needs
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