At a young age, we learn to compare apples to apples. Sesame Street taught generations of kids to find one of these things that’s not like the other. Law schools teach students to make oranges appear to be apples and make anything look like something other than what it is. Versions of the real estate escalation clause (sometimes called acceleration clause) are either poorly written or crafted with cunning.
Pay More Than The Net Purchase Price of a Competing Offer
On page 1 of my Offer, the purchase price compared to the purchase price on page 1 of another offer compares apples to apples. Purchase price on my page 1 to the Purchase price on the competing Offer’s page 1, MINUS credits and concessions, compares apples to anything but apples.
My Purchase Price Compared to Your Net Purchase Price. Did you think the comparison was purchase price to purchase price or net purchase price to net purchase price? Look again. Here’s how this comparison might play out:
My Offer is $300,000, and I say I will pay $2,000 more than the Net Purchase price of a competing offer, up to $310,000.
The competing Offer has a purchase price of $308,000 on page 1. Net purchase price is defined as any monetary contributions by the seller outlined in the competing Offer: purchaser closing costs, credits and property prorations.
The first glaring red flag is property prorations. If property proration means property tax prorations, and the tax proration is $10,000, the seller shall credit the buyer $10,000, reducing the competing Offer to $298,000. ($308,000 – $10,000) By comparing e my purchase price to the competing Offer’s NET, my price is not moving from $300,000. (Nothing for the seller to worry about as long as the listing firm’s commission can cover the $10,000 error. )
Define The Terms. Do The Math.
Listing agents who do the math exactly as called for in the story problem escalation clause will protect their clients from stumbling into this mess. Buyer agents who know their clause are comparing anything but apples to apples will protect their clients from paying more than the parties agreed to or getting their Offer rejected because it didn’t do what the agent thought it did.
One idea—If the escalation clauses are not what they say they are, avoiding them might be prudent. Consulting an attorney is your first level of protection.