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Creating Competitive Homebuying Offers: Expert Advice from Local Realtor® Steven Cozza

These days, it’s becoming more and more common to see homes in Sonoma County sell for much higher than their original listing price.

And this is often the result of the seller receiving multiple offers and taking advantage of a competitive marketplace. 

These scenarios can be stressful for homebuyers looking for their dream home, causing many to feel like they’ll end up having to lower their expectations of what they can truly afford. 

But this isn’t always the case.

To make sense of real estate “bidding wars,” we chatted with Sonoma County-based Realtor® Steven Cozza with The Cozza Team about: 

  • Why “bidding wars” might not be the best term 
  • The types of market conditions that create multiple-offer scenarios 
  • How to prepare for a multiple-offer scenario or competitive market
  • Why pre-construction homes let you lock in the home you want without engaging in competitive offers

Here’s what he told us. 

SOMO Village: What do people mean when they say “bidding wars” in terms of real estate? 

Personally, I don’t like the term “bidding war” because it’s not entirely accurate. A bidding war would be an auction-type scenario where people are placing bids and out-bidding each other. In that situation, you can see what other people are bidding and try to one-up them. 

But in real estate, you’re not submitting bids—you’re submitting an offer. The buyers can’t see other people’s offers and they can’t drive the price up to a totally unrealistic point like in an auction scenario. 

Let’s say there’s a home listed for $900,000 and the offers come in at $980,000, $990,000, and $1 million. Unlike, say, an art auction, those buyers can’t see the other offers on the table and then use that insight to outbid the competition by jumping their bid to $1.5 million. 

So, when people talk about “bidding wars,” they’re actually talking about a multiple-offer scenario–one where the seller receives offers on their homes from multiple different buyers, often at different prices or with different stipulations. 

When do you see multiple-offer situations? What does it look like in practice? 

A multiple-offer scenario happens when there is a very desirable property that’s in high demand. For instance, it could be a West Petaluma home that has a swimming pool, is recently updated, and is one-story. 

This type of home caters to many types of prospective buyers and will likely attract a number of offers.

So, let’s imagine that the seller receives 10 offers. 

Together with their real estate agent, they’ll look through those offers and pull out the top, say, two to four. 

It’s important for buyers to understand that the top offers aren’t necessarily just the ones with the highest prices attached to them. There are other factors that come into play to create a strong offer. 

For example, contingencies can weaken the offer. 

Let’s say you’re making an offer on a home but your offer is contingent on you selling your current home or on the new home passing an inspection.

Even if your offer is on par with—or even slightly higher than—another offer, yours will be less appealing to the seller than an offer that has no contingencies.

Ultimately, sellers are looking for the highest value and the path of least resistance. 

The seller and their agent will be looking at the best and most well-rounded offer.

After reviewing all of the offers on the table, the seller will either accept one, decline them all, or potentially make counter-offers. 

What are the challenges for buyers in a competitive real estate market? 

Competitive markets are hard for buyers because you could be looking for months… and months, and months. If you have specific criteria, like location or features, there might only be a few houses on the market that meet your standards, so the chances of getting them are slim. 

First-time homebuyers who just want to get into the market and are less particular may not have this same experience, but if you’re looking for your forever home and have specific criteria, it can take a while to find it in a competitive market.

If you add in multiple offers on the home, it can be challenging. That’s why it’s really important to prepare well and always put your best foot forward. 

How can buyers put their best foot forward? What are some steps to take to prepare for a multiple-offers scenario? 

The preparation work is so important for a multiple-offer scenario. 

And even if it’s not a competitive market with multiple offers, you still want to follow best practices so that you can get a home for a better price or better terms. 

There are a few things you can do to put yourself in the best possible position. 

1. Working with a great real estate agent

The most important thing to be competitive is to not do it yourself, but to make sure you’re working with a good Realtor®. They’ll be able to help you prepare and plan for a competitive offer that gives you the best chance of getting the home you want. 

For example, say you want to include the contingency of selling your home first. To keep that offer competitive to a seller, you need to do the prep work. Show that your marketing photos and videos are ready and your home can be on the market as soon as you go into contract. This shows a seller you’re ready to sell and that you’ve made it possible to sell quickly. 

A real estate agent is going to work with you to determine your comfort level and how that informs your strategy to put in an offer. 

How much do you like the home? 

How long do you plan on staying there? 

This informs what you can buy and if it makes sense to financially stretch things a bit in the short term for a more long-term pay-off. 

2. Working with a loan officer

You also want to work with a good loan advisor to really understand the real costs of everything. They will help you make sense of your debt, income, credit scores, as well as the different rates and loan products that are available to you. 

Determining how much you want to spend on mortgage payments and everything is a very personal decision. When you work with your loan officer, you can be firm on where you’re comfortable and what you want to spend. This helps you prepare for a multiple-offer scenario and determine if it’s worth it to you to increase your offer or hold firm. 

Is it a good idea to write a letter to the sellers to try and persuade them to accept your offer? 

We used to do stuff like that in the past, like creating an introductory video so the seller could see who was submitting an offer. However, the issue was that this created the potential for discriminatory practices.

With that being said, you can still write a “love letter” about the property—something that focuses solely on the attributes of the house and what you love about it. 

But it’s really important that you don’t include anything personal about you as a buyer or your family situation. It’s better to ensure there’s no room for biases or discrimination in the process. 

What about pre-construction homes—are they a good option to consider in a competitive market? 

With pre-construction homes, there is some negotiation that goes on regarding credits or finishes that are thrown in. It depends on the developer, but there is sometimes room to negotiate something like higher-end appliances or something like that. 

But generally, you don’t negotiate or compete on price. There’s a finite number of homes available and you buy them at the listed price.

When you’re buying something early on, you’re paying the price that the developer sets, so you can avoid the back-and-forth of a multiple-offer scenario so it may be a good option for buyers looking to avoid this.


If you want to connect with Steven, visit his website at or contact his team directly. You can also check out their comprehensive first-time homebuyer webinar and learn details about getting into the real estate market. 

Learn more about Sonoma County’s best presale homebuying opportunity. 

If you’d like to learn about presale homes in Sonoma County, download our project brief to find out why SOMO Village might be the perfect community for you. 

Steven Cozza, realtor in Sonoma CountyAbout Steven Cozza 

Steven spent nearly a decade racing bikes professionally in Europe. As a former elite professional cyclist, Steven has the mental stamina, tenacity and brilliance to make the buying and selling process an attainable reality for his clients. Steven excels in the local market with buyers and sellers and surpasses the yearly sales average of Sonoma and Marin County Realtors. Native to the area, he is a valuable resource. With his never-give-up attitude paired with the Compass go-above-and-beyond standards, Steven gives his clients 120% of his efforts. From urban condos to countryside estates, Steven treats each property with premium marketing services and a precisely focused strategy.

Clients have shared that they chose Steven to help with their real estate needs because of his real estate knowledge, cutting-edge marketing strategies, his passion to give back to the community, and most of all, his genuine character.

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