What Is an Escalation Clause in Real Estate and How Does It Work?

By: ROS Team

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In the competitive world of real estate, bidding wars can be stressful and leave you wondering how to land your dream home. Enter the escalation clause, a strategic tool that can give your offer an edge. This blog post will dive deep into the world of escalation clauses, explaining what they are, how they work, and the pros and cons to consider.

What Is An Escalation Clause In Real Estate?

An escalation clause is a mechanism to enhance your offer. It is somewhat of a savvy way to say to the seller, “I will pay you more if someone else pays higher. “

The clause details your starting price, the maximum you are willing to escalate it, and the increments you will use each time you are outdone (usually $1,000 to $5,000). This may come in handy during bidding wars by displaying your commitment as a buyer and eventually enabling you to secure the property without breaking the bank.

How Does An Escalation Clause Work?

An escalation clause functions like an automatic bidder in a real estate scenario. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

Initial Offer: You put the clause in your initial offer on the property stating your starting purchase price.

Competing Offer: If the seller receives an offer higher than yours, the escalation clause comes into play.

Pre-Determined Increment: A figure such as $2,000 or $5,000 will be outlined by the clause. This is how much your offer will automatically increase in response to the competing bid.

Maximum Limit: Also, the clause will define the highest amount you are ready to pay for the property. This serves as a cap that prevents you from engaging in a bidding war that could send you over budget.

Proof of Bona Fide Offer: Some escalation clauses may require the seller to provide evidence of a genuine competing offer before your automatic raise can kick in. It stops them from fabricating offers so as to raise the price.

Automatic Increase: After activation, your bid will keep increasing at specified intervals until it reaches the maximum limit or goes past the amount presented by another buyer.

Winning the Bid: Ideally, this provision makes your offer most competitive landing you the house without spending more than planned.

No Escalation if No Competition: It should be noted that in case there are no other bids made, then your initial bid still stands. The seller cannot force an increase using this clause.

Pros And Cons Of An Escalation Clause

Pros of Escalation Clause:

  • Increased Competitiveness: Makes your offer stand out in bidding wars.
  • Budget Limit: Sets a maximum price to avoid overpaying.
  • Peace of Mind: Reduces the stress of constantly monitoring and revising offers.


Cons of Escalation Clause:

  • Reveals Maximum Offer: Sellers might use this knowledge to their advantage.
  • No Guarantee: Doesn’t guarantee winning the bid, other factors matter.
  • Potential Overpay: Automatic increases can push you closer to your limit.


What Is an Example of an Escalation Clause?

Let’s say you’re eyeing to bid for a house and want your offer to be competitive as much as it remains within your budget. You choose to have an escalation clause in the offer you present. Here’s how it operates:

Your Proposal: You make an initial bid of $400,000 for the house.

Details of Escalation Clause: This clause shows that you can raise your bid with $5,000 for each competing offer but not beyond $415,000.

Competing Offer Comes In: Another buyer puts forward an offer of $405,000.

Escalation Clause Is Triggered: The presence of this offer activates the escalation clause since it is higher than yours.

Automatic Increment: Your bid goes up automatically by $5,000 to match the other bid which becomes $405,000 + $5,000 = $410,000.

Result: At this point having your bid rise to $410,000 in this case means that it surpasses the other by $5,000 but is still below its maximum limit ($415,000).

Escalation Clause Real Estate: FAQ’s

Who Should Use an Escalation Clause?

In cases where a bidding war is common among buyers in hot markets, escalation clauses are very suitable. These are perfect for individuals who are looking to compete but at the same time remain within their means since the clause enables them to raise their bid automatically without being carried away by the excitement.

When Should I Use An Escalation Clause?

Consider an escalation clause if you’re buying in a competitive market, want to stay competitive without going overboard, and have a clear budget limit.

When Should I Not Use An Escalation Clause?

Skip the escalation clause if you’re in a buyer’s market or have a strict budget limit. You might reveal your max offer too soon, and automatic increases could push you over budget.

Are Escalation Clauses Illegal?

Generally, escalation clauses are not illegal. They are a recognized way to structure offers in many places. However, their usage could be impacted by local regulations, so it is always important to consult with a realtor about using them correctly.

Is an Escalation Clause a Bad Move for the Seller?

Not at all! In some situations, escalation clauses can actually help sellers. They make negotiations easier and could result in a higher eventual selling price too. However, sellers may lose out on better offers if they do not know what the purchaser’s actual upper limit is.

Can You Pull Out Of An Escalation Clause?

Normally, no, once a contract is finalized, you can’t simply retract an escalation clause; but if the seller fails to meet other conditions in your offer like financing approval then there may be room for negotiation. Always consult your real estate agent about this matter.

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