War Story: Sometimes Giving the Seller a Place to Live Seals the Deal

We received another fantastic entry for our War Stories feature this week. This one is from Redfin commited user and longtime booster Peter C. He and his wife were making a big move to the East Coast in 1999 and came up with a creative trade that sealed the deal. Here it is, in his own words:


In 1998, I traveled to the Boston-area from California to find housing for my wife and I during grad school. On the school’s intranet I found a post by a graduating student who wanted to sell her condo/townhome a few blocks away from campus.

I stopped by the house unannounced,introduced myself and discovered over normal chit chat that the seller was coincidentially moving to our neighborhood in California after graduation, but didn’t yet have housing in the uber-competitive bay area housing market.

I asked about buying the Boston condo (it was perfect for us) hoping for an inside-deal, but the seller wisely said that the Boston market was as frothy as California and that she was planning on simply taking the highest price (and she had already engaged an agent) based on offers received the next day. She had had indications that at least 6 offers were forthcoming.

My wife (who was back in California and hadn’t seen the place) and I quickly determined we wanted the condo, but couldn’t afford a bidding war. Therefore, we made an offer and we included a clause that obligated the buyer (us) to provide the seller 4 months free housing at the buyer’s home in California.

The risk we took is that the seller could’ve been an axe-murderer (we didn’t know her at all other than my “drop-by” meeting the day before) or merely obnoxious as a four-month roommate. We also risked paying a few extra months of our California mortgage before selling, but that was far less than what we would’ve needed to increase our bid to win the deal solely on price.

The seller did in fact get 7 offers, most higher than ours, but we won the bid anyway because the seller was worried about her California housing situation and we solved that for her. And a month later we had a random stranger as a roommate for the entire summer.

Thanks Peter for the excellent story and a great lesson for all of us about how important it can be to make sure you take account of all the factors when you make an offer. Sometimes, there are elements even more important than money when you really want to the seal the deal. For his effort, Peter gets dinner at the restaurant of his choice. Do you want us to buy you dinner? Just share your great offer story with us and, if we post it, we’ll give you $50 towards dinner at your favorite place. Just email it to eric.heller (at) redfin.com.


  • Glenn Kelman

    Full disclosure; Peter works for Vulcan and sits on our board. But his War Story is still pretty good.

    Peter gave his free dinner away to Savan Kong, ace Redfin designer, who is headed to Vegas this weekend.

    Other contributors don’t have to be so generous…