Escalation Clause For Real Estate in Massachusetts

Escalation Clause For Real Estate in Massachusetts

Thriving in today’s ever-evolving real estate markets requires more than basic knowledge. It would help to have a secret weapon, especially when the competition for desired properties skyrockets.

That’s where escalation clauses come in, like a knight in shining armor during a bidding war. More than often misunderstood and misapplied, these nifty provisions can be your ticket to landing that dream property in Massachusetts.

Join us as we delve deep into the ins and outs of escalation clauses in Massachusetts real estate contracts. We will reveal how they work and how to use them effectively for a smooth transaction process that keeps you ahead of the pack.

An escalation clause is a provision in a real estate contract that allows a buyer to increase their offer if competing bids come in automatically. It typically includes the buyer’s original offer, the maximum amount they are willing to pay, and the increments by which their offer will be escalated above competing offers.

This can help the buyer stand out in a multiple-offer situation while ensuring they don’t overpay unnecessarily. However, sellers may have preferences or limitations when accepting offers with escalation clauses.

Buyers should consult with their agent and understand local market conditions before including an escalator clause in their offer.

From three decades of experience working with buyers and sellers in Massachusetts, a real estate escalation clause can be a powerful tool. It is a vital element in sealing the deal in many negotiations. Those who use it wisely can have a significant edge.

When buying a property, sometimes it’s vital to pull out all the stops. Let’s examine the most vital points to understand.

What are Escalation Clauses in Massachusetts Real Estate?

Escalation Clause For Real Estate in Massachusetts

Escalation clauses in real estate contracts allow buyers to increase their offer automatically if competing bids come in. These clauses help buyers stay ahead in a competitive market by ensuring they can outbid other interested parties without constantly renegotiating their offers.

For instance, imagine you’re interested in purchasing a house listed at $700,000, and you submit an offer with an escalation clause of $5,000 increments up to a maximum of $725,000. If another buyer submits an offer of $705,000, your offer will automatically increase to $710,000, surpassing the competing bid.

The primary purpose of an escalation clause is to give buyers a competitive edge, especially when multiple offers are expected on a property. Buyers can demonstrate their seriousness and willingness to pay a higher price if necessary by including this provision in their offer.

Using them is one of the best ways of winning a bidding war.

Now that we understand what escalation clauses are let’s dive into the critical components of these clauses.

Critical Components of an Escalation Clause

An escalation clause typically consists of three crucial components. Understanding how to create an escalation clause is essential for buyer agents. Maximum Real Estate Exposure has excellent tips for writing them.

  1. Base Offer: This is the original offer amount the buyer is willing to pay for the property.
  2. Maximum Offer: The maximum amount the buyer is willing to escalate their offer if there are competing bids. It represents the highest price the buyer will pay for the property.
  3. Escalation Increment: Refers to the incremental amount the buyer’s offer will increase above competing offers. It specifies how much higher the buyer will go to secure the property. It’s called the “escalator.”

By clearly defining these components within an escalation clause, buyers set expectations. They also establish limits on how much they are willing to pay for a property while ensuring they remain competitive against other offers.

Home buyers who don’t understand an escalator clause should consult a real estate attorney before proceeding.

Overall, escalation clauses provide buyers with flexibility and assurance that they won’t miss out on a property due to being outbid by other buyers.

However, buyers must be realistic about how much they’re willing to offer. They must consider appraisal contingencies since lenders may not approve a loan if the bid exceeds the appraised value.

Example Clause

If the seller receives a bona fide offer from another buyer that surpasses the initial offer, the buyer has agreed to raise their offer by an additional $5000 above the highest competing offer. This increase will be applicable up to a maximum purchase price of $500,000.

Interesting Statistics

  • According to a 2021 report from the National Association of Realtors, about 33% of successful buyers used an escalation clause in their purchase offer.
  • That figure can go up; a survey by Redfin found that in Seattle – a highly competitive market – almost 50% of offers included an escalation clause in 2023.
  • A study by Zillow noted that homes where bids with escalation clauses were accepted sold at approximately 1-3% above the list price on average.

How Escalation Clauses Impact Property Bids in Massachusetts

Escalation clauses can positively and negatively impact property in a heated bidding war for highly desired properties. On the one hand, they can give buyers a competitive edge by automatically increasing their offer price above others up to the specified limit. This can show sellers that the buyer is serious and willing to go the extra mile financially.

Moreover, escalation clauses streamline the decision-making process for sellers by eliminating the need for back-and-forth negotiations. They provide clarity and transparency to all parties involved.

However, there are also potential drawbacks to consider. Sellers may have varying preferences regarding escalation clauses and may opt not to accept offers that include them.

Additionally, if the top price specified in the clause exceeds the property’s appraised value, it could lead to complications during the financing process. However, whether there was a clause or not, this would be the case.

Ask For an Appraisal Gap Guarantee

When the escalation amount exceeds the asking price, it is wise to ask for an appraisal gap guarantee. The guarantee essentially removes the appraisal contingency.

The buyer will state in the contract that if the purchase price exceeds the appraised value, they will cover the difference to satisfy the lender. This means the buyer may be forced to increase their down payment to cover the gap in the sale price vs appraisal value.

One of the things I always require from a home buyer when their bid is way over the asking price is an appraisal waiver. Without this documentation there is a strong chance the sale could fall through. Buyers need to put their money where there mouth is to ensure a solid sale.

Know Your Local Market

Buyers need to be aware of the particularities of their local real estate market and consult with a trusted real estate agent. The effectiveness of escalation clauses can vary based on factors such as regional market conditions, the specific property, and the preferences of the listing agent.

For instance, an escalation clause might be less effective in a seller’s market with numerous offers since intense competition is already driving up prices.

On the other hand, in scenarios with limited offers or competing offers with financing or closing cost assistance, they can make a substantial difference.

Ultimately, the decision to use an escalation clause in Massachusetts should be well-informed. It should be considered on a case-by-case basis, considering your financial limits and the specific circumstances of the housing market.

Practical Examples of Escalation Clauses in Action

Exploring practical examples is helpful to truly grasp the concept of escalation clauses in real estate contracts. Consider a scenario: Buyer A is interested in a house listed for $500,000 and recognizes that competing offers may exist.

They include an escalation clause in their offer, with an initial bid of $500,000 and an escalation increment of $5,000. They also set a maximum amount they are willing to pay, say $520,000.

Another potential buyer, Buyer B, has submitted an offer of $503,000 on the same property. Buyer A’s escalation clause automatically increases their offer by the agreed-upon increment of $5,000 above Buyer B’s offer.

Consequently, Buyer A’s new offer becomes $508,000. This process continues until either the maximum amount specified by the buyer is reached, or there are no more competing offers. Most real estate escalations clauses in Massachusetts will have a price cap.

Practical examples like this showcase how escalation clauses give buyers an edge in competitive markets while maintaining control over their maximum budget. However, it’s essential to consider some critical factors before using an escalation clause.

Considerations Before Using an Escalation Clause in Massachusetts

While escalation clauses can be advantageous in certain situations, careful consideration must be given before incorporating them into a real estate contract. Understanding these considerations can help buyers make informed decisions.

One crucial aspect is having a clear understanding of local market conditions. In areas where multiple offers are common, and bidding wars are prevalent, an escalator clause might be less effective as rival bids quickly push prices beyond what buyers are comfortable paying.

Buyers must also assess their affordability and financial capacity before setting the maximum price limit in the escalation clause. It’s crucial not to overextend one’s budget or risk being unable to secure financing if the appraised value does not align with the escalated bid.

Furthermore, buyers should work closely with their real estate agent to navigate the negotiation process effectively. Different sellers have varied preferences and processes for reviewing offers. Being well-informed and well-prepared before submitting an offer with an escalation clause is essential.

By carefully evaluating these considerations and consulting with professionals in the field, buyers can make educated decisions on whether or not to include them in their real estate contracts.

Impact on Sellers: Advantages and Disadvantages

Sellers are critical in determining whether to accept an offer that includes an escalation clause. Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of an escalation clause from a seller’s perspective.

On the advantageous side, escalator clauses often signal a buyer’s serious intent and willingness to pay more for the property. This can give sellers confidence in accepting the offer, knowing that the buyer is committed and financially capable.

Moreover, escalation clauses streamline the decision-making process by automatically increasing the buyer’s offer above competing offers. Sellers do not have to spend time and effort negotiating back and forth with multiple buyers.

However, sellers must consider potential disadvantages as well. One concern is that the final price specified in the escalation clause may exceed the property’s appraised value. This could lead to challenges when securing financing for the buyer, potentially delaying or even canceling the sale.

Some Massachusetts sellers may also choose not to accept offers with these clauses. They might prefer clear-cut offers without any contingencies or complications. Ultimately, it depends on each seller’s preferences and their assessment of market conditions.

Pros and Cons


  • It can help buyers secure a property in a competitive market by automatically increasing their offer price if there are higher competing offers.
  • It provides flexibility and saves time by avoiding the need for negotiation and counteroffers.
  • They may give buyers a competitive edge over other potential buyers, increasing their chances of being chosen by the seller.
  • Allows buyers to limit the maximum price they are willing to pay, protecting them from overpaying.


  • The specific terms and conditions of the escalation clause must be clearly defined to avoid confusion or disputes.
  • Can potentially create a bidding war, driving up the final purchase price beyond the buyer’s budget.
  • Sellers may reject offers with escalation clauses if they prefer to negotiate directly and have more control over the final sale price.
  • Including an escalation clause may discourage sellers from accepting the offer. The chances will increase if they believe higher offers without escalation clauses exist.

After being on both sides of the fence, I believe there are more benefits than drawbacks.

Remember, Other Terms Matter Besides the Price

Buyers must remember that other contract terms could be crucial to the seller. Some of them could include the following:

  • The amount of earnest money
  • Whether the buyer is paying cash or getting a mortgage
  • The contingencies and timeframes for them
  • The buyer’s requested closing date
  • Other miscellaneous terms in the offer

Consider these things when constructing an offer. Try to find out the seller’s hot buttons. Doing so will increase your chances of success. When there are other offers on the table, you can’t take a chance on not knowing what’s important.

Navigating the Escalation Clause Review Process in Massachusetts

Once an escalation clause is included in an offer, navigating through the review process becomes paramount. The review process can vary among sellers. Some specify a date for reviewing all offers, while others follow a back-and-forth approach, requesting the highest and best offers.

For buyers interested in utilizing an escalation clause effectively, it is essential to consult with their real estate agent beforehand. Agents familiar with local market dynamics can provide valuable insights into whether including the clause is advisable based on specific circumstances.

During the review process, buyers should be prepared to compete against other potential buyers who may include escalation clauses in their offers. This may increase the final price and create a more competitive bidding scenario.

It’s worth noting that while escalation clauses can be successful in certain situations, they are not universally effective. Regional market conditions, the specific property being sold, and the preferences of the listing agent can all influence the outcome.

Buyers should remain realistic about how much they are willing to offer. They must also consider appraisal contingencies if they are not in a position to cover the difference. Mortgage lenders may not approve a loan if the bid exceeds the appraised value.

Understanding the review process and market dynamics can help buyers navigate the complexities of using a Massachusetts escalation clause effectively.

The bottom line is that they can be a great asset in Massachusetts real estate when appropriately used.