A bidding war occurs when “there’s more than one person interested in buying the same property,” explains Laurin Jeffrey, a sales rep with Century 21. And Toronto is the trenches. “We have a reverse exodus going on. More people want to live in the city.”

First-time buyers are not ready to relinquish the loot of their first conquest; happening bars, restaurants, theatre, galleries and easy access to them. Unfortunately living where you play comes at a price. “You just have to get over it,” says Rebecca Laing, a sales rep with Sutton Partners Realty Inc. “If it’s a good house there’s probably going to be other people that want it.”

“Getting over it” is the number one hurdle facing first-time buyers entering a bidding war, according to Jeffrey. “If multiple people want the same thing if you don’t come in with a good high price you’re not going to get it.”

“The main thing is to almost ignore the listing price,” says Laing. “Decide what the house is worth to you. The listing price is irrelevant these days.” That’s the conclusion 27-year-old Jennifer Dewling eventually came to. “My first bid I was sure that five thousand over would be enough. Our realtor was like, ‘why are we bothering you’re not going to get it’… that was my naive phase,” she explains.

A year later and six missed opportunities under her belt, Dewling was savvier.

“The houses we were bidding on were undervalued. The asking price wasn’t what they were worth. We got more comfortable with that.” With this in mind Dewling developed a few strategies.

First she surveyed the battleground. “We would compare what similar houses in the neighbourhood were sold at or being listed for.” Second, she stayed away from hot zones. “We weren’t going to go crazy,” she says referring to a house that had 17 bidders. “If there were only five other bidders we could still be competitive.” And finally she increased her munitions. “Going only five thousand over was not going to help.”

It worked. On her seventh bid Dewling won the war. “It was surreal,” she says. “You know if you get a piercing or a tattoo and for half a second you think, what did I do, it’s the exact same thing.”

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