Photo: James Bombales

We’ve all faced the sting of rejection — that big, fat “no” has hit us hard, from the college acceptance letter that never arrived, to the romantic feelings that turned out to not be mutual. Even in the pursuit of homeownership, rejection makes an unwelcome appearance.

After passing the stress test and saving for a healthy downpayment, getting the keys to your first home is still out of reach without first having your offer accepted by the seller. The process of submitting offers and taking part in bidding wars inevitably leads to rejection for some. Not every buyer can win, yet it still hurts when your offer isn’t the one.

“fMRI studies actually show that [the] same areas in our brain become activated when we experience rejection as we experience physical pain, so there’s a strong feeling that we get,” says Ashley Kreze, a clinical director, registered clinical counsellor and registered psychotherapist based out of Vancouver.

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As Canada’s largest housing markets remain unaffordable for many prospective buyers, the desire to own real estate is still strongly felt. A 2018 report conducted by the Canadian Real Estate Association found that 86 percent of Millennials want to own a home someday, while six in 10 Millennials rated housing affordability as a top or very high priority for the federal government to address. This desire to participate in the roles of homeownership is what makes offer rejection so painful. As Kreze explains, the need to belong is a social instinct rooted within human beings. Being rejected from the rest of the group, and rejected from our ability to participate in homeownership, creates a painful emotional response.

“From an evolutionary perspective, being part of the group, being part of the tribe, meant survival,” says Kreze. “So rejection kind of hits us hard when we feel it in today’s world, even though from an evolutionary perspective, we may not have the same perceived threats around us. We still get that response.”

While we can’t completely unwire our mind’s reaction to rejection, there are ways to lessen the blow of offer rejection: finding emotional coping mechanisms, or creating good strategies that will improve the odds of getting your offer accepted.

“At the end of the day, it’s what the seller wants, but it’s also what the buyer’s willing to pay or willing to do to get that property,” says Derek Ladouceur, a Toronto-based real estate agent with Re/Max Hallmark Realty.

If you’re working on your first offer, or have felt the pangs of offer rejection before, Ladouceur and Kreze have some advice on how to make offer rejection work to your benefit.

Get your ducks in a row

When placing an offer on a home, you’ll find yourself in one of two camps: the property has been on the market for a little while, or you’re one of several buyers lining up with offers to present on a specific date on a property that’s been freshly listed. The camp you fall into will dictate how much pre-planning is required ahead of your offer submission.

Photo: James Bombales

If your property has been on the market for a few weeks, Ladouceur says that you’ll have the luxury of time to place conditional clauses in your offer — provisions that once they are completed within a set time frame will allow the offer to become fully accepted by both parties. An inspection finance clause, for instance, allows the buyer to examine the condition of the property while the home is tentatively sold to them. If the inspection clause isn’t fulfilled or the inspection brings up questionable result, the offer could fall apart or be renegotiated.

“If you’re putting an offer in on a property and they’re not holding back offers and it’s a property that’s been on the market for a little bit, you can go into it with eyes wide open,” says Ladouceur. “You can take the time to make sure your financing is in place by putting a financing clause in. You can make sure that even if they have a home inspection… [you can] put in a condition for that as well.”

However, if you’re heading into a multi-offer bidding war, it’s best to have home inspections and mortgage approvals complete ahead of time. In a bidding war, the seller is in the driver’s seat: they’re likely to choose the offer that gives them the best price and the most assurance of a firm sell. Placing a conditional offer on the table next to offers that have fewer strings attached could make yours appear less appealing.

“If people are holding back on offers, and there are multiple offers, and you go in with a financing clause and then a home inspection clause, there’s probably a good chance that you’re not going to get it because there’s going to be someone else that doesn’t have those conditions in,” says Ladouceur.


Ladouceur says getting a mortgage pre-approval and ordering a home inspection ahead of the presentation date saves you from adding clauses into your offer, which could spare you from rejection.

“That’s why I always tell clients [that] if you see something you like, we have to move on it,” he says. “If this is something that you think you’re going to like, then we need to move on it now so that we can get everything organized and ready, so that on offer night, we’re 100 percent comfortable with what we’re doing.”

Make the best ballpark offer

While conditional clauses can make you seem less desirable in an offer presentation, they serve an important purpose. A home inspection can spot deteriorating foundations; a financing clause could spare your from mortgage payments that could render you house poor. However, clauses that aren’t pertinent to the sale of the house, Ladouceur says, can be left out in multi-offer scenarios. Placing extra expectations on the seller, like requesting that the house be professionally cleaned prior to buyer occupancy, can put a seller off and cause them to reject the offer.

“When you’re a seller and you have six offers in front of you, you kind of hold the cards, not the buyer,” says Ladouceur. “You kind of have to limit yourself and not throw of these demands on the seller, because they seller can just turn around and say, ‘Yeah, this isn’t going to work for me, I’m just going to take the other offer.’”


In a bidding war, you could have the best offer: the one with the highest price and the lowest number of conditions, but anything as minor as your closing date being far out could convince the seller to consider the competition. Ladouceur stresses that getting in to see the property prior to the offer date will allow you to get the information you’ll need for writing an appealing offer. A pro-active buyer’s realtor, Ladouceur says, should build rapport with the listing agent to gauge what the seller’s offer expectations are. A listing agent won’t straight up offer what the seller is looking for, but should give you a ballpark guess.

“Your realtor needs to go to the seller’s realtor and say, ‘Listen, what is your ideal closing date?’” says Ladouceur. “All [of] those kinds of things need to be answered immediately so that you know, and your buyer knows that, ‘Okay, this is what we’re working with.’”

Re-evaluate and rejuvenate

Even if you put in all of the legwork and research you can, your offer may still be rejected. If you encounter rejection from multiple properties, Ladouceur and Kreze say that it may be time to re-evaluate.

Searching for a cheaper home in the next community over from your ideal location could be a strategy for offering a better price in the next round of offers, says Ladouceur. Adjusting your expectations for size or finishes may also be necessary. If you’re not winning offers, Ladouceur recommends asking your realtor what you could be doing better. If they don’t have answers, he says it might be time to work with someone else.

“You shouldn’t be losing out on multiples over and over again. If that’s the case, then it’s one of two things — your realtor doesn’t know the area, or you are not allowing your realtor to do their job by saying, ‘This is the price point that we need to go to.’”

Talking to a loved one or opening up to someone about a refused offer, Kreze explains, can soothe the pain of rejection. Reducing self-criticism and practicing self-compassion are good strategies for lessening the effects a disappointing rejection can inflict. Rejection is painful, but it can be used as a reset button when things don’t go as expected to determine if we’re on the right path.

When making decisions, Kreze says you want to make sure that there are smart goals attached to it. If you’re reaching for something that is unattainable in the current circumstances, such as buying a house in an expensive market, she explains, it may be time to reconsider.

“Try to keep things in perspective about what it is that we’re working towards in reevaluating our expectations along the way and say, ‘Okay, perhaps the markets have changed, where are we today and what’s within reach for my needs and my wants?’”

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