Regina Harper kept getting aced out.

The teacher’s aide and widow sold her 1,703-square foot, four-bedroom Buena Park house in May.

She was looking to downsize, but the homes she found online were snapped up before she could set foot inside. She managed to make offers on three places, but she was outbid each time. Once, she came in just $1,000 under the buyer.

“I did feel a lot of pressure,” said the 64-year-old great grandmother. “I kept saying, ‘I’m not going to find a home.’ “

Finally, after she rushed out to see a newly listed two-bedroom Anaheim townhouse listed at $439,000, the seller accepted her offer.

It was $25,000 over the asking price.


House hunting in Orange County has long been a challenge, but an especially low supply of homes on the market has heightened demand in what already was a seller’s market – one putting buyers at a disadvantage.

These days, bidding wars aren’t necessarily limited to the lower price ranges. A six-bedroom house in Huntington Beach’s upscale Edwards Hill community that recently sold at $2.55 million went for $151,000 over the asking price.

In May, nearly a third of homes – 29.8 percent – on the Multiple Listing Service in Orange County sold above the original asking price, compared to just under 24 percent in May 2016, according to real estate consultant Pat Veling, president of Real Data Strategies in Brea.*

Fewer than 5,800 existing homes were listed for sale at the end of May, said analyst Steve Thomas’ That compared to a May average of more than 9,200 homes for the past 13 years.

“The trend of a lack of inventory and red hot demand stoked by ultra low-interest rates does not look like it will change course anytime soon,” Thomas wrote in his report in early July.

“Multiple offers is the norm. This holds true for just about any property priced below $1.25 million that is in great condition, nicely appointed, in a good location, and priced right, close to its fair market value,” he said. “In the lower price ranges, buyers are tripping over each other.”

The low supply has pushed up prices. The median price of an Orange County home —the midpoint of all sales —rose to $695,000 in May, up 6.7 percent from a year prior.

For a sense of how those numbers are playing out on the ground, The Register searched for properties that sold in April and May, and with some help from hometrackers Zillow and Redfin, came up with a sampling of houses that went for well over what the sellers were asking.


Robert Mack sold a home in Irvine’s Northpark Square community for $50,000 above the list price. He and other agents interviewed said while they priced strategically, they didn’t low-ball their listings.

“If you price the home too low, you’re going to get too many offers and sometimes the buyers will bid up higher than what they wanted to go to and then they’ll get buyer’s remorse and then they’ll back out,” said Mack, of Keller Williams Realty. “If it goes back on the market, the entire strategy is essentially ruined.”

The 2,125-square-foot, three-bedroom house on a corner lot on Riverdale was listed at $950,000. Mack figured it could sell for as much as $970,000, maybe $980,000.

It received 11 offers and went for $1 million.

The sale price on the Edwards Hill home also surprised listing agent Jody Clegg of First Team Real Estate, who said she did a lot of early marketing before the 4,800-square-foot house hit the Multiple Listing Service at $2.399 million. Five offers later, it sold for $2.55 million.

“We had no idea it would get bid up to that degree,” Clegg said.

“I would say it was priced very close to what it should be,” said Terry Rylski, of Coldwell Banker-Campbell Realtors, who represented the buyers. “It just happened, a perfect storm – several people said, ‘Oh my God, that house, that street, that yard, that pool.’ ”

She said it’s pretty rare to see a price set too low in a high-end market: “I won’t say it never happens, but they’d look ridiculous.”

Homes priced in the $600,000s have crowds pouring through them.

Regina Harper had a tough time finding a home - until she bid $25,000 over the asking price for one in Anaheim. (Photo by Ken Steinhardt, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Regina Harper had a tough time finding a home – until she bid $25,000 over the asking price for one in Anaheim. (Photo by Ken Steinhardt, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Chris Robertson marketed a home in Aliso Viejo with slick photos and drone shots and drew packed open houses through the weekend. The house, a standout on Poplar Drive with a bright yellow door, received five offers in fewer than five days on the market.

All but one of the offers were above the $680,000 list price, the Coldwell Banker agent said. The house sold for $700,000.

In Lake Forest, Genelle Geronsin used a spreadsheet to track 13 offers for a single story, four-bedroom house with a pergola-covered patio on Redlen Street.

The house, listed for $645,000, drew offers ranging from $630,000 to $680,000, said Geronsin, of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. Seven of the 13 offers were between $655,000 to $660,000.

Geronsin knew the sellers probably would get multiple offers, but, as the other agents have said, “I just didn’t know we’d go into a multiple that high.”

The buyers not only offered the most money, they also waived the appraisal contingency, meaning they would pay the difference if the value of the home didn’t match their offer. They also agreed to shorten their contingency period, she said.


Even in an intensely competitive market, contingencies aren’t necessarily a deal breaker, said Joel Kott, who listed a meticulous three-bedroom house on East St. James Ave. in Orange that sold for $36,000 over the asking price.

“Being contingent isn’t necessarily the end of the world,” said Kott, of Paul Kott Realtors. “But you’ve got to be on the market (with your own house). If you’re not even on the market, you’re kind of behind the 8 ball.”

The couple who wound up with the St. James house also went beyond the trend of writing a letter to try to persuade the seller they’d be the best bet.

They sent over a gift basket that included goodies for the homeowner’s small children.

But speed is Job 1.

Harper knew she’d have to hustle to Anaheim. And when she entered the townhouse on South Paula Lane, she knew she had to make a quick decision.

“I saw it pop up on the market,” said her agent, Amanda Michael of Century 21 Discovery, “the next morning we went and looked at it, and we wrote up an offer that afternoon.”

*Not included were properties sold off market, as pocket listings or directly by owners.


Some homes that sold over asking prices:

6581 Polo Circle, Huntington Beach (Photo by Marilyn Kalfus, Orange County Register/SCNG)
6581 Polo Circle, Huntington Beach (Photo by Marilyn Kalfus, Orange County Register/SCNG)

6581 Polo Circle, Huntington Beach
Size: 4,800 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms
Year built: 1992
Features: The Edwards Hill house is set on a quarter acre, and has a winding brick pathway and front porch. The home includes a dining room, white cabinetry in the kitchen, marble counters in the master bathroom and a bonus room. In the backyard are a swimming pool, spa, cabana and fire pit, as well as a barbecue, outdoor kitchen and a bar with seating.
Asking price: $2.399 million (April 12)
Sold: $2.55 million (April 16)
Over ask: $151,000

10 Ravendale, Irvine (Photo by Marilyn Kalfus, Orange County Register/SCNG)
10 Ravendale, Irvine (Photo by Marilyn Kalfus, Orange County Register/SCNG)

10 Ravendale, Irvine
Size: 2,125 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
Year built: 2003
Features: Set on a corner lot in Northpark Square, the house has an island kitchen and breakfast bar and living and family rooms, and includes upgraded flooring, plantation-style shutters and a fireplace. In the master suite are a garden tub, separate shower and dual vanity sinks.
Asking price: $950,000 (March 30)
Sold: $1 million (May 23)
Over ask: $50,000

1237 E. St. James Ave., Orange (Photo by Marilyn Kalfus, Orange County Register/SCNG)
1237 E. St. James Ave., Orange (Photo by Marilyn Kalfus, Orange County Register/SCNG)

1237 E. St. James Ave., Orange
Size: 1,500 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
Year built: 1961
Features: The house recently was upgraded inside and out. The new open kitchen has quartz countertops, a large island and stainless steel appliances. Tile flooring extends through the main living areas, with wood floors in the bedrooms. The master’s bathroom has a steam room and dual vanities. The garage, with built-in storage and upgraded electrical, also can accommodate parking in the backyard, which includes a covered, lit patio, a built-in barbecue island and TV hookups.
Asking price: $649,000 (March 20)
Sold: $685,000 (May 4)
Over ask: $36,000

24472 Redlen St., Lake Forest (Photo by Marilyn Kalfus, Orange County Register/SCNG)
24472 Redlen St., Lake Forest (Photo by Marilyn Kalfus, Orange County Register/SCNG)

24472 Redlen St., Lake Forest
Size: 1,564 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
Year built: 1972
Features: The single-story house boasts upgrades including granite counters, dual pane windows, raised panel doors, mirrored closets, recessed lights and new baseboards. An expansive living room has vaulted ceilings and a granite-surround fireplace. The kitchen was remodeled and is outfitted with stainless steel appliances and a breakfast bar; a dining nook opens to the backyard. By the lawn is a pergola-covered patio.
Asking price: $645,000 (April 21)
Sold: $680,000 (May 24)
Over ask: $35,000

Regina Harper's home on S. Paula Lane in Anaheim, CA on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Homes around Orange County are selling for over their asking prices. Harper paid $25,000 over asking for her home. (Photo by KEN STEINHARDT, Orange County Register/SCNG)
S. Paula Lane, Anaheim (Photo by Ken Steinhardt, Orange County Register/SCNG)

S. Paula Lane, Anaheim
Size: 1,151 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
Year built: 1976
Features: The one-story, attached home is located in the Eastmont Villas community. Interiors include Travertine flooring, a vaulted ceiling in the master bedroom, plantation shutters, closets with mirrored doors, newer carpeting and central air conditioning. The yard has a side area that could be a dog run. The home is a short stroll to the community swimming pool and two tennis courts.
Asking price: $439,000 (April 5)
Sold: $464,000 (May 4)
Over ask: $25,000

28 Poplar Drive, Aliso Viejo (Photo by Marilyn Kalfus, Orange County Register/SCNG)
28 Poplar Drive, Aliso Viejo (Photo by Marilyn Kalfus, Orange County Register/SCNG)

28 Poplar Drive, Aliso Viejo
Size: 1,650 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
Year built: 1994
Features: Set in Pacific Grove, the house boasts formal living and dining rooms and high ceilings. There are stainless steel appliances, recessed lights and engineered wood floors. The backyard has a patio with pavers and synthetic turf.
Asking price: $680,000 (April 6)
Sold: $700,000 (May 22)
Over ask: $20,000