phantom offer
n. A nonexistent offer to purchase a house, used to coerce people making real offers into raising their prices.
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In yet another sign that buyers are losing their patience, the Real Estate Council of Ontario plans to introduce new regulations July 1 that are meant to crack down on so-called “phantom offers.” That’s when unscrupulous agents hint to potential buyers that they have another offer that doesn’t actually exist in the hope of extracting more money. Under the new rules, agents won’t be allowed to suggest or imply that they have another offer unless it’s signed and delivered.
—Chris Sorenson, “Thought the real estate market couldn’t get any crazier? Think again,” Maclean's, June 13, 2015
The target is "phantom bids:" to prevent unsavoury agents from inventing nonexistent buyers to drive a home’s price up, brokerages will now have to keep documented proof of each offer brought to the table. … Since 2002, only four phantom offer cases have been prosecuted out of the four million real estate deals that took place in Ontario.
—Denise Balkissoon, “The Realtors of Oz: Bidding wars are unnecessarily sleazy,” The Globe and Mail, May 07, 2014
Inventing phantom offers to drive up your price

Your below-asking-price offer has been accepted, the property you are buying is off the market, and it’s all steam ahead towards completion. Then the next week, the Estate Agent calls to say that someone who viewed the property previously has put in an offer a few thousand pounds above yours. You smell a rat.
—“Estate agents’ tricks,” Home Owners Alliance, October 17, 2013
2005 (earliest)
Though I'd be interested to hear opinions on how, from a buyers perspective, one can distinguish a real offer from a phantom offer. I prefer to make offers in the mindset that there are no other offers regardless of whether I'm told there are or not and if I get trumped by another buyer so be it. At least that way I've avoided the possibility of having my price jacked up by an illusion.
—bweed, “Weird multiple offer 'rules'” (reply), Somersoft Property Investors Forum, September 12, 2005
The phrase phantom offer is quite old, dating to at least 100 years ago in contexts such as stock selling and corporate buyouts. As this entry shows, the phrase is relatively new in the housing real estate market.
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