What is a verbal offer?

Asked by Chris, Boise, ID Mon Aug 25, 2008

When your realtor says that he will put verbal offer, does it mean it gets all the way down to the seller or only to the seller's agent?

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Alan May, Agent, Evanston, IL
Wed Nov 5, 2008
A verbal offer is only as good as the paper it's written on.

It's a way some agents have of "fishing" to see if the seller (or seller's agent) thinks an offer might be well-received, and worth writing. A verbal offer is not enforceable, and since it's not written-down, it's often loaded with misunderstandings, since things are not spelled-out.

Let's take for example... your realtor gives a verbal offer to the seller at $500,000. The seller agrees... "go ahead and write it up"... when it's written, they suddenly notice that you've asked for a 200% tax proration, you expect the seller to pay for all the inspections (including termite, mold and radon), the contract is contingent on selling YOUR home first, and they have 180 days to close.

The seller says "if I'd known about all of those other contingencies, I would never have accepted $500,000... so the contract is null and void, OR you can pay $600,000.

Do you see this ending well? Everyone's feelings are hurt, and the deal dies. Always better to put it in writing.
3 votes
Diane Wheatl…, Agent, Upland, CA
Mon Aug 25, 2008
No such thing as a verbal offer except to call an agent and throw out a number to see the reaction of the agent and the seller if the agent is so inclined to ask him. A verbal offer would be a way to simply "feel out a seller" to see if a written offer would be in the ballpark and not a waste of time.

If you are interested in a property, truly interested, always put it in writing. Power and influence of the written word can make an enormous difference. Good luck!!
2 votes
Debt Free Da…, , 85260
Mon Aug 25, 2008
You are just making an offer verbally without the benefit of a written contract. Most listing agents don't take them very seriously. I'm not sure I would go that route if you are really interested in the property.
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1 vote
Visio2014, Home Buyer, New York, NY
Fri Dec 4, 2015
You can verbally OK on the buyer agent verbal offer, but have written offer sent within requested the time because verbal OK means nothing unless the offer document is acceptable on contingency, down payment , buyer funds and more. The seller agent can counter offer , if the offer is close to the offered price or reject or let it expire or accept. Have no ego, but play with the rules because I was seller one-time and been through Buyer/Agent unprofessional approach. Most serious buyer/agent will work with you, but those unsure will run-away from sending written offer. It is always good to check for lender approval and financial information by Seller and Seller agent before Buyer Agent and Buyer visit your house and have them visit by appointment unless you have vacant house for sale.
0 votes
Diana Watson,…, Agent, Fayetteville, NC
Sat Mar 15, 2014

Sometimes to avoid the back and forth amending of documents, agents on behalf of their clients will put a verbal in to the other party. This may happen for a variety of reasons.

For instance, you have client who is ready to buy with everything in check but insists on making an offer that has more of a possibility to be rejected. So you call the other agent and put in a verbal offer. The agent tells his or her seller what that offer is and seller absolutely says no. It gets relayed to the buyer and he/she knows either to change it or don't offer.

Unfortunately, verbal offers are not enforceable. Diligent and competent agents who receive offers verbal or otherwise must present all offers to the seller. It doesn't matter what that agent may feel towards the offer made. We present it to the seller. The seller may ask their agent for advice and so forth but ultimately its the seller's decision to respond. Once an offer is reduced in writing It is either accepted or its dead even if he counters, the original offer is dead in this case.

In the end, its always better to put it in writing!
0 votes
Jim Paulson, Agent, Boise, ID
Wed Sep 28, 2011
This question was asked three years ago, but it is still getting web traffic (hence why your here reading it) so I figured I should point out that in the state of Idaho we have the Statute of Frauds. I am not an attorney, but it essentially says that in order to be enforced, real estate contracts have to be in writing.

A shrewd negotiator may make an offer verbally and then bury their "conditions" in fine print. Then, they will try to make you feel like you are one not complying because you already "agreed".

When people call me to see if my seller's will accept less on a listing, I always tell them the only way to find out is to submit a written offer since the only I know as fact is at full price and normal contingencies, the home will be sold as listed. Even if a Realtor knows a seller will accept less, they are not supposed to share that confidential information!
0 votes
Jason Stevens, , Englewood, FL
Fri Apr 16, 2010
I agree with all the answer below. A written offer leaves no question as to what you are offering. Price is just one component of an offer. There are many other terms to consider. Matthew below is correct that we as buyers agents must present ANY offer whether it be verbal or written. This is also true of a listing agent so altough I do agree with Matthew's statment in theory : that there are instances where the agent representing the seller may decide that the verbal is too low and unfortunately not inform the seller of your intent to purchase. Hense, your verbal never trickles down to the true decision maker.

HOWEVER: A listing agent MUST unless directed by their seller (and I'd get it in writing) present ANY AND ALL OFFERS whether VERBAL or WRITTEN. An agent cannot make a decision that a verbal offer is too low and therefor not communicate it to the seller. This would be considered "concealment" and is punishable by the licensing Board. The listing agent would be in VERY hot water if the seller ever found out that his agent had a verbal offer that he or she never told them about. What if things changed in the seller's life that caused the seller to accept a lowball offer and the agent didn't present? Not good and I wouldn't want to be that agent.
0 votes
Matthew Le B…, Agent, Nampa, ID
Thu Nov 6, 2008

An agent representing a seller must legally present all offers --verbal or written--to the seller . However, there are instances where the agent representing the seller may decide that the verbal is too low and unfortunately not inform the seller of your intent to purchase. Hense, your verbal never trickles down to the true decision maker. With that, and piggy-backing on a previous comments, I would highly suggest putting your offer in writing.

Matthew Le Baron, D.B. Trust Realty
0 votes
Aaron Catt, Agent, Meridian, ID
Wed Nov 5, 2008

A verbal offer is only a way to test the waters. To be quite honest, they hold no value whatsoever. If you are trying to test the water on a property, you'll want to make sure it is in writing. A written offer is much more appealing to the seller when they can touch and feel the offer itself.

A good Realtor doesn't make a practice of putting in verbal offers, and furthermore, a good Realtor will do their best to present at good looking written offer directly to the sellers. That way, they can pitch your offer to the sellers and bring some emotion to the situation and use some good negotiating tactics.
0 votes
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