If You Want it, Put It In Writing!

The Northern Virginia real estate market is hot. Buyers are competing for homes and finding that they need to be efficient and organized in their approach to making offers to purchase.
Last month, I listed a home for approximately $450,000. We had over 50 groups through the open house the first Sunday it was listed. We had at least 15 agent-led groups through on the first weekend. By Monday, the calls started coming in.contract
'My client loves the house. Would your client consider their offer of $425,000?'
'That house is perfect for my client, would your client sell for $415,000?'
'I want to talk to you about my client's offer. They can't afford the listing price.'
No. That is not the way I negotiate a home sale. What do I always say? 'Put their offer in writing and we'll be having a conversation.'
Yes. There are times when I  have a phone conversation with another Agent about an offer, but it usually follows receipt of a written offer and involves the back and forth of finalizing the details of a contract (such as settlement date and possession).
A serious offer is worth taking the time to put it in writing. If your Realtor does not put your offer in writing, they are not representing your best interests--or they are well aware that you are 'fishing,' a practice that should be laid to rest, given the current Northern Virginia market.
I have seen these phone offers go nowhere. I often get these calls, tell them to put it in writing, and the agent, and their client, disappear. That tells me all I need to know about the purchaser and their intent. I am well aware that some of these purchasers might be serioous, but I have found that the most serious buyers will be willing to put their John Hancock to an offer. Those who aren't are usually having their agent make many of these calls and trying to find a 'deal.'
I always tell  my buyers, if it is not worth putting in writing, it is not worth making the call. If you really want a property, get your offer in writing and start the conversation. That is just good business.


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Comment balloon 23 commentsHolly Weatherwax • March 23 2013 08:09AM


Great heading and topic. The market in our area is so hot that there is no time for phone calls. I show homes with contract prepared ahead of time.  If they want the house they just need to fill in the price and sign the contract.

Posted by Les & Sarah Oswald, Broker, Realtor and Investor (Realty One Group) almost 7 years ago

Without a contract, the negotiations mean nothing! 

Posted by Gerard Gilbers, Your Marketing Master (Higher Authority Markeing) almost 7 years ago

Sarah and Les, I know, we are seeing the same kind of market.

Gerard, Yep, unless it is writing, it is just a waste of time. Even if someone engages in phone negotiations, a written contract will likely trump anything theoretical discussions!

Posted by Holly Weatherwax, A Great Real Estate Experience ( Associate Broker, Momentum Realty) almost 7 years ago

Fortunately, they are not saying, "Mr. Joe Blow is offering $425,000 for this property and settle in 45 days.  Will the buyer accept it?"

According to the counsel for the DPOR, that is an offer and has to be presented even though it's verbal.  Of course, it wouldn't be enforceable.

I dislike that rule. 

I like Sarah and Lee's practice.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Hi Holly, I wrote a similar blog recently.  I tell my clients all the time, "A verbal offer isn't worth the paper it's not printed on." In another business I was in people wanted a reduced price quote on something we were selling and we always resisted.  If you give them a number, it's a hunting license to go to the next place and say, "I can buy this for $X.  will you take $Y? 

Posted by Dan Tabit (Keller Williams Bellevue) almost 7 years ago

Lenn, You are right. Before we list, I always talk to my clients about verbal offers. When they come in, I call my clients and, inevitably, they will ask that it be put in writing.  Good preparation makes well educated clients.

Posted by Holly Weatherwax, A Great Real Estate Experience ( Associate Broker, Momentum Realty) almost 7 years ago

Dan, I agree with you. A serious buyer will not hesitate to put it in writing. If they do, then how serious are they? A wheeler-dealer is not always a serious buyer...they are just seriously looking for a deal.


Posted by Holly Weatherwax, A Great Real Estate Experience ( Associate Broker, Momentum Realty) almost 7 years ago

Holly - I couldn't agree with you more and right in my listing agreement it states verbal offers will not be presented. There is more to an offer than price, like escrow, financing, close, inspection period, seller concessions, etc.

Posted by Michelle Gibson, REALTOR (Hansen Real Estate Group Inc. ) almost 7 years ago

Preach it Holly!!!  How many times do we have to remind our peers, that unless the "offer" is in writing it's in no one's best interest to move forward!  Now, of course if they are asking if there's "offers" forthcoming or in hand I will disclose this, it's part of my listing agreement with my seller to disclose all "written" offers to the agent, although not the price!  Excellent article!!!  This "spring" and summer market is going to be "off the chain!"  I'm ready to make it happen!  Thanks for sharing!!!!!

Posted by Rick Perry, RickP (Realty World - Select) almost 7 years ago

I present all offer, but let the agent know that this is simply a "trial balloon" and that it is unlikely it will fly.. then then sometime can go back to their buyer and then see if they want to make a "REAL" offer in writing.. and sometimes this will work... I just had this happen and now we are under contract... with a written contract!  :)

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) almost 7 years ago

If they're serious, they won't mind giving you what you want.

Posted by Jill Sackler, LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate (Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500) almost 7 years ago

Yep, our market is really crazy right now too.  A verbal gets you absolutely nowhere.

Posted by Paula McDonald ~ GRI, Granbury, TX 936-203-0279 (Beam & Branch Realty) almost 7 years ago
Excellent point! Gotta put it in writing for it to count!
Posted by Randy Bocook, Selling Coastal Georgia (Keller Williams Coastal Area Partners) almost 7 years ago

I once had an agent call me and say, "Here's how I do things, we'll do all our negotiating verbally and once we agree on terms, I'll put it in writing." My response, "If your client wants to make an offer, put it in writing." She did and it was quite a mess. I could see why she wanted to do everything verbally.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) almost 7 years ago

Holly-I prefer the written offer too. Don't understand why Buyer's agents don't appreciate the disadvantage I put the Seller in by working with an unenforeable verbal discussion.

Posted by Wayne Johnson, San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale (Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS®) almost 7 years ago
It's only what put in writing that counts.
Posted by MichelleCherie Carr Crowe Just Call...408-252-8900, Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years (Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty) almost 7 years ago

Holly, good for you, it is very hard negotiating a conversation. Always, always in writing.

Posted by Mark Horan, "The Resident Chef" - Resident Team Realty LLC & (Resident Team Realty, LLC & Toni's Property Management LLC) almost 7 years ago

It's hard to negotiate without an offer on the table.

Thanks for the featured post today Holly.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) almost 7 years ago

I;m sure that your property is already under contract . congrats!

. .there area lot lazy agents out there Holly

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) almost 7 years ago

Couldn't agree more Holly.  It's not valid if it's not in writing.  I'll go verbal on negotiations if it's an agent I know and have worked with before, but that's about it.  

Posted by Amanda Christiansen, Christiansen Group Realty (Christiansen Group Realty (260)704-0843) almost 7 years ago

I've never understood why people (including real estate agents) have such a hard time with understanding that in real estate if it's NOT in writing there is NO contract!

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage ) almost 7 years ago

We have it in our contracts we don't present verbals, so I hope we are covered. I always have the buyer put it in writing.

Posted by Charles Stallions Real Estate Services, Buyers Agent 800-309-3414 Pace and Gulf Breeze,Fl. (Charles Stallions Real Estate Services Inc) almost 7 years ago
My mother taught me the only offer that counts is the written one in my hand right now.
Posted by MichelleCherie Carr Crowe Just Call...408-252-8900, Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years (Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty) almost 7 years ago

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