The truth about “verbally-accepted offers”

by Paul Cowhig, Advisor, Professional Standards

I’ve had several calls from agents who said they had “verbally accepted” offers with the expectation that the contracts would be signed the next morning. You know what happened in each case don’t you?

Before those contracts were signed, there were new offers on the table and it became a multiple offer scenario.

We can’t get mad at the listing agent if there is no legally-enforceable contract in place. Remember your fiduciary duties to your client. What do you think the sellers’ instructions would be if you came to them and said,

“As you know, we verbally agreed to accept the offer from Agent ‘A’ last night but I have since received another offer(s). I have to tell you that you are not legally-bound to take last nights’ offer even though we verbally agreed to it. Would you like to see those offers before accepting the one from last night?”

This sort of scenario shines the light on how we demonstrate our professionalism both in the way we cooperate with each other and how we protect our clients.

Once your client instructs you to act on a property, the best course of action is to act immediately to “paper the deal.”

If you procrastinate or one client is legitimately not available to finish signing or initialing the contract, and you act and talk like you have a deal only to find out differently in the morning, don’t blame anyone – because you never had a deal.

Most importantly, ensure you client is specifically told they DO NOT have an accepted offer until the deal is fully signed.

If the buyers think they have a deal, they’ll start emotionally “moving in” overnight only to have you arrive to evict them in the morning. Major bummer!

Neither agent should ever say the words, “We’ve got a deal! I’ll get the initials/signatures in the morning.”

  • If you can’t get the initials/ signatures there is no deal.
  • If, as the listing agent, you know, or find out there will be more showings before you can get initials, let the other agent know that so you won’t blindside them later if another offer shows up.
  • As a buyer agent, don’t put the deal, your client, your professional reputation or your license at risk because you don’t feel like going out after dinner. Do what it takes to get the agreement signed if it is at all possible. That’s your job. All of us need to get proficient at using DocuSign or AuthentiSIGN. Technology is only as good as your ability to use it.
  • Our skills, knowledge, experience coupled with our ability to use the tools of the trade on behalf of our clients are all reasons why they hire us. That’s all part of the significant power and value of what we bring to the table.

Bottom line – there is no such thing as a “verbally-accepted offer.” You need a properly executed, signed contract. Only then can you say, “Congratulations! You’ve got a deal.”