When it comes to buying a property, you should never rely on verbal agreements.
All property transactions must be recorded on a legal contract and include any special conditions or inclusions. This includes listing your property as a seller. Having a listing agreement in place will allow you to have your expectations confirmed.
When buying, resist the temptation to ask an agent to place a verbal offer. You might be doing it for the right reason and that is that you’re trying to save yourself some time, but the reality is that any agent who negotiates this way is not a skilled negotiator. A verbal offer means nothing. Even if the seller comes back through their agent and indicates an acceptance, nothing is legally agreed upon until it is in writing and confirmed by signatures.
Look at it from the seller’s point of view for a moment. There’s nothing more exciting to a seller than seeing a contract with an attached deposit cheque. Even if the proposed purchase price isn’t quite what they were hoping for it is certainly a step closer to selling their property. It shows them that you are serious, but you’ve taken the time to prepare the contract, signed it and write out a deposit cheque. It may just be the first step but if it’s going to help you secure the property and give you the opportunity to negotiate the purchase price, then why wouldn’t you do it.
Another trap when it comes to verbal offers is if the seller or the sellers agent, says they’ll throw in the light fittings or a dishwasher in the sale and it’s not in writing. Once again it means nothing and certainly wouldn’t stand up after the settlement if you couldn’t prove in writing that was agreed to. Make sure everything is included on the contract; otherwise you may move in to find both the light fittings and the dishwasher gone.
While we are talking about contracts, even in the heat of a negotiation while it’s important to maintain momentum it is also equally important to seek good legal advice before you sign a contract or start negotiation. Even though the contract signing is standard, it always pays dividends to have a solicitor looking over your shoulder.
The bottom line – don’t do verbal agreements, put everything in writing, don’t rush and seek professional opinion.