Verbal contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on

I’m a bit disturbed by the increasing occurrences of verbal negotiations in the real estate business in Saskatoon.

Verbal proposals are most often brought forward at the counter offer stage with comments like, “We really don’t want to waste your time, so would you speak with your client and find out if X is acceptable to them?”

Recently, an agent tried to sell me on the idea of presenting a complete verbal offer to purchase on one of our listings. She said, “My client has to leave town right away. Would you check with your seller to find out if they would take X?”

To her credit, at least she was clear and honest that she was concerned about wasting her time, and her clients, and not trying to convince me that a verbal offer was a courtesy she was extending to us, so as not to waste our time. Still, my reply was, “No, I won’t, but if you’d be kind enough to put it in writing I’d be happy to present it to them immediately.”

Why? Verbal negotiations are reckless and unprofessional. Where a real estate agent is involved, they’re actually illegal.

Section 58 (1) of Saskatchewan’s Real Estate Act

An offer to purchase obtained by a registrant:

(a) is to be in writing, dated and signed by the buyer in the presence of a
witness; and
(b) is to clearly show, prior to execution by the buyer:
(i) the date on which the offer is made;
(ii) the names and addresses of the buyer and seller;
(iii) the street address or legal description of the real estate;
(iv) the price offered by the buyer and the terms and conditions of the
offer;
(v) the amount of deposit, if any, made at the time of the offer and
whether or not that deposit is to form part of the price;
(vi) a brief description and list of any chattels that are to be included in
the price;
(vii) the date of possession by the buyer and whether possession is to be
vacant or otherwise;
(viii) the date of adjustments;
(ix) the time and date by which the offer is to be accepted;
(x) the name, address and telephone number of the brokerage; and
(xi) any other information prescribed in the bylaws.

We get paid good money to represent our clients and to protect their interests. Creating binding agreements, and avoiding misunderstanding and the squabbles that arise from them is part of that. With the standard forms that are provided for us it literally takes ten minutes to complete an offer to purchase. Web based forms can be tweaked and resubmitted for presentation in seconds. Surely, doing it right can’t be considered “a waste if time.” This is, in part, what agents are paid for. Trying to bridge the gap that exists between a willing buyer and seller is never a waste of time when the proper procedures are followed, even if the time spent only makes us aware of what isn’t presently possible.

If your agent is suggesting a verbal negotiation he or she either lacks respect for, or knowledge of the laws that govern our business. Either way, that should get you thinking.

Samuel Goldwyn said, “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”

Samuel Goldwyn was right!

Let’s do this right. Let’s do it in writing.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions. All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

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Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate