Verbal offers - are they real? Image of a house with those words and a real estate agent on the phone in front3What  are verbal offers to buy a home?

Simply put, these are when a home buyer and his or her or their agent write up a bid on a proper form such as the PRDS or CAR contracts, but orally or otherwise casually tells the seller or the listing agent of a price that the buyer would offer for the property.

  • Communication from a buyer or buyer’s agent that the client would like to purchase the property for a particular amount of money.
  • Sometimes they also include some of the contract terms, such as “all cash offer” or “no contingencies” or “30% down”.
  • Most of the time, the buyer doesn’t want to spend the time to write it up unless there’s a verbal assurance that the seller will accept the offer.
  • With a verbal offer (which could be in person, by phone, by email, by text, etc.), there’s no proof of anything – no proof of funds, proof that the disclosures have been reviewed, and so on.

This is a terrible idea, whether you’re a buyer or seller.  But why?

Verbal offers are not serious offers

First, there are a LOT of terms in the offer besides just the price.  They include things like the loan amount and percentage (80% loan to value ratio or something else), the amount of the initial deposit and when it will go to title, whether the buyer is preapproved or not, the number of days for various contingencies, how long the escrow should be, what personal property should be included, and much more.

Often those terms are extremely important.  Consider just one: all cash versus financed!  Verbal offers are usually only the price being floated by.

Written offers, not verbal offers, come from committed home buyers

If a home buyer is sincere and serious about purchasing property, he or she will get it in writing and be specific about the myriad of terms that are part and parcel of the agreement. A seller cannot fairly even consider a verbal offer because so many of the terms are simply missing in action.

Not only that, but in our Silicon Valley real estate market, the purchase contract is only part of the offer. Also needed are the signed disclosures, the buyer’s agent’s Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure, the pre-approval letter (if the purchase is financed), proof of funds, and more. All of those are missing with the verbal offer to purchase a home.

Why would a home buyer want to send verbal offers?

Most of the time, when a buyer asks to do a verbal offer, it’s because they feel that the odds of success are small and the workload involved is too great.

We get that. Writing an offer is a LOT of work for both the consumer and the Realtor!

Unfortunately, though, the message it sends is more like “I’m too lazy to write it up unless I know you’ll take it.” That’s not the kind of spin we want to put on bids!

What is the risk with making a verbal offer?

We discourage our clients from making a verbal offer since it doesn’t help them and may instead give away their position. Further, it likely gives the impression that the buyer(s) and the buyer agent are flakey. That’s not the impression we want to present, particularly if there are multiple offers. Better to ask good questions and make a positive impression on the listing agent.

Properties that are well priced could sell quickly, so dilly-dallying with a verbal offer could actually cost that home buyer the property.


Verbal counter offer? That is not as big of a gap.

What about counter offers? Those are usually straightforward, with just a few point in question. Sometimes those are floated verbally, and the odds of success are better. Even so, it’s not binding unless it’s in writing. If someone really wants the house, he / she / they will put it in writing and get it signed. It’s not that hard to do it with email and electronic signing.

Even though this is simpler, all the same perils can exist, so exercise caution.


To summarize, a verbal offer is no offer. Many would refer to them as a fishing expedition or that they are “worth the paper they’re written on”.  Better real estate professionals will not waste everyone’s time with a verbal non-offer. Want to make a favorable impression on the seller and the listing agent? Don’t fool around. Put it in writing.


Related reading:

Contingencies (on

How does a multiple counter offer work? (this site)

What can you learn when you lose out on multiple offers? (this site)