Birmingham Real Estate: You've Got Options: The Contract: Why Would You Commit If It's Not in Writing?

The Contract: Why Would You Commit If It's Not in Writing?

Get It In Writing

Whether a buyer or a seller, when buying or selling a home, always rely on the written sales contract which is a promise to perform.  if it isn't written in the contract, then don't be surprised if the other party doesn't keep their verbal promise.

This is mostly an issue on the buyer side.  Let's say a buyer is negotiating the purchase of a home and ask for something in particular in the offer.  The seller says yes we'll do it, but let's not put it in the contract. Even though there is a very high likelihood that they'll keep their word, red flags would be popping up like daisies in springtime.

Of course, as a Realtor® it's only my job to advise my client not to commit to anything that the other party is not willing to put in writing.  Intentions may be good, but you just never know what could happen.  Murphy's Law is ever present.

Imagine that one of the parties reneges  on the verbal promise and that the reneging party relies on the written contract to make his case and the written contract is absent of the verbal terms of the agreement.  The party that has the most to lose, will likely lose if arbitration becomes necessary.

When buying or selling a home, it's important that agents remember that they have an obligation to represent their client to the best of their ability.  Their responsibility is not to stay in the good graces of the listing agent over the best interest of their client.  Whether a client accepts or rejects your advice to always get it in writing, best practices dictate that you give them sound advice and you can never go wrong when advising to get something it in writing. 

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Charita Cadenhead, Your Metropolitan Birmingham, Alabama Real Estate Broker of Choice

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Charita H. Cadenhead, Realtor®
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Gardendale, AL 35071
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Comment balloon 12 commentsCharita Cadenhead • September 02 2015 09:00AM


It's not enforceable and it's not a contract unless it's in writing and signed by all.  A Realtor should never allow this to happen.

Posted by Chris and Dick Dovorany, Broker/Associate at Premiere Plus Realty ( Homes for Sale in Naples, Bonita Springs and Estero, Florida) over 5 years ago

Dovorany's I agree that it's not a contract if it's not in writing.  I disagree that a Realtor® should never "allow" this to happen.  As any Realtor "should" I give ALL of my clients the very best of advice accompanied with reasons why I'm giving the advice.  What I can't do is force them to take the advice.

Posted by Charita Cadenhead, Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama) (eXp Realty) over 5 years ago

The difference between what a client thought they heard and what is actually on the Contract can be amazing, Charita Cadenhead.  As you say ... get it in writing.  There's no commitment or legs to enforce it otherwise ...


Posted by Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi, 708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience (NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656) over 5 years ago

Hi Charita - Of course we do that - there's no contract otherwise. But on occasion, we get an objection from the lender, who doesn't want a particular item, like an attached document, or a large, non-attached inclusion, say, a grand piano, in the contract. And they don't want any side agreements either, so we have to take these on trust. And if our clients get burned, we have to step up and make it right. But the big stuff - always in writing.

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) over 5 years ago

That's what I'm saying Gene.  The wise buyer will take heed.  The risky buyer, well, will assume the risk.  But with so much on the line, you'd have to put it in writing for me.

That may be true Dick, but in 9 years, I can only recall once where a lender objected to an inclusion and in that case rather than including it in the contract, the buyer purchased an item from the seller and thus created a bill of sale.

What I'm really referring to is seller's objections to putting it in writing.  Once it's removed in writing and the buyer wishes to proceed, we move forward and hope for the best.  If things turn sour, we still work to our client's best interest and advantage, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  But when the deciding factor is what's on paper, well............ what can I say?

Posted by Charita Cadenhead, Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama) (eXp Realty) over 5 years ago

Charita - put it in writing! Period.  That is how we deal with contract issues and have for years.  There is no such thing as a verbal agreement when it comes to contracts. I teach agents - you mess this up and your checkbook comes out - as it should.

Posted by Anna Banana Kruchten CRS CRB, Phoenix Broker, 602-380-4886 (HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000) over 5 years ago

I agree Anna.  There is just no way you can go wrong by putting it in writing.

Posted by Charita Cadenhead, Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama) (eXp Realty) over 5 years ago

It's nothing if it is not in writing and signed by all parties. When I get an email from an agent regarding terms ... I ask them to put it in writing so I can present it to my client.

Posted by Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist, Probate Real Estate (KD Realty - 408.972.1822) over 5 years ago

I do the same thing Kathleen, but depending on what it is, I consider the email to be the "in writing" requirement.  But I always feel so much more comfortable if it's something that the seller or buyer has put pen to paper.

Posted by Charita Cadenhead, Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama) (eXp Realty) over 5 years ago

Excellent advice, Charita. If it's not in writing proving it is extremely difficult.

Posted by Jane Peters, Los Angeles real estate concierge services (Home Jane Realty) about 5 years ago

I have to agree if it is not in writing and signed by all then it is not a done deal.

Posted by Sussie Sutton, David Tracy Real Estate for Buyers & Sellers (David Tracy Real Estate) about 5 years ago

I just makes sense.  Why risk a misunderstanding or miscommunication when it can be put in writing to make terms crystal clear.

Posted by Charita Cadenhead, Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama) (eXp Realty) about 5 years ago