Goodspeed: Make sure your offers are in writing


QUESTION: I own a condo in a four-unit building. It is a friendly, self-managed building with four very good owners who all get along. I own the unit on the second floor and have thought for a long time that if either of my neighbors upstairs or downstairs moved, that I would like to buy their unit and connect it with mine. I need more space and want to move up in the market, but can't afford to do so in this neighborhood which I don't want to leave.

Expanding my unit seems like a good way to accomplish this objective. A couple of weeks ago the couple underneath me put their unit on the market. I made an offer to them directly (no realtor). The husband said he would get back to me. They have it listed for about $35,000 more than I offered.

The condo has been on the market for a couple of weeks with no offers. I haven't heard anything from the owner, but I am now reconsidering my initial offer and in fact, the whole idea of buying the unit.

I'm worried that if the couple doesn't get an offer soon, they are going to come back to me and want me to buy the unit at the price I said. An I bound by this offer since it was not in writing? What should I do?

ANSWER: You should withdraw your offer immediately and you should do it in writing. It doesn't have to be a formal document.

In fact, the whole affair has been noteworthy for its informality: no ink, no paper, no dates, no contingencies, no money, no response.

Although you don't need anything formal to withdraw your oral offer, I would put something in writing to the effect that you are withdrawing your initial (oral) offer to buy the condo.

The sooner you do this, the better and the less chance for any confusion or bad feelings.

Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.” Email her at: