Selling Real Estate: When Do You Have a Deal?
A promise to sell real property can be just so many words if it isn’t reduced to writing. Florida’s Statute of Frauds requires that any sale of real estate must be formalized in writing to be effective, something sophisticated parties would know, or so you’d expect.
That “Deal” Might Not be Set in Stone
However, a recent case involving a six million dollar commercial property in Miami Beach indicates otherwise. Here a prospective purchaser was sure he had a deal; so when the seller wouldn’t sell to him, he filed suit. Not only did the buyer remember the seller’s specific oral promises, he even recalled the seller negotiating substantial changes in the financial terms of the transaction as well as the time for the closing, all of which were then incorporated into the buyer’s written offer. But the buyer had a problem; the seller never signed the offer. As a result, there was no deal and no way for the buyer to force the sale or to stop the seller from proceeding to close on the same property with someone else.
The law in this area is well defined, not only requiring a written contract for the sale of real estate but also precluding any subsequent oral modifications. Better get those promises on your next real estate deal in writing or run the risk of seeing them evaporate.