Real estate purchases involve complex contractual agreements, and making sure those agreements are enforceable is key to seeing the transaction smoothly through to its end. There are both legal requirements as well as practical elements that factor into whether a purchase contract is enforceable, and we’ll go over the most important of those here.
Legal Elements of an Enforceable Real Estate Contract
An enforceable real estate contract needs to adhere to legal requirements, including the following.
All real estate contracts should be written out. The reasons for this are both legal and practical—not only is it legally required that these specific types of agreements be put in writing, but it also makes them easier to enforce. After all, if a dispute occurs, it will be much harder to prove that an agreement exists if it was not written out.
Contracts need to involve an exchange of something valuable, referred to in legal terms as “consideration.” In the case of a real estate contract, that consideration would be the title (from the seller) and an earnest money deposit (from the buyer). Without that consideration, the contract is unenforceable.
Offer and Acceptance
All contracts also need to incorporate an offer and an acceptance of that offer. One party makes the offer, and all parties must accept it.
Finally, there must be mutual assent to the contract exactly as it’s written. If the contract as written contains any mistakes, then those who agree to it aren’t considered to have come to an actual agreement, rendering it unenforceable.
Practical Elements of Real Estate Contracts
Aside from strict legal requirements, there are a number of practical elements to keep in mind when it comes to real estate agreements.
First off, they need to be clearly written. Not only does clear language make sure that both parties completely understand the terms of the contract—thereby ensuring mutual assent—but it also makes it easier to interpret should any disputes arise.
Printed dates for the signing of the contract plus clearly spelled out expiration dates help make sure all parties know what is required of them under the contract, making time-sensitive breaches more enforceable.
Provisions for Default
There should also be provisions in place for the event that either party should default. Having these spelled out and agreed upon in advance prevents disputes later on and makes it easier to enforce the terms of the agreement.
Finally, the contract’s provisions should all adhere to applicable laws. For instance, if the contract sets forth requirements that would violate either party’s rights, then it cannot be enforced.
Additionally, some factors may independently make a contract impossible to enforce, such as if the property is destroyed. If there is no property to sell, then the contract cannot be completed.
Finally, it’s good practice to have solid legal assistance involved in negotiating and creating written real estate agreements. A real estate attorney can help make sure all terms fall within the bounds of applicable law, follow all best practices, and serve the needs of the parties involved.