Most people with a basic understanding of real estate and property law are familiar with the concept that contracts for real estate need to be in writing. The statute of frauds bars the enforcement of agreements for “the sale of lands, tenements or hereditaments or of any interest in or concerning them” unless such an agreement is in writing.
The “writing” requirement need not be done solely through a formal, written contract. Recent decisions have found such a writing to occur through email, text message, and other electronic means.
Overview of Contracts for Real Estate
The most common forms of contracts for real estate, in my experience, are offers to purchase real estate, purchase and sale agreements, and leases. Such agreements are most commonly done through written paper, which all of the parties sign.
It is a common mistake, however, to believe that such agreements must be put in traditional written form to be binding. Rather, as it is becoming increasingly common to communicate through electronic means, courts are finding that such electronic exchanges can create binding agreements.
Electronic Communications: Email, Text Messages
Several years ago, a Land Court decision held that text messages could be used to create binding contracts for real estate. The court reasoned that, under the proper circumstances, communications through text message were no different than traditional letters between parties.
The same reasoning applies to email and, in my opinion, any electronic means of communication, including social media.
With this in mind, those involved in real estate need to be incredibly careful when using electronic communications.
Compared to writing a traditional letter, sending a text message or email can be done in a matter of seconds. As such communications can create binding contracts for real estate, one must use extra caution when using email and text messages for such matters.
If you need assistance with a real estate matter, contact me for a consultation.