if both parties agreed on a purchase price fo a MN house VIA EMAIL, how long is that agreement legally bindining?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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if both parties agreed on a purchase price fo a MN house VIA EMAIL, how long is that agreement legally bindining?

Not sure if more detail is needed but here goes

In the summer of 2015, I the seller agreed to sell via email on 850,000 as the price for my home in Deephaven MN. The next day I changed my mind and wanted more. I didn’t think the email was a legal contract and did think we were just in the earlier stages moving toward a purchase agreement. The buyer threatened to sue me if I did not sell to him at that price, so I took the house off the market until 2018. Does a three year lapse of time void that earlier email agreement? Thanks so much

Asked on October 24, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Minnesota


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The issue is whether the email exchange met the criteria to be a contract (see below). If it did, it is enforeable--that is, legally binding, and you could be sued if you do not honor it--for at least four (4) years in your state; therefore, if a contract, you could still be sued over it. If it does not meet the criteria to be contract, then it was never enforceable, not even the day after.
To be a contract, there must be offer, acceptance, a meeting of the minds (or agreement) as to the essential terms, and consideration (or an exchange of things or promises of value).
If they offered to buy your house and you accepted the offer, there was offer and acceptance. If they offered to pay you $850k and in exchange they'd get the house, that was an exchange of consideration. So the key issue is whether there was sufficient mutual agreed detail as to the key elements of a home sale as to make a binding contract. Since the price is the most important term, there could be. However, there are other important terms which should also be specified: the closing date; how payment will be made (e.g. cash or mortgage); how much of a down payment and paid by when; whether there would be a mortgage (financing) contingency or inspection contingency (or conversely, whether the sale would be "as is"). If the only term agreed upon was the price but none of the other important terms, then while, as stated, this *could* have formed a contract, a strong argument can be made that no contract was in fact formed. So based on what you write, we cannot say definitely whether there was or was not a contract, but we can state that if nothing other than price had been agreed upon, there is a good chance that there was no contract, since price alone likely is not sufficient agreement or detail for a transaction like this as to form a contract.

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