Legal Question in Real Estate Law in Rhode Island
My husband and I put in an offer on a house. The seller contered. We accepted. The real estate agents agreed my agent would write up the contract. 5 days later we were told they had accepted another offer. We were also told a verbal contract means nothing in RI. Is this true?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Re: Verbal Contract - Real Estate Offer
RI follows the common law "statute of frauds," which provides that, in order to be enforceable, an agreement for the transfer of an interest in real estate must be in writing.
Your message does not indicate whether ANY of these offers/acceptances were in writing or whether a purchase & sale agreement was signed.
To protect your interest, ANY offer to purchase real estate should be in writing and signed by you. A competent real estate agent would arrange this. Although the seller might counter verbally, your acceptance should be communicated to the seller (by the real estate agent)IN WRITING.
You do not indicate whether your agent DID draw up a P&S contract and have it presented to the seller for the seller's signature. If a written purchase & sale agreement WAS created by an agent AND signed by both you and the seller, an enforceable contract would exist.
Even if your original offer was in writing, unless a written agreement was signed by both parties, your mere verbal acceptance of the seller's counteroffer is not sufficient to create a binding contract for the transfer of real estate.
In the real estate market, the 5 day delay you describe is critical. If the seller entered into a valid written agreement with a third party because of unreasonable delay on the part of your agent, you may have a claim against your agent for breach of their fiduciary to act in your best interest.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Feel free to contact this office if we can be of further assistance.