When you sell your home, you are probably selling your biggest financial asset. It is important to not only understand the process, but to understand the legal ramifications of your actions. Advice from a good attorney can help you avoid expensive mistakes.
In Massachusetts, buyers will deliver written offers to purchase to the seller. Once the seller accepts a written offer, usually by signing the offer, the offer to purchase itself becomes a binding contract. In Tobin v. McCarthy, the Massachusetts Appeals Court held that a seller was obligated to sell his home to the buyer even though the parties never signed a purchase and sale agreement. The Court held that the written offer itself was sufficient to bind the parties. See Tobin v. McCarthy, 44 Mass. App. Ct. 274 (1997).
Sellers often find themselves considering and accepting offers, and thereby binding themselves to contracts, before they ever consult an attorney or start working on the purchase and sale agreement. Often times buyers will put conditions and other language in the offers to purchase that could have consequences for the entire transaction. Consulting an attorney early in the process can help facilitate a more smooth transaction, avoid potential problems, and ultimately save the seller money.
Another benefit of involving a good attorney early in the process is avoiding or minimizing the chance of litigation later. No one wants to contemplate getting sued, but it can happen if the sale of your house goes wrong. A good attorney will add language to written offers to purchase and purchase and sales agreements that will protect a seller in the event that a buyer defaults, makes unreasonable demands during the negotiation process, or in case something goes wrong. For all these reasons, it makes a lot of sense to spend a little money now to avoid big potential problems later.