In Massachusetts, is an email acceptance of an offer legally binding, even though a contract to purchase was never signed?

Asked by First-time Seller, Winchester, MA Wed Apr 14, 2010

I accepted an offer on my house by email but did not sign the Contract To Purchase. Is my email, which lacks a signature and which does not contain essential information such as the purchase price, legally binding?

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Lew Corcoran, Agent, Easton, MA
Wed Apr 14, 2010
This is my opinion and is not legal advice. You should always seek competent legal advice. That being said....

In order for a contract to be valid, there must be three elements: 1) the parties must be in agreement as to what constitutes an acceptable offer; 2) the agreement must be in writing and signed by all parties (verbal and unsigned agreements don't hold water in a court of law); and 3) something of value must be given in consideration (i.e., earnest money deposit). In Massachusetts, a signed Offer to Purchase by both parties can constitute a valid binding agreement, even if the Purchase and Sale Agreement is not yet signed.

However, given the scenario provided above, all you did was accept an offer by e-mail. But, it lacks an agreed upon price. So, if there is no price, how can you accept an offer? It appears that there is no agreement, there's nothing signed by either party, and nothing was given in consideration. Thus, I am of the opinion that you do not have a legally binding contract.

Again, seek competent legal advice.
1 vote
Rose Manni, Agent, Lexington, MA
Tue Mar 13, 2012
This is a very sad situation and a perfect example of why consumers need to hire Realtors. We as Realtors would be able to advise sellers every step of the way while maintaining and abiding by our Code of Professional Ethics. Look for my upcoming renovated home in Winchester this summer!
0 votes
gabriel palo…, Agent, Pompano Beach, FL
Mon Jun 6, 2011
Not if you sign in as Mickey Mouse.
0 votes
First-time S…, Home Seller, Winchester, MA
Wed Apr 14, 2010
Thank you, Lew. We did indeed seek legal advice, and our lawyer said essentially the same thing you did. Unless a contract containing details of the offer is signed by all relevant parties, there is no legally binding acceptance of an offer.

First-time Seller
0 votes
This happened to me in MA. After a week of back and forth my final offer was accepted, but because the sellers agent ( who works for the same Reality co. As my agent) said she needed 3 days to get the signature as the seller was elderly and did not email. This agent sent an email rt. away that quoted the agreed price and said her seller had accepted my offer. I told my agent I was not comfortable with this and she said I had nothing to worry about. She assured me there would be no more showings and it was pending on the web sites. At 12 on the 3rd day I got my awaited phone call stating another offer came in closer to selling price that day and the seller had accepted it instead of signing our agreement. I am 65 and now I find out this seller is younger then I am. She is waiting for a private sale in 2 wks and if she doesn't get it she will take her home off the market, so says my agent. Wow, the Manager has been informed and emails forwarded, but he remains silent. Hired my Lawyer
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