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Oral Agreements

Edith Lank on

Dear Ms. Lank: We are in a rental house. We like this neighborhood, and our children like the school. We talked to the landlady about buying, but she doesn't want to sell.

Last year, we told our neighbor that if he ever wanted to sell, we would buy his house. He promised to give us first right of refusal. Now he's getting ready to list his house for sale with a broker. Can we hold him to what he said before? -- L. R.

Answer: All contracts for the sale of real estate must be in writing in order to be enforceable. Translation: Oral agreements aren't worth the paper they're written on.

You could have made an all-cash offer out loud in front of 20 witnesses. Your neighbor could have agreed to sell for that amount, and even accepted a deposit check. But you still wouldn't be able to hold him to it. When it comes to real estate, all sales contracts must be written.

You may want to give him a signed purchase offer at this point. But he might prefer to wait and see what happens on the open market. You'll probably have competition. Good luck.

Transfer to Daughter

Dear Ms. Lank: My husband and I own the home our daughter and her family occupy.

We are at an age where we want to simplify our lives, and we would like to put the title of the home in her name. However, we are uncertain about where to start the process.

Should we see an attorney? Could we simply sign the title over to her?

If so, what are potential legal issues (taxes, etc.)? We would appreciate whatever advice you can share. -- J. W.

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