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Are oral real estate contracts enforceable?

Rochester, NY |

I purchased a home from a friend with an oral agreement to pay a monthly sum for x amount of years and the home would be mine. Obligation was fulfilled and now previous owner is suing me, claiming that I never finished paying for the home. These allegations are false, but I have to answer the complaint. It comes down to my word against his and I am not financially able to hire a lawyer. I am currently unemployed. I need to know what defenses I can claim. All payments were made in cash so I have no paper trail, but I do have the deed in my name with no liens attached. This lawsuit was only filed due to a falling out of our friendship and pure malice by the plaintiff who knows I am unable to pay for an attorney. What are my chances of successfully getting this case dismissed?

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Attorney answers 2


No, oral contracts to buy real estate aren't enforceable, according to a law called the Statute of Frauds." But if here, you got the deed transferred to you, and you can show bank withdrawals for the cash you paid, you can show evidence of an executed contract that had already been fully performed by both parties. Your friend will have a hard time explaining why he deeded you this property if you hadn't finished paying the agreed purchase price.

PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU COMMENT, EMAIL ME OR PHONE ME. I'm only licensed in CA. This answer doesn't make me your lawyer, and neither do follow-up comments and/or emails and/or phone calls, and you shouldn't expect me to respond to your further questions if you haven't hired me. We need an actual agreement confirmed in writing before any attorney-client relationship is formed. This answer doesn't constitute legal advice, and shouldn't be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.


You have a deed, which recites the consideration for the transfer. Therefore, your agreement is not oral. It is in a deed. If the deed was to be given later, and all you had was an oral promise to convey the property, you would likely have no case, especially with the payments being in cash.

Michael D. SIegel, Esq. Siegel & Siegel, P.C. One Penn Plaza Suite 2414 New York, New York 10119 212-721-5300 All information given on this site is general in nature, and not legal advice. Only a lawyer, reviewing the underlying documents and facts, in a meeting in person or over the phone, can determine what course of action any person can take. No attorney/client relationship is created by participation on this site. No attorney/client privilege attaches to any communication on this site.

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