Who’s Lot?

Who’s Lot?
I was driving the other day and saw a sign that read “Lot’s for sale.” I found myself wondering just what Lot was selling. The misplaced apostrophe made a simple statement misleading. Now, as a practical matter, the sign is clear enough to everyone other than me and, perhaps, your old high school English teacher. But, the owner that paid for that big sign to sell his lots should have received a sign that advertised his lots for sale–not a sign that hints that another guy named Lot has something to sell. Big deal, you might say. Everyone knows what it is supposed to mean. And you’re probably right.

In a contract, though, it is imperative that the language clearly express the agreement of the parties. Inexact wording can misstate the intent of the parties, adversely affect a party’s rights, and in some cases even render a contract unenforceable. One example that I see nearly every day is in the standard form real estate sales contract that is used all over northern Illinois. In it, the Buyer’s obligations to purchase the property are contingent on the Buyer obtaining a “firm” mortgage commitment. There is no such thing as a “firm” mortgage commitment. For that matter, what would make it firm? Is a handshake involved? There is no recognized standard for “firm.” In order for a mortgage commitment to be of any value to a Buyer, it must be in writing and not be conditioned on something outside of the Buyer’s control, like an appraisal. When I represent Buyers, I make sure to modify that particular provision to make sure that my client’s interests are protected. I do not want to be in front of a judge arguing the firmness–or lack of firmness-of my client’s mortgage commitment.

The guy down the road may be able to sell his property with a sign that is vague. But if you find yourself buying or selling real estate, I’d recommend that you make sure that the language in your contract is precise. We can help you make sure that it is.