Real Estate Terms Dictionary

(Real Estate) Contract of Sale

Definition of 'Contract of Sale'

A Real Estate Sale Contract functions as a legally binding agreement between two parties concerning the terms of purchase or transfer of real property.

Understanding Real Estate Contract of Sale

The main purpose of a real estate sale contract is to outline the obligations of both parties entering an agreement to buy/sell/transfer a property. This is the main difference between a contract of sale and purchase of real estate and deed; the latter represents the actual transfer of a property from one party to another, or the closing step of a transaction.

Some contracts of sale can be very simple, functioning like a memorandum of sale, while others provide more details, such as an official description of the property including its address, the agreed selling price, the mortgage details (when applicable), the deposit amount, and the agreed closing date, the maximum time it is valid before a counter-offer can be accepted, and the possible legal proceedings should the contract be broken.

The contract of sale is different for every type of real estate: residential, commercial, or vacant land.


Here's a real-life example from one of the properties researched on PropertyShark:

Real estate contract of sale - example

The two parties enter the contract of sale almost one year before the actual deed is signed.


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The glossary is intended to provide real estate professionals and home buyers with a basic understanding of various specialized terms related to legal rights over a property. All terms appear in public records such as ACRIS. We do not take responsibility for the legal accuracy of the definitions provided and ask that use of these explanations in a legal setting be made only after checking with a lawyer or another specialist in the field.