A recent case reported in the Des Moines Register discusses how a handshake deal on the sale of a home went awry for a man that apparently invested over $100,000 in a home – only to learn the home was not his.

Actually there was a one-line agreement in this instance which read, "I Floyd A. Schake agree to put 1500 E. 9th on contract with Billy Erico Stockbauer on 1 Feb. 1989." Schake argued successfully to the court that the language meant he intended to sell the home on contract in the future but the deal was never made.

While the axiom is to get a contract in writing, it is especially critical in real estate deals where oral contracts are generally not valid. The judge in the case ruled that the language did not set out the terms necessary to convey the property.  It’s fairly easy to criticize Stockbauer for not having an agreement that set out all the terms but this type of thing happens much more than anyone would ever imagine.

That’s why the old adage holds, "get it in writing."