Plaintiff appeals as of right from an order granting summary disposition in favor of defendants after plaintiff's case in chief in a bench trial. The trial court's order was apparently based on its finding that any agreement between the parties failed to meet the requirements of the statute of frauds, MCL 566.108; MSA 26.908. We affirm.
This is an action for specific performance brought by plaintiff real estate developer against defendant real property owners after defendants refused to sell approximately five acres of land in Troy which they had owned for more than thirty years. Plaintiff contacted defendant Gustave Ernst in January, 1985, to discuss the possibility of Mr. Ernst selling the land. At that time, defendants kept business equipment stored on the property and their son and his family lived in the house located on the premises. Plaintiff's initial offer of $145,000 was rejected. Over the next three months, the parties had further discussions, and plaintiff increased his offer to $200,000. Ernst discussed this price with his wife, and they agreed to accept it.
On April 29, 1985, the defendants and plaintiff
Mr. Ernst gave plaintiff a tax receipt with the following inscription on the back:
The only other term the parties discussed was time of possession. The matter was left unresolved as defendants wanted ninety days to move their equipment and son and plaintiff was only willing to allow sixty days.
Mrs. Ernst was present for most, if not all, of the meeting and was able to see and hear all that was occurring, but she did not sign either of the documents that were exchanged.
After the April meeting, Mr. Ernst instructed his attorney to prepare a formal document — the parties disagree as to whether this was to be a purchase agreement or a land contract — for signatures. Before the papers were drafted and before defendants cashed plaintiff's check, defendants received another offer of $360,000 for their property.
The statute of frauds, MCL 566.108; MSA 26.908, provides:
The trial court apparently determined that the requirements of the statute were not met and therefore there was no enforceable agreement between the parties.
All essential terms of an agreement to sell real estate must be in a writing that is signed by the party or parties to be held to the agreement for that agreement to be enforceable. Brotman v Roelofs, 70 Mich.App. 719; 246 N.W.2d 368 (1976), lv den 399 Mich. 801 (1977). We conclude that the two documents comprising the writing in this case, i.e., plaintiff's check and Mr. Ernst's tax receipt, fail to set forth all the essential terms of the parties' agreement. The writing therefore fails to satisfy the statute of frauds.
The Michigan statute of frauds does not specify what terms must be contained in a writing to make it enforceable. Although Michigan courts were once strict in their enforcement of the statute, see, e.g., Gedvick v Hill, 333 Mich. 689, 695; 53 N.W.2d 583
However, where the parties indicate in writing that they intend a credit sale but fail to set forth the terms and times of payments, a court's ability to impose reasonable terms is absent and such a contract has been found unenforceable. In Tucson v Farrington, 396 Mich. 169; 240 N.W.2d 464 (1976), reh den 396 Mich. 992 (1976), the writing provided for the sale of real estate "for the sum of ... $50,000. Approximately one third down, the balance to be paid over a period of 10 years at 7% interest." Id., p 171. Recognizing that a term of credit is an essential term of a real estate sales contract, that Court wrote:
The writings in the present case lack the necessary terms of payment to satisfy the statute of frauds. Since the writings indicate that the parties intended a land contract, the terms of payment are essential under the principles set forth in Tucson, supra. These writings do not contain a designated payment period or interest rate. Generally, a contract for the sale of realty will not fail because it lacks a term so long as the court can determine with reasonable certainty the parties' duties and the conditions under which performance is due. Here, however, there is simply no way for the court to determine duties and conditions of performance where the terms for deferred payments are omitted.
Plaintiff argues that the omission of any essential term is not fatal because there is extrinsic evidence available which supplements the writing and supplies the missing term. Tucson, supra, and Opdyke, supra. We cannot agree. There is no evidence that the parties discussed, let alone agreed to, any payment terms at the time that the writings were made. Plaintiff urges that the parties had agreed upon a mechanism — a determination by defendants' attorney — to settle payment terms. However, essential to this "mechanism" argument is plaintiff's willingness to concur in whatever terms defendants' attorney set. Plaintiff's assertion that he "would have agreed to any form of land contract that Ernst wanted" comes after the fact and is quite incredible when one considers that this "mechanism" would have allowed
Plaintiff contends that defendants admitted all facts necessary to establish the existence of a contract, and thereby waived their statute of frauds defense.
In Scholnick's Importers-Clothiers, Inc v Lent, 130 Mich.App. 104, 109; 343 N.W.2d 249 (1983), lv den 419 Mich. 936 (1984), citing Northern Ins Co of New York v B Elliott, Ltd, 117 Mich.App. 308, 325-326; 323 N.W.2d 683 (1982), lv den 417 Mich. 968 (1983), this Court stated:
As discussed earlier, terms regarding payment were essential to the parties' agreement. They not
In light of our above holdings, we need not decide whether Mrs. Ernst's failure to sign the tax receipt was violative of the statute of frauds, nor need we decide whether plaintiff is entitled to damages from Mr. Ernst for breach of contract. Finally, we need not reach defendants' claim of unconscionability.