Is a bid on a property made by email binding?

According to Antwerp’s Court of Appeal it isn’t. The sale of a property made by mail was adjudged to be illegal recently. However, according to real estate brokers it is normal for customers to negotiate a bid by email. Indeed, the real estate market also keeps up with the times.

The Court of Appeal in Antwerp says that an agreement between the seller and the potential buyer confirmed by email is legally unenforceable. This is supported on the legislation of 2003 which made it possible to reach agreements digitally. However, the application of this Act does not apply to property.

In other words, this judgment created a remarkable precedent. This means any party can invoke this case law to cancel an alleged agreement about the sale of a property as non-enforceable. However, the court can decide differently for every dispute. For instance, in 2013 the Court of Appeal in Ghent decided that a text message can be the start of written proof.

Real estate brokers will have to take this into account when formalising a sale, and need to ensure that the bid or agreement in principle is effectively signed.