Is the promise of a contract legally binding?


I promised someone that I would enter into a contract with them in the future. Basically I promised that I'd sell them a website for a fixed price in the future. This was an informal, oral agreement, and there was another person who witnessed it.

Am I obligated to carry out this promise? My understanding of the business law says that oral contracts are not as solid as written contracts.

EDIT: More context. The domain name was covered by the press a few times due to my work on the site that I built for it. My promise to sell the domain name to this person was definitely suggestive in nature, and it was more of a tacit nod of the head than "Yes, I will sell you this at this price." We were having dinner 2 weeks after I launched the site, which was not supposed to be about this sale, and he told me he really wanted to build a site on this property himself, it was very important to him, etc., and he made the suggestion that "in a couple of months I can just give you whatever you paid for it and you can transfer the name to me"..I wasn't prepared for the offer, and I didn't handle it very well in hindsight. I did not reject it out of hand because I didn't want to hurt him.

Contract Legal

asked Mar 23 '11 at 21:12
116 points
Get up to $750K in working capital to finance your business: Clarify Capital Business Loans

3 Answers


You agreed with someone that you would sell them a domain name for $10. So sell them the domain name for $10.

I don't see why there is even any debate here.

Do what you said you would do. Be honorable even when you think you can get away with more.

answered Mar 23 '11 at 23:18
Andy Swan
1,656 points
  • Without more context, I have to agree with Andy. There are really two way to think about this, first imagine you said 2 years ago you would develop something for $2000, then they approach you today and you have more clients, more experience, and better products. You might reasonably say, yeah it was $2000 back then but now it's $3000 because of X and Y reasons. This sounds a little more clear cut. The only way I would say it might make sense not to honor your word is if it was an real informal conversation, more suggestive than binding in nature. Only you & the seller know that. – Nick 13 years ago
  • Let me chime in and say I agree too. I would use an up vote on it-- but I used them up for today. I will come back tomorrow and up vote it. Your integrity and relationship are worth far more than what ever small amount of change you get for the domain. Doing the right thing is not only the one that gives you the most money. – Joseph Barisonzi 13 years ago
  • The added wrinkle here is that there is a site at the domain, and it's active, getting views and impressions -- a site that I built. Transferring the domain would also mean shutting down my site. – Picardo 13 years ago
  • I edited my post with more context. The conversation wasn't primarily about the sale, and I was kind of caught off guard by the offer. – Picardo 13 years ago


They are definitely not as solid, but they can certainly be binding.

Here's a decent read I just skimmed through: In your case though; it gets a little murkier, because you haven't actually started anything yet. I think verbal agreements are more binding IF you started a project for a fixed bid and then tried to change price or quit. Without anything having been started. I think you have some leeway... how long ago was the original offer? Things change over time and telling someone you can do X for Y price in 2008 isn't the same as telling them that today.

answered Mar 23 '11 at 21:18
1,171 points
  • It was only a few months ago. My case would be categorized not as a service, but a transfer of property, because it only involves transferring a domain name to this person. In exchange he offered to pay me $10 for it at the time. Since then I decided the domain name can be worth much more, but do I have the leeway to back out? Based on our understanding, he is supposed to pay me next month. – Picardo 13 years ago


I'm confused by your story- if you agreed to sell something to someone at a fixed price, then it's a binding contract. It doesn't usually matter if it's oral or not (with some exceptions).

If you had said, "I promise to enter into a contract with you" then it wouldn't be binding; an agreement to enter into a contract is not enforceable. But here it sounds like you went ahead and entered into a contract, although verbal.

I'd need to get the full facts of what you said though before giving a firm answer- I'm confused about what happened.

answered Mar 24 '11 at 10:54
1,747 points

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

Contract Legal