IMHO Diana K's answer is best so far.
Remember, in order for a contract to be formed, it must be intelligible, or ascertainable of a fixed meaning, and provide enough particulars so that there is no inherent frustration of purpose and it must be accepted. An offer must be made and accepted for a contract to be formed. Only when a contract is formed is it binding. On the other hand, one can be estopped from going back on his word if another relies upon that word to his detriment. The principals of estoppel, ratification, authority to bind, ostensible authority, express authority, agency and principal relationships and implied authority are thing you really need to understand to understand when you are binding yourself. For purposes of this answer, just remember, your word is your bond in this business so be careful and precise when you try to say what you mean. If you are not sure how to say what you mean, consult an attorney. If you are not well familiar with the list of terms m just mentioned, you need to brush up before making any deals.
Examples of contract formation process:
"I am offering you $1,000,000 cash for your property as is with no contingencies if you accept this offer by tomorrow." would bind you if the seller wrote you back tomorrow stating to the effect, your offer of yesterday, in which you offer to buy my property with no contingencies for $1,000,000 cash in US dollars is accepted; you can deliver the cash to me in front of city hall by 5:00 p.m.." would be a contract formation which would bind both parties because a meeting of the minds is evidenced in the two statements that is clear and intelligible. However, if the buyer then does not show up with the money, and asks to give the money the next day, say, because the acceptance came too late for him to dig up the cash from the back yard before 5:00 p.m., then an extension of time to perform could be requested. and the buyer could argue that the acceptance was untimely and thus did not bind him. If on the other hand the original offer stated if you accept by noon, then the acceptance would have to be delivered by noon in order for a binding contract to be made. If no place for exchange of the money is designated by either party and made known to the other, there is an inherent frustration of purpose because neither knows where to go to exchange the money and thus consummate the deal. i.e. the contract is too vague to be intelligible on this point. In either case, if the seller said "Great" but I need assurance you will record the deed," a counter offer has been made that the buyer now needs to accept in order for a binding contract to be made.
"I intend to buy your property provided I can find the money." is intelligible, but does not provide an ascertainable price or a clear intention that the person has the capability to buy the property or an cognizable idea as to when. So even if the seller writes back, "Great! Come on over for tea so we can discuss your purchase." The only thing that has been extended is a wish to buy a property and the only thing that has been counter offered is a cup of tea with the talk.
In other words, if you don't have enough experience, legal knowledge, and common sense to know when you are making a potentially binding offer, find an attorney or senior broker to advise you. At a minimum, list your contingencies and conditions, (such as inspections, finding out your intended use will be allowed by the jurisdictions in which the property is located etc.) and state that this is an intention that is open to further negotiation around these points and as yet unidentified concerns of the seller etc. and will only become binding once the parties have had advice of counsel etc and reduced our full terms to a contract. This gives you a way of expressing your intentions and desires while giving the seller a way to come back with his concerns and desires. It gives your agents a chance to do what they should be doing, which is listening to each other and their principals and looking for ways to enhance value to each party. E.g., "Now that we understand our terms, contingencies, and price; let's see how we can structure the exchange of money so that the government does not rob the seller of cash and the buyer of property value."
I hope this helps.
Mar 4, 2015