APPEAL from the Superior Court of Cook County; the Hon. WALKER
BUTLER, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE SOLFISBURG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied May 23, 1962.
This case involves a purported option agreement for the purchase of a parcel of improved real estate. The cause was assigned to a master in chancery and, after extensive proofs were heard, the master found that both the complaint and the counterclaim should be dismissed for want of equity and the plaintiffs' prayer for specific performance of the purported option agreement denied. The master's report made several specific findings of fact, all of which, in appropriate proceedings before the chancellor, were upheld by the chancellor. A freehold being involved, an appeal was brought directly to this court.
The plaintiffs, Patrick J. and Gloria Lucey, and the defendant Mary P. Shelton, with her spouse, jointly purchased a two-flat building in the village of La Grange for $15,000. Each of the two parties paid a $750 down payment. The balance of the purchase price was secured through a mortgage of $13,500 supplied by the defendant La Grange Federal Savings and Loan Association. Plaintiffs lived in the lower apartment and Mary P. Shelton and her spouse in the upper. Equal payments were made with some regularity for several years until late in the year 1956, when the Sheltons became financially distressed and were in arrears. In the meantime, the plaintiffs had left the premises but had rented their apartment to the defendants William and Mary Habada, and with this income continued to make their portion of the monthly payments on the mortgage.
The husbands of the two families met on several occasions to determine the course of action concerning the Sheltons' financial problem and plaintiffs' attorney prepared a document of some length which was to be executed by both families. On a designated night it was presented to the defendant Mary Shelton, for the first time, read by her and then signed in the presence of two witnesses, neither of whom testified.
It is the contention of the plaintiffs that this document constituted an option, given by the Sheltons to the plaintiffs, for the right to purchase their interest in the property at a designated figure within a designated time.
The essential elements of the option read as follows:
"In consideration of the sum of One Dollar ($1.00) and other good and valuable consideration, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, the undersigned, convey by Warranty Deed, free and clear of all liens and incumberances [sic] to Patrick J. Lucey and Gloria Lucey, his wife, hereinafter called "Luceys," their heirs, assigns or nominees and deliver to Luceys or to their nominees, all of the interest, equity, right or title which Sheltons now have in and to the premises legally described as:
at the option of, and upon the demand of the Lucey's provided 30 days prior written notice of their intention to exercise this option is served upon the Sheltons by U.S. registered mail, addressed to Sheltons at 241 S. Catherine Avenue, La Grange, Cook County, Illinois, upon the following terms and conditions:
(a) by the payment by Luceys to Sheltons of the sum of Seven Hundred Dollars ($700.00) simultaneously with the signing hereof, at 241 S. Catherine Avenue, La Grange, Cook County, Illinois;
(b) Luceys agreeing to pay to Sheltons, the additional sum of Seventeen Hundred Twenty-seven Dollars ($1727.00);
(c) Luceys also agreeing to pay any additional sums which may be paid by Sheltons on the principal between the date hereof and December 10, 1953 [sic] on account of or towards their prorata share of the balance due on the purchase price of the above described premises;
(d) Luceys further agreeing to pay a sum equal to 20% of all such payments on the principal by Sheltons which 20% shall be considered as the amount of the appreciation in value of the property in ...