This suit was instituted by Paul Joyce, as plaintiff, who is a licensed real estate broker of New Jersey, against John E. Stafford and Helen R. Stafford, his wife, owners of certain land located partly in the Boroughs of Stratford and Hi-Nella, and partly in the Township of Gloucester, Camden County, New Jersey. Plaintiff alleges that defendants owe him the sum of $11,095.03, for unpaid real estate commissions.
The facts are briefly as follows: Defendants owned a farm, located in parts of all three of the above municipalities, consisting of approximately 370.95 acres. On July 27, 1955 plaintiff negotiated with defendants for the right to act as their agent or broker in the sale of the land to one Rae Crowther, and an agreement was executed by defendants wherein they agreed that
"* * * in the event Mr. Crowther purchases all of our farm or any portion thereof, that we will pay Paul Joyce a sales commission of five (5%) per cent of the gross amount of money received, as received, under the terms of the Agreement, except money paid us for the lands to be given to the School Board of the Borough of Stratford.
This agreement applies only to any negotiations made with the said Rae Crowther or his representatives, and does not give Paul Joyce the exclusive rights to sell our farm."
It is agreed that at the time of the execution of the aforementioned commission agreement Mr. Crowther was about ready to purchase the land, and two days later, on July 29, 1955, he executed an agreement with defendants to buy the said property for a price of $2,500 per acre. The total sales price was to be predicated on the number of acres to be determined from an accurate survey, to be supplied by the buyer, under conditions set forth in the agreement. It is admitted that Mr. Joyce was fully conversant with the terms of the agreement of sale and that he witnessed the execution thereof by the parties and also took the acknowledgments of both the buyer and the seller. Crowther made a down-payment of $10,000 at the time of the signing of the agreement, which was to be held in escrow by the West Jersey Title & Guaranty Company until the survey was procured and the site was approved by the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration for use of the property as a one-family development, and in the event that such approval was not forthcoming, due to no fault of the purchaser, then the agreement would be extended to secure such approval, or if such approval could not be obtained, the purchaser had the right, upon written notice, to a return of the deposit.
However, upon the approval of the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration, which was thereafter obtained, the buyer agreed to immediately submit all necessary site plans, sketches, plats and building plans and specifications as may be necessary and proper to secure the required permits from local, county and state agencies. Settlement was to be held within 30 days after securing said approval, and at the time of settlement the buyer would deposit an additional sum of $12,500 to be applied on account of the purchase price. The agreement further provided that upon the closing of title and transfer of the
fee to the buyer, the buyer should also pay an additional sum of $202,500, and that the balance then remaining was to be secured by a purchase money mortgage, without interest, due and payable three years from the date of the settlement. At the time of the settlement the owner was to release from the lien of the mortgage 90 acres of said land without further payment, and thereafter release from the lien of said mortgage such acreage as the buyer may require upon the payment of $2,544 per acre.
The buyer agreed to convey to the Borough of Stratford, for school purposes, ten acres out of the tract, and upon making said conveyance was to get a further credit of $12,500. The agreement provided that the same might be assigned by the buyer at his option.
Crowther's interest was transferred to the Laurel Mills Development Co., a corporation in which he was interested, prior to date of settlement, and at that time it was agreed that the survey indicated there were, by actual count, 370.95 acres. Thus the total consideration was fixed at $927,375.
A mortgage was given by the Laurel Mills Development Co. to the defendants for the sum of $675,357.72 on April 4, 1956, which was the date of settlement. On that date defendants received the gross sum of $252,017.28 and paid to Joyce $12,600.87 as his share of the commission on the actual gross cash received. ...