Changing a Closing Date

You've purchased or sold a home with a specific closing date, but you need to change that completion date

Is it possible? Well, the short answer is maybe. It depends.

To change the closing date (or any term) in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale (APS), which, of course, is a legally binding written contract between the buyer and the seller for the purchase and sale of a particular property, you must use what is referred to as an Amendment to the APS. Since it binds the parties to the agreed terms that, by mutual agreement after completion of sometimes extensive negotiations, meet the needs of both parties, any change can often be complicated.

When buying a house, any altering of the terms, including advancing or postponing, or amending a closing date, is normally prepared by the party wanting the change. The appropriately executed amendment would then be delivered to the other party, either through the respective agents or lawyer, or directly in the case of a private sale, for their signature(s).

What normally occurs in practice, however, is that prior to preparing any paperwork, the real estate agent (or lawyer) for the party requesting the amendment, contacts the other party's real estate representative (or lawyer) to seek a verbal agreement to such a change. The other party's agent then contacts their respective client to learn whether or not they can or will agree to the proposed change. If agreed, then the agents proceed to prepare and execute the formal amendment.

No matter how reasonable the amendment might seem to the requesting party, the other party does not have to agree to the change. If no agreement is reached, by way of acceptance of the proposal or after more negotiation, the terms of the APS remain as originally agreed.

Aside from the purchase and sale price, and sometimes conditions in an offer, the date of completion is arguably the most negotiated term of an APS. Obviously, each party has their preferences, and sometimes, an absolute requirement. The buyer may have committed to that date in their APS for the sale of their current property, or the seller may have an inflexible date in the APS for their next home. So, there may no longer be the option to alter the date of completion. See this page for more on this scenario.

Having said this, the other party might be inclined to agree to a proposal if the party requesting the change would agree to compensate the other party for any additional costs that would be incurred due to the proposed change. For example, if a buyer were to ask a seller to agree to a later completion date because the buyer was forced to agree to a later date for the sale of their own property, as an incentive to the seller, the buyer could offer to pay a slightly higher purchase price for the real estate involved in exchange for the seller agreeing to the postponed date.

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Changing a closing date can be particularly challenging since both parties have likely planned around that specific date, including booking movers. Also, the closing date could have been a significant factor for a seller's agreeing to negotiate with a particular buyer. This is fairly common in a competing bid situation when a seller is comparing all  aspects of the multiple offers presented to them.

There are plenty of reasons for amending an APS. For example, a seller may have forgotten that they had wanted to take a special light fixture or window covering with them upon vacating, but maybe didn't realize they had unintentionally included them in the APS. Or a buyer might want the seller to address an issue they discovered after the completion of a home inspection. Instead of signing a Notice of Fulfillment to remove the home inspection condition, the buyer would sign an amendment to simultaneously remove the condition and add a special clause in the APS to reflect the seller's agreement to make a repair or to adjust the purchase price. For more on this topic, visit The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO).

When selling or buying real estate, if you need to change the closing date or any other terms in your APS, contact your real estate representative or lawyer to discuss the proposed change and the reason for it. Or if you're selling or buying a house privately you could address the issue directly with the other party.

Keep in mind that the longer you delay, the more likely the other party will have solidified their plans, thereby increasing the odds of them being unable or unwilling to any changes. Thus, it's advisable to make such a proposal ...

As Early As Possible

...during the buying or selling process. For more serious issues, including if the closing date is imminent, I suggest that you seek advice from your lawyer.

The bottom line is that the seller or the buyer, depending on the situation, might agree to change the closing date in the APS, but they're not obligated to do so.

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If you're interested in expanding your knowledge about buying and selling real estate, check out Ross' book entitled The Happy Agent. Though written to help professional realty agents improve their skills, it will also serve as a great resource for both home buyers and sellers. This easy-read book with its assorted home buying tips and techniques will teach you what to look out for when viewing property, what to ask and expect from your realty agent. It will help you make a thoroughly informed decision. Learn how to buy and sell like a pro. When spending big money, it's smart to make informed choices.. A small investment of your time could conceivably save you thousands of dollars and a ton of stress.

Available virtually everywhere print and e-books are sold.

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