Can the buyer of a house get out of the contract if the seller is not ready to close on the closing date?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can the buyer of a house get out of the contract if the seller is not ready to close on the closing date?

The house I want to buy is in an estate that is being settled. The heir is

selling the house. I have been negotiating with the heir. If the estate is not

settled by the closing date can I, the buyer, get out of the contract and get my earnest money back? I ask the question in case the seller is not ready to close on the agreed upon closing date which is getting close. I wouldn’t mind getting out of the contract.

Asked on February 15, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Oregon


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

It depends on the extent of the delay, and there are no hard-and-fast rules or guidelines unfortunately--it is a subjective standard. You can only terminate a contract for a "material" or significant breach. So the question becomes, for a transaction like this, what is "material." Given the context--a real estate transaction, where delays are not uncommon--a delay of a few days would not be considered material and would most likely not let you get out of the contract. A delay that was definitely more than or well-over a month, especially if you put the seller on written notice that there is some hardship or cost to you from the delay, would most likely justify termination. In between those two benchmarks, however, it is impossible to say exactly when the delay is too long.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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