Get completion dates agreed in writing

Our lawyer advises on the best way to proceed with changes in completion dates
legal toon - change completion date
© Merrily Harpur
Question: We are selling our house and a completion date has been agreed. Contracts were exchanged about four weeks ago. We fixed on a completion date of August 25, 2011, which was to suit school dates for the buyers' children. We don't have children and so dates are not as important to us, but August 25 was convenient as it is just before the Bank Holiday weekend.

Now the buyers want to bring it forward a week, which really messes up our plans. Our selling agent is pushing us to agree but we are not sure we want to and we feel a bit bullied. What should we do?

Answer: You are holding all the cards. You have exchanged contracts and therefore there is a binding contract between you and your buyers. The completion date will be stated in that contract. Your buyers are bound to complete the purchase of your property on August 25, and indeed by a certain time on that day, known as "the contract time". This is usually about lunchtime, probably 1pm or 2pm.

You certainly do not have to agree to change the completion date to suit your buyers but if you do decide to do so, to accommodate them, you should not do so informally. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you tell your solicitor that you are prepared to change the completion date so that your solicitor can then vary the contract formally.

Ideally, your solicitor should prepare a supplemental agreement changing the completion date, and your buyers should pay your solicitor's costs for drafting that agreement. Both you and the buyers will need to sign the new supplemental agreement and it will have to be dated.

If the change of completion date is done in this way, then the terms of the contract will have been varied formally and are binding and enforceable. This means that should there be any issues on completion (for example if your buyers do not complete on the new date), your interests will be better protected.

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP

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