You’ve Been Warned

TLDR: Here it is, the single most common reason for a contract to fall through: not adhering to timelines in a contract. If you don't follow the timeline that you both agreed to, you'll be in breach of contract and risk being sued for the property. 

Timelines, timelines, timelines. Trying to pin down a closing date on a house up front is like trying to hold a fish (slippery little bugger). There are so many moving parts, and people are fallible; they're forgetful, and there are lots of steps in the transaction with everyone having a different job to do that affects the closing calendar in different ways. 

Want an example of how easy it is to shift the timeframe? The buyer's offer will usually include a tentative close date. However, if it takes a seller a few days to respond, and then both parties take a few more days to negotiate back and forth, the closing date will already need to be pushed back, and the parties haven't even signed the contract yet. Toss in multiple contingencies, each with their own number of days allotted for the buyer to terminate the contract, and three hundred additional people with jobs to do such as inspectors, lenders, title attorneys, etc. and you end up with a giant mess of a timeline very quickly. 

It's one of the reasons that the actual closing date and time isn't set until most contingencies have been cleared, so the many possible delays to closing mean the title company waits until the end of the transaction to put something on the calendar. 

Example: What does a timeline look like to close on a property?

A typical closing involving a lender takes 30-45 days, while closing without a lender can take as little as ten days. Once you accept an offer, everyone will need to follow this timeline to get to closing:

A Timeline for Each Step

What are my options if I need to change the timeline?

Touch base with the buyer. Ask them if they'd be amenable to a change in the closing or move-out date, or if they'd be willing to figure out an alternative that may work for both of you. It takes two to get to the closing table!

If you’re not ready to move out yet but you still want to close on the property, you can ask the buyer if you can rent the house for a certain period of time (such as two weeks) after closing. You can use this time to move the rest of your belongings out of the house. Everything should be documented to protect both you and the buyer in this instance, so it’s a good idea to sign a post occupancy agreement.


“On the day of closing, we had difficulty reaching the lender, only to discover that the lender was not prepared to close that day. This was unwelcome news because we had arranged to have flooring contractors begin refinishing the hardwood floors on the day of closing. Luckily, the seller allowed the contractors in after being assured that the buyers would, in fact, close on the house as soon as their lender got their sh*t together. If we hadn't closed, the seller would have had their floors redone for free!”

What if the buyer has to delay closing, either for reasons out of their control or within their control?

Like the answer to so many questions, it depends. Is the buyer still committed to buying the property and just needs a couple days to get everything in order? It might behoove you to be flexible and adjust to the new schedule; losing a couple days is still a better deal than taking the time to put your house back on market and go through the negotiation process all over again. Is the buyer dragging their feet, being irresponsible, and annoying to boot? The buyer may be in breach of contract if they don’t adhere to the timelines, which could allow you to terminate the contract and possibly keep the earnest money deposit.