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What stops a house buying contract dragging on for ever?

(20 Posts)
faraday Fri 24-Jul-09 11:41:33

Serious question: Here in the UK I constantly hear about 'the vendors have moved the completion date a week/ 2 weeks' etc.

At what point can the buyer (who has a deposit at stake!) say 'Enough. Deal's off. Give me back my deposit'? And NOT lose the deposit for collapsing the contract?

The as yet STILL verbal agreement on price we have made with the vendors is that we will be IN the house on Oct 1st. Not in writing yet BUT I worry that IF we commit exactly that onto paper, and for some reason completion can't happen for a week or so, officially they're in breach of contract BUT we obviously have some leeway (we rent til mid Nov!) so we don't WANT the contract to fall over due to a small silliness BUT we also don't want to be still waiting to move in Jan '10!

How do we word that as is seems no one has a completion date 'written in stone' here, as it were or contracts would be falling over left right and centre.

HerHonesty Fri 24-Jul-09 11:45:33

when you hand over the deposit - when you exchange contracts - you agree the completion date. if either side fails to make the completion date or withdraws they loose their deposit or have to pay the equivalent to the buyer.

i have bought and sold several properties and never not had the completion date in stone at point of exchange. if you solicitor is advising you otherwise i would personally check with another solicitor.

the only sticking point is when you agree to exchange and complete on the same day which is quite rare.

LIZS Fri 24-Jul-09 11:56:04

You don't pay the deposit until you "exchange contracts" at which point details such as price, what is being left and completion dates become binding. Up until then it is purely verbal so all is a moveable feast and either party can pull out for no specific reason. Not sure any other interim agreement would hold water legally tbh but your soliciotr is the one to ask.

Fimbo Fri 24-Jul-09 12:04:27

You will never get a completion date set in stone unless you move to Scotland.

HerHonesty Fri 24-Jul-09 12:19:41

disagree fimbo. i have done this on each property transaction.

faraday Fri 24-Jul-09 12:19:58

That's what I was thinking, fimbo! As in that it ISN'T set in stone whatever you've negotiated and signed for at exchange!

We are pressing our vendors for a faster exchange (another thread!) to avoid any attempt on their part to try and involve us in whatever chain they buy into. That SHOULD all happen in a week or so. Completion SHOULD then be Oct 1st but am I right in thinking if BOTH parties mutually agree to move completion it all still stands?

HerHonesty Fri 24-Jul-09 12:25:30

sorry, not sure what you mean in your very last sentence.

yes if you BOTH agree then you could move the completion i suppose.

but you are saying you would not want to move the completion date.

so then you are not agreeing and if after exchange they fail to complete on the agreed date or tell you they are not going to complete on the agreed date you will get your deposit back. this is a hugely unlikely scenario, as very few people would want to loose 5% of the sale price unless they are slightly bonkers.

like ANY contract one or other party can fail to meet their side of the bargain, but there are penalties involved.

now the run up to exchange is however a moveable feast. that is the problem in most property transactions.

LIZS Fri 24-Jul-09 12:36:43

You can go for exchange with a delayed completion date but I believe monies, and therefore legal possession, will only change hand on that fixed date although you may be able to subsequently vary the contract by mutual consent.

faraday Fri 24-Jul-09 12:42:19

Yes, what I meant was if both parties agree to move the completion date (after exchange) it's OK, it doesn't affect the contract as such.

LIZS Fri 24-Jul-09 12:49:07

Well it does if it affects the date the money comes through from the lender. Should your vendor have another property to buy and not have the funds in place it then has a snowball affect.

HerHonesty Fri 24-Jul-09 12:59:33

tbh honest it sounds a bit like you are getting your knickers in a twist without really needing to.

your worry at the moment should be the lack of movement towards the exchange date.

it is rare for things to go wrong after the exchange date - worry about that when it happens. yes you could both mutually agree to move the date, but I have never heard of anyone changing price for example after exchange.

faraday Fri 24-Jul-09 13:26:43

My knickers will be nicely ironed ONCE WE HAVE A SIGNED CONTRACT!

As you can see, our 'arrangements' appear to have fallen over at the very first hurdle: no contact whatsoever from our vendors, post verbal price agreement, now 17 days ago! Til we leaned on them via the EA!

See, as you might possibly know, this is our first foray into UK house buying. We come from a culture where none of this shenanigan CAN legally go on! And we are constantly being told horror stories of Things Going Badly Wrong! Which naturally worries us!

HerHonesty Fri 24-Jul-09 13:33:03

any contract in any country can go wrong. that is why there are so many fat cat lawyers in the world.

if you feel that strongly set an exchange date and if they dont meet it then look for another house.

faraday Fri 24-Jul-09 13:58:43

Well, I can't do that before I see what the fixtures and fittings are! Could be ME who has to delay things sorting out what we will and won't pay extra for!

HerHonesty Fri 24-Jul-09 15:34:38

of course you can set a date for exchange.

you can say deadline for exchange is 1st September.

then they have to get the f and f list to you by then and give you enough time to peruse and decide what you do and dont want to buy. the f and f list doesnt have to be a massive topic for negotiation unless something on it is something you expected to be included in the sale and had agreed for it to be included.

lalalonglegs Fri 24-Jul-09 16:06:02

It's rare to exchange more than four weeks before completion so if you want to be in on 1 Oct there is still lots of time to negotiate everything and get it sorted out.

LIZS Fri 24-Jul-09 17:55:14

I wouldn't get too het up over the fixtures and fittings list yet unless something substantial may or may not be included (ie solid fuel stove or summerhouse) which could significantly affect the purchase. Have you organised a survey yet as they may feel equally you aren't being active and committed if not ? Why not request for an exchange by beginning of September, allowing for holidays etc and assuming all runs to order.

faraday Fri 24-Jul-09 19:46:23

OK! I suppose it all now depends what, if anything has happened by next weekend when we return. I realise that today maybe we should have said to them 'we expect F&F by the time we get back in a week' but I am keen not to antagonise unnecessarily, esp as if they only JUST got a new solicitor it'd take a day or 2 to get sorted! I think that if nothing at all has happened upon our return (Aug 2nd) we may have to set deadlines for exchange. TBH I may only give them a fortnight by then seeing as that would be 6 weeks post their acceptance of our offer, and 6 weeks prior to completion!

I guess, LIZS and others, my 'issue' over F&F is that it represents proof from THEM they're serious! We have already done our building inspection and are harassing solicitors!

We're serious!

goldenpeach Fri 24-Jul-09 21:07:21

Don't understand your worry about fixtures and fittings. For instance, if they don't want you to have their chandelier, they have to replace it with another light fitting, they can't wreck the house to get their bits back, they have to replace them. I wouldn't stress about fixtures and fittings. I bought twice and sold twice and it was never a consideration. As a foreigner I sympathise with you but if you have a good solicitor you will be all right. Don't let it prey on your mind, everybody is stressed when buying/selling. I am buying (again) and had bad experiences so far but I won't let myself get depressed, although I feel low at times. Use the estate agent to put pressure on them, use the solicitor, but there is so much you can do, you cannot force them to sell.

LIZS Sat 25-Jul-09 07:30:38

by "building inspection" do you mean a survey ? have you got mortgage offer (assuming you are applying for one) in place yet ? Searches sent off ? tbh unless you have it is rather tricky to put much pressure on the vendor. I'm not sure what you are expecting from them but their solicitor has to do relatively little, just organise things like the f and f list, check title and any financial claims on the property(ie loans) and produce a draft contract, most of the work(and potential for delay) is on your side.

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