Contract Terms – In November, check your settlement date (Part 2)

Buying or selling property in November

In the first part of my article I wrote about the issue of buying or selling property during the period from mid-November and throughout December, especially when your Contract for Sale of Land specifies the standard 42 day settlement period. If you haven’t read that article, you can find it here.

In summary, the standard 42 day settlement period means that your completion date falls within the ‘holiday season’, being the period between Christmas and New Year when many businesses close down or are short-staffed because of holidays and leave. During this time you’ll probably experience additional delays in getting things done which, aside from the legal and financial consequences, can be frustrating if you’re supposed to be settling the sale or purchase of your property.

Once you’re aware of the issue and aside from waiting or not transacting (ie, not buying or selling), here are 3 things you could do to proactively address this issue:

  1. Raise it with the agent when you’re negotiating the sale or purchase of your property. Agents should be aware of the issues, however, admittedly many will take the attitude that after the contract has been exchanged, it’s not their problem now (ie, “speak to your lawyer about it”). If you’re unable to negotiate something with the agent in advance, at least avoid committing to a settlement date until you’ve obtained advice from your finance, as well as your lawyer or conveyancer.
  2. Bring it up with your lawyer or conveyancer (unless they bring it up with you first, of course). Most experienced lawyers or conveyancers will be aware of the issues around having to settle over the Christmas and New Year period. Some even prepare contracts with special conditions to postpone settlement until mid-January or later, depending on when their office will reopen for the new year. Regardless, get the right advice to avoid any potential issues.
  3. If you’re prepared to address the issue yourself, then the 3 obvious options are to do nothing, bring the settlement forward before Christmas or push settlement back until after the New Year. There are various advantages and disadvantages of each option, which I’ll address in the next part of my article.