What if I change my mind about buying a house?

Co-author: TJ Ryan 

Backing out of a property purchase is not a decision to be made lightly. Here’s what happens if you change your mind about buying a house.

When can you change your mind about buying a house?

Prospective buyers can change their mind about buying a house any time before settlement – but the consequences of this are different, depending on when you make the choice to pull out. If you back out of a property purchase during the cooling-off period, the financial penalty varies; if you back out once the contract is unconditional, the contract will specify the financial penalties.

Once you have exchanged contracts and paid a deposit on a property, you have a legal right over that property, called a financial interest. New Zealand law firm, Cockcroft Law, warns about the implications of trying to back out of buying a property, after signing a sale and purchase agreement.

“It is a commonly held, but completely erroneous, belief that there is a cooling-off period when a sale and purchase agreement is signed.

“Many of us fall in love with a property and are determined to get it regardless of the fishhooks that may come with ownership,” Cockcroft Law states on its website.

 

When the sale becomes unconditional, you are no longer able to back out of the contract, without significant financial penalties. The contract for sale will outline what the buyer is required to pay the seller, as compensation for pulling out of an unconditional contract. These costs may include paying your own and the seller’s legal or conveyancing fees, and your own and the seller’s building valuation and inspection fees.

Any buyer considering backing out of a property purchase should obtain legal advice before breaking a legally binding contract.

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Backing out of a property purchase for financial reasons

When possible, borrowers should obtain home loan pre-approval (known as approval in principle) so that you will not have to back out of a property sale due to financial reasons. Borrowers should not sign an unconditional contract (e.g. at auction) or waive their right to a cooling-off period if they have any doubts about getting finance for a property purchase.

If your finance has been rejected and you have already paid a deposit and exchanged contracts on a property, conveyancing experts recommend that you seek immediate legal advice.

Having your home loan application rejected can damage your credit rating and make it less likely that you would be approved for a future loan.

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