You’ve found the home of your dreams, you’ve been pre-qualified for a mortgage, made an offer and it was accepted. You’ve given your landlord notice and preparing to move into your new home on the first of the month when you’re officially its new owner.

There’s just one problem: The seller has had a change of plans. Maybe the new house they’ve been building isn’t ready yet. Perhaps their company’s move to Detroit has been postponed. Whatever the case, they’ve decided not to move out just yet. Can they do that?

It’s complicated. If they want to postpone their move, that shouldn’t change your plans. If your closing documents show that you’re the owner of the house on a specific date, that’s the date by which they need to be out. 

The best first step is to contact your real estate agent and let them work with the seller’s agent. If there a date on your closing documents that specifies when the home needs to be vacated, that can make things easier. If they still won’t budge, you can work with an attorney to issue a demand letter or – if that fails, initiate eviction proceedings. Don’t change the locks, have their belongings hauled away or try to do anything on your own. Those kinds of “self-help evictions” could land you in legal trouble.

What if the seller just asks for a little more time as you’re nearing closing? If you don’t have a deadline for moving out of your current residence, you could ask for a lease or “rent back” agreement. The seller would remain in the home and pay rent to you for the time they are there. If you do this, you’ll need a contract and the proper insurance. Again, you don’t want to do this without getting a real estate attorney involved.

It’s best to find out that a seller needs some flexibility on their move-out date before you’ve closed on the home. If you’re flexible about your own move, this can make you a more attractive buyer, and perhaps the seller will be willing to agree to a lower price.

If you run into any of these scenarios that require any new contracts or legal actions, don’t do anything without experienced legal guidance.