The complete guide to cooling off periods when selling a property

What you should know before accepting an offer on your property


A cooling off period is the number of business days where a property buyer can walk away from a legal agreement to purchase a residential property. Buyers who do this will usually have to pay the seller a small termination fee, which is often around 0.25% of the purchase price of the property. Any deposit above this will commonly need to be refunded.

If you are selling a house you don’t get a cooling off period. Once a vendor has signed the sales contract they’re obliged to go through with it subject to the conditions of the contract.

It’s worth finding out what happens if a buyer decides to break the sale contract during the cooling off period. This guide will help you understand where you stand no matter where in Australia you live.

Do all buyers in Australia get a cooling off period?

All states and territories have a standard cooling off period for non-auction sales except in Tasmania and Western Australia.

  • Is there always a cooling off period?

There are two major exceptions to mandatory cooling off periods:

    1. Properties sold at auction have no cooling off period
    2. For normal house sales, the buyer can sign an agreement that waives their right to a cooling off period (in some states).

Australia-wide cooling off rules

    • What happens if the buyer breaks during the cooling off period?

      Buyer payment to seller if sale is cooled-off

StateCooling off periodSale price paid to cool offWhat you would gain on a $400k cooled-off sale
ACT5 business days0.25%$1,000
NSW5 business days0.25%$1,000
NT4 business days if purchaser isn't represented by a conveyancer or solicitorNilNil
Queensland5 business days0.25%$1,000
SA2 business daysSmall holding deposit is forfeited (up to $100)$100
TasmaniaNone100%$400,000 (sale must proceed)
Victoria3 Business days. Cooling off period doesn’t apply if 3 days before or after a Public Auction. Industrial/Commercial and farms can be exempt.0.2%0.2%
WANone100%$400,000 (sale must proceed)

cooling off period

  • Do sellers get a cooling off period on sales?

    No, a cooling off period is only for the buyer and not the seller. Once a vendor (the seller) has signed the sale contract, they cannot back out of that sale.

  • Can buyers pull out of a property sale when the cooling off period ends?
    No, buyers must go through with the purchase on the terms of the contract after the cooling off period.
  • What is considered a business day?
    A business day is Monday-Friday, not including the weekend or public holidays. A business day ends at 5PM in the world of home sale contracts.
    If you hand in your signed notice that you'd like to use your cooling off rights after 5PM on the last day of the cooling off period, you'll be too late.

Agency cooling off period for sellers (NSW only)

Sellers who enter an agreement with their real estate agent to sell their property have a one day cooling off period (including Saturday) in NSW to exit that agreement with the agent.To take up the cooling off period, the seller must give the agent a 'notice of rescission' signed by all clients by 5PM on the one day of cooling off.

Extra general information

Cancelling a real estate agent listing

If you’re unsatisfied with your real estate agent and you’d like to suspend the listing agreement, most agents are willing to cooperate if you provide a sufficient reason.

How to cancel a real estate agent listing

If you’ve decided to withdraw a real estate agent listing, you will need to ask your agent directly to cancel your listing agreement. Make sure you have the right to cancel the listing by enquiring about this when first signing the contract.

  • Re-visit listing agreement. Most listing agreements will include a clause that allows you to cancel the contract without penalty given that the real estate agent agrees to the contract suspension. Be cautious of a listing contract that omits a clause that allows you to withdraw from the listing and keep in mind that some contracts may outline that the agent will still be paid commission even when the contract is cancelled. This is because the agent may be out of pocket for any advertising costs that have already been incurred.
  • Contact your agent. You’ll need to speak with your agent directly to notify them of the reason for cancelling the listing. If your real estate agent won’t agree to cancel the listing, you’ll need to request a cancellation from the general manager of the agency. Typically real estate agents will cancel the listing upon your request as they want to uphold their reputation. However, in the event that the general manager refuses to cancel the listing, you should seek legal advice from a solicitor that specialises in property legislation. They will be able to facilitate the process on your behalf so you can terminate the contract effectively.
  • Follow up with agent. After you’ve made initial contact with the agent, it’s a good idea to follow up to ensure that the listing has been officially terminated and your property is no longer on the market.

Conveyancing and the cooling off period

Conveyancing is the transfer of ownership from one person to the other, that is, from the seller to the buyer. However, before the exchange happens, it has to undergo certain stages, one of which is the cooling off period. The cooling off period happens the day there is an exchange of contracts, provided that it falls under a business day and ends at 5PM on the fifth business day. However, if a property is acquired through an auction, the cooling off period does not apply. During the cooling off period, both parties have the right to cancel the contract. If this happens, a penalty will be incurred from the person who cancels the contract. If the cooling off period ends and neither you nor the buyer expressed any intention to cancel, you will be legally bound to the contract.

Can a vendor pull out of a contract?

If you sign a contract to sell your house but then get cold feet, either during or after the buyer’s cooling-off period, there’s little you can do. There is no cooling-off period for sellers in Australia. Once contracts have been signed and exchanged, you are locked into the sale of your property under the terms you have agreed to.

As you will then be legally obliged to go through with the sale, it’s essential that you’re certain that you want to sell your home before you sign anything.

If you want to back out of a contract after it's been signed, you'll need to speak to a solicitor regarding your options.

Clear business days defined

The cooling off period is effective when the property is acquired through a private treaty. This period is usually five clear business days long. However, the cooling off period can be extended or shortened, depending on the agreement of both parties.

Clear business days, in conveyancing, refer to regular business days including Saturday. Thus, if the exchange of contract happens on a Sunday or a holiday, the cooling off period will commence the next day and will end after five days at 5PM.

What happens during the cooling off period?

The cooling off period is, in theory, a grace period for the buyer to evaluate if the property is the right one for them. It also gives you time to re-think if the financing you’ve got will complement your budget. If you changed your mind and cancel the contract during the cooling off period, there is nothing that the seller can do. There is a provision, though, to compensate for the fees and effort done.

If a buyer decides to terminate the contract, he will have to pay a penalty equivalent to 0.25% of the property’s purchase price. Thus, if the property costs 300,000, the penalty will be $750. The seller, will then refund the deposit to the buyer within 14 days, but may deduct the penalty from the amount. When the buyer decides to cancel the contract, he should give a letter of cancellation to the agent informing him about the cancellation. This letter can be handed personally, or mailed to the agent’s business address.

Waiving the cooling off period

Waiving off the cooling period is possible as long as the property is not sold through an auction. This provision is under the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002 which gives the buyers the right to waive the cooling off period. Waiving the cooling off period must happen one business day before the contract is signed. If the buyer decides to waive the cooling off period, he should also sign the Office of Fair Trading waiver form first before signing the contract or agreement. This certificate is called the 66W certificate. This certificate must be given to the seller, or to the seller’s agent stating that the lawyer is acting independently from the seller, that he will not gain any benefit or profit and that he has informed the buyer about the impact and effect of waiving the cooling off period.

No cooling off period situations

The cooling off period allows the buyer to do further research and inquiries or change their mind during the cooling off period. However, there are cases which the cooling period does not apply. The most well known of these is when a property is sold at an auction. After a property is sold, the exchange of contracts takes place immediately leaving no time for a cooling off period. The  Conveyancing Act 1919, Section 66T states that a cooling off period does not only apply in situations where the client or buyer gives you prior to the exchange of contracts a 66W certificate which states that he is waiving the cooling off period. The Act also states that there is no cooling off period if the contract is made the same day as the property was put up for sale in an auction. Another situation that may nullify the cooling off period is when you consulted a lawyer before the signing.

The Conveyancing Act 1919, Section 66T states that a cooling off period does not only apply in situations where the client or buyer gives you prior to the exchange of contracts a 66W certificate which states that he is waiving the cooling off period. The Act also states that there is no cooling off period if the contract is made the same day as the property was put up for sale in an auction. Another situation that may nullify the cooling off period is when you consulted a lawyer before the signing of contract. The conveyancing process is often different from state to state. Therefore, it is better to ask your solicitor to give you light how conveyancing is done in the area where you live. It is imperative that you know and exercise your rights when dealing with legal matters such as conveyancing.

Would you like some professional help with your conveyancing matters?

TitleXchange offer fixed price conveyancing to help you sell your property in the smoothest way possible. Fill out the form below to get into contact with a legal expert from TitleXchange.

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Marc Terrano

A passionate publisher who loves to tell a story. Learning and teaching personal finance is his main lot at Talk to him to find out more about home loans.

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102 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    DeanFebruary 12, 2016

    During the cooling off period, we discovered serious structural issues with the building as a result of the building inspection. Subsequently, we reduced our offer on the property. The vendor has rejected this new offer. The property is in NSW. When we made our offer we said it was contingent on the building inspection (this was ìn writing). Does the vendor get to keep our deposit?

    • Staff
      BelindaFebruary 15, 2016Staff

      Hi Dean,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I’ve sent you an email to follow up with this enquiry.


  2. Default Gravatar
    MarryJanuary 9, 2016

    Hi.We signed exclusive agency agreement from 20/10/2015-20/01/2016. It’s says on agreement if more than 90 days we have to give 30 days written notice to withdraw contract after 20/01/2016. We thought our contract is 90 days but when I counted days its actually 93 days.Does this mean i have to give 30 days notice or agent shouldn’t put 93 days?

    • Staff
      BelindaJanuary 11, 2016Staff

      Hi Marry,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      I’ve sent you an email to follow up with this enquiry.


  3. Default Gravatar
    TaniaNovember 4, 2015


    Does the 3 day cooling off period start from the day the purchaser signs the contract or start from the day the vendors signed the contract ( ie: in my case 4 days after the purchaser signed the contract)?

    • Staff
      BelindaNovember 5, 2015Staff

      Hi Tania,

      Thanks for your enquiry.

      As illustrated in the above table, the terms of the cooling off period varies depending on the state in which you reside. However, please note that the cooling off period is for the buyer and not the vendor, and therefore if you are the vendor and you’ve signed the contract, you generally cannot back out of the sale.

      If you require further advice, you can fill out the online form on this page to speak with a conveyancer regarding your options.


  4. Default Gravatar
    AlexOctober 31, 2015

    Sir/Madam, We have listed our home for sale in Tasmania. We now decided not to sell after all. We signed a contract with a real estate agent who put up a “for Sale” sign. Can we now stop the “for sale ” listing with the real estate agent? No one has opted to buy our home yet.

    • Staff
      MarcNovember 2, 2015Staff

      Hi Alex,
      thanks for the question.

      It might be a good option to read the agreement signed when you listed the property and see how you are able to terminate your contact.

      I hope this helps,

  5. Default Gravatar
    BrettOctober 27, 2015

    I have just been informed that the buyer of my house has exercised their right to the cooling off period with respect to purchasing my house. They have requested the deposit be paid back. I want to exercise my right to .25 percent of the purchase price to cover costs. The problem is that they only put up one thousand dollars and .25 is higher than that. Can I request that they pay the extra?
    Thanks. Brett

    • Staff
      JodieOctober 29, 2015Staff

      Hi Brett,

      Thank you for reaching out to, a financial comparison website.

      The cooling off period terms are typically stated in the contract for sale that the purchaser signed so they should be aware that they are obligated to pay these funds to you, however you may want to communicate with your real estate agent as well as your solicitor as to how to proceed with the situation and go about the possibility of retrieving the money.

      This is general advice and it would be better to seek professional advice from the people you have worked with on this property sale.


  6. Default Gravatar
    RoseSeptember 3, 2015


    I wanted to sell my house, when I paid my rates up until 31 December, I paid the full amount even though I was entitled to a discount. I now have money in credit. How do I go about keeping that credit? Will this be added to my settlement statement?

    • Staff
      JodieSeptember 3, 2015Staff

      Hi Rose,

      Thank you for contacting, a financial comparison website.

      We are not able to offer you specialised advice and I would recommend speaking to your solicitor regarding this as it tends to be something covered in the contract for sale.

      In general rates are calculated pro-rata at the time of settlement as to how much you, the vendor, has paid and then if there is any owning it is taken from the purchase amount. Alternatively as you have paid in advance there will be a rates payment paid by the purchaser included in the settlement that will cover the pro-rata amount that you have paid on the rates until 31 December.

      As I mentioned above this is something that would need to be discussed with your solicitor and real estate agent when you are selling.


  7. Default Gravatar
    marieAugust 30, 2015

    Just a valuable question. We bought a house a month ago, the settlement period is 60 days. Now the seller has changed his mind as it is too low price and the property worth more. What can we do here?
    Thaks, Marie

    • Staff
      JodieAugust 31, 2015Staff

      Hi Marie,

      Thank you for contacting, a financial comparison website.

      We are not able to offer you specific advice however it would be advised that you seek legal advice from your solicitor. In general the seller nor the purchaser can pull out of the contract for sale once it has been signed and as this is a legal document it would be best to speak to a solicitor to discuss what your options are.


  8. Default Gravatar
    AlanLindleyAugust 29, 2015

    Can a real estate agent get me to sign an exclusive authority when selling my house in Victoria for 180 days?.

    • Staff
      JodieAugust 31, 2015Staff

      Hi Alan,

      Thank you for contacting, a financial comparison website who offer generalised advice.

      There are four types of agent agreements that a real estate agent may ask you to sign when you are preparing to sell a property in Victoria. An open listing, multi listing, sole listing and an exclusive agency.

      They are able to ask you to sign an exclusive agency however you should consider that an exclusive agency means you have to only allow them to offer the property for sale so if for any reason you are not happy with their work you cannot switch to another agency.

      I hope this helps but do recommend you do further research before making a decision.


  9. Default Gravatar
    noeleneJune 28, 2015

    Hi, I made an offer of a house that was for sale, and the vendor’s agent told me that they had accepted it, so I did the pest and building inspections- it cost me over $600- but just before the exchange of contracts, the vendor has now decided to take it off the market, with no explanation so far. Are they legally obliged to reimburse me the costs I have incurred so far, since I did those with the understanding that they had accepted the offer, and if not legally obliged, if I take them to court for reimbursement of the cost, would it likely rule in my favour?

    • Staff
      BelindaJune 29, 2015Staff

      Hi Noelene,

      Thanks for your enquiry. is an online comparison and general information service, so we are not in a position to give legal advice regarding your rights in this situation.

      Your best course of action would be to consult a lawyer. Alternatively, you can fill out the form on this page to speak with a professional conveyancer to discuss your options.

      Kind regards,

  10. Default Gravatar
    JoJune 1, 2015

    i have a block of land for sale and have accepted an offer,unfortunately they have been knocked back by 1 bank what is the law with this.They have gone through cooling of.When we purchased years ago we were made to go to 3 banks before we could pull out.

    • Staff
      JodieJune 3, 2015Staff

      Hi Jo,

      Thank you for contacting, a financial comparison website, we are not able to offer specified advice for your needs but are happy to give general advice where possible.

      Each contract for sale may contain alternate clauses with regards to a cooling off period I would suggest reviewing your contract and asking for the advice of your solicitor with regards to the offer that has been made.


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