When “Time is of the Essence” in a NJ Real Estate Contract

nj real estate

Whether you are buying or selling a property, knowing the details of NJ real estate laws is important to help you make the right legal decisions. For instance, many people believe the closing date written in the contract for sale is the actual closing date on the purchase or sale of a property. However, in New Jersey the closing date is not essential to the terms of the contract and is therefore not binding. This means the date of closing on the contract is not a hard date, but is instead an estimate of when the closing will take place. Either the buyer or the seller in the contract can request—and must be legally afforded—a reasonable postponement of the closing date. This can be an unwelcome surprise for a party that is ready to close. At Veitengruber Law, our goal is to eliminate confusion by ensuring legal clarity in every real estate contract we oversee.

In New Jersey, the only way to ensure a binding closing date is if both parties agree to “time is of the essence” terms. “Time is of the essence” is a legal phrase used to remind everyone involved in a real estate transaction that the clock is ticking. Once “time is of the essence” is introduced into a NJ real estate contract, the closing date becomes essential to the terms of the contract and is therefore legally binding.

Failure to close on the specified date when time is of the essence constitutes a material breach of contract, opening the non-complying party to liability. Many attorneys will not agree to make a closing date essential in a contract because it opens up their clients to increased liability, even if the client is unable to close because of circumstances outside of their control.


Veitengruber Law handles essential closing dates with ease for clients who are buying or selling a NJ property.


Veitengruber Law provides our clients with a clear understanding of how “time is of the essence” works in a real estate contract. The party who declares“time is of the essence” has to provide clear written notice to the non-declaring party. The notice must comply with the requirements set forth in the contract of sale and be sent to all parties indicated in the contract, typically by certified mail. If the party receiving the notice believes the notice is improper, they must object to the notice in a timely manner. In order to reject the notice, they must list the reasons for objection and similarly notify all concerned parties of the contract via certified and regular mail. Failure to provide a timely notice of objection may waive the non-declaring party’s ability to do so at a later date.

The declaring party must also give the non-declaring party a sufficient or “reasonable” amount of time in which to close the contract. “Reasonable” in this specific capacity, is determined by the courts on a case by case basis. The courts will decide what is reasonable by:

  • Considering the nature of the contract
  • Examining past conduct of both parties
  • Determining whether or not good faith was practiced during the negotiations, and finally,
  • Concluding whether potential hardships or prejudices exist that could affect either party’s ability to close on time

Two weeks is a customary “time is of the essence” extension for residential NJ real estate transactions and more time may be provided for commercial real estate contracts.


If one party is ready to close and the other party will not agree to a closing date, it may be wise to implement “time is of the essence” language in your NJ contract of sale. Once the original date of closing in the contract passes, the party that is ready to close can set a new closing date declaring “time is of the essence.” This new date will contractually obligate the other party to close on that date or be in breach of contract. If the non-declaring party still does not close by the date set forth under “time is of the essence,” the declaring party can seek legal remedies against the party in breach. With “time is of the essence,” we can save our clients valuable time, money and stress throughout their real estate transactions.


At Veitengruber Law, we strive to eliminate any confusion by ensuring legal clarity in all of the real estate contracts we handle.


Declaring “time is of the essence” is a valuable tool for real estate contract negotiations in New Jersey. It ensures a hard close date and legal recourse for parties ready to close on a contract. It is important to be smart about introducing “time is of the essence” to a real estate contract. Veitengruber Law has years of experience handling commercial and residential real estate transactions. Our attorneys can advise on even the most complex real estate cases with efficiency and professional expertise. Call us today to get knowledgeable guidance on any aspect(s) of your NJ real estate negotiations.

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