What is Novation in Real Estate? Everything You Need to Know

Posted by Excelsior Realty Team on September 19, 2023

In the world of real estate, countless details go into property transactions. From negotiating terms to closing deals, it's crucial to have a solid understanding of every aspect involved. One term that often arises during these transactions is "novation." Whether you're buying or selling a home, comprehending what is novation in real estate and how it impacts your contract can save you from potential headaches down the line.

An old contract is replaced with a new one in novation. It lets you change contractual terms while keeping your obligations intact. Even seemingly small changes can have a big impact on real estate deals, so understanding novation is especially important.

Today, you're going to learn what exactly novation entails and why it matters within real estate transactions. By providing clear explanations along with practical examples, we aim to equip you with valuable insights so that all your contracts remain current, accurate, and well-suited for smooth transaction processes.

What is Novation In Real Estate?

Novation in real estate is when a new legal contract or obligation takes over an existing one of equivalent or nearly equal value. This means all the benefits, terms, and burdens of the previous contract are transferred to the new one.

A real estate transaction is so valuable and complex that relying just on verbal agreements is not enough. Modifying an existing contract by scratching out some words or phrases won't work either. Every time there's a renegotiation of any deal term, everyone involved has access to the new legally binding contract.

For instance, parties might have different opinions on aspects such as selling price, mortgage terms, debt obligations. The beauty of novation lies in its ability to establish clear guidelines and protect both buyers and sellers throughout their property journey.

What is Novation in Real Estate - Everything You Need to Know


How Novation Works

A novation works by transferring both the benefits and responsibilities of a contract to another. One party willingly gives up their rights and obligations in exchange for another party taking them on. This allows a seamless transition in contractual agreements without causing costly cancellations or reputation damage.

Novations are commonly witnessed in industries like construction, where subcontractors may be juggling multiple projects simultaneously. With client consent, contractors can transfer specific jobs to other contractors who can fulfill the duties according to the original terms.

When businesses switch hands or companies get taken over, novations play a big role. As long as all parties involved strive for continuity, new owners often want to keep existing contractual commitments in place. By novating contracts, this transition process gets easier and clearer.

Types of Novation in Real Estate

Novation in real estate encompasses different scenarios that may arise during property transactions. Here are three common types:

1. Standard Novation

This occurs when both the buyer and seller agree to a new contract, incorporating new terms into the agreement. Once all parties have discussed and finalized these changes, they sign the updated document.

Example: Let's say after inspection, the buyer requests repairs be made as a condition for moving forward with purchasing the house for sale in Excelsior MN. A standard novation would involve drafting a revised purchase agreement that includes specific provisions about those repairs.

2. Expromissio Novation

When there are three parties involved in transferring rights or obligations, it's called an Expromissio novation. All parties must agree to new contract terms in order to proceed with the novation. The three parties are the transferor, the transferee; the counterparty.

Suppose a tenant wishes to assign their lease agreement to another party. To complete an Expromissio novation, all three parties—the transferor, the transferee, and the counterparty—must mutually consent and sign a revised agreement documenting this transfer of rights and responsibilities.

3. Delegation Novation

When a new creditor takes on both benefits and contractual obligations from an old creditor, delegation novation is required. This legally releases the original debtor from financial liabilities owed to their initial creditor while binding them under similar terms with a new one.

Consider a case in which Company A owes money to Creditor X. But instead of paying that debt, they sign a delegation novation deal with Creditor Y and give that debt and all rights, benefits, debts, and obligations to Creditor Y.

Common Contract Elements that Change with Novations

Novations come into play when legal obligations or terms in real estate contracts need adjustment or clarification. These changes are crucial to ensure all parties involved are satisfied and the transaction proceeds smoothly.

When it comes to novation in real estate, several contract elements often undergo renegotiation:

  • Rent Amount: Adjustments may be made to rental agreements based on market conditions.
  • Move-out/Move-in Date: Sometimes, tenants require flexibility regarding the timing of their lease commitments.
  • Deposit Amount: Parties might agree on modifying the initial deposit stipulated in the original contract.
  • Other Lease Terms: Terms such as pet policies, utilities included, or maintenance responsibilities can be revised through a novation.
  • Purchase Price: In property sales transactions, both buyers and sellers may seek alterations to reflect current market value accurately.

Do consider the earnest money amount, names of the stakeholders, closing costs, and effective date- these all, too, may get modifications with the novation.

Assignment vs. Novation in Real Estate

When it comes to novation in real estate, one question that often arises is its relation to assignment. While both processes involve bringing at least one new party into an existing contract or transaction, there's a key distinction between them.

Novation allows for the creation of a completely new agreement and transfers all contractual obligations and rights from an existing party to a new one. In comparison, with assignment, only the benefits and rights are transferred to the assignee, while any burdens remain with the original party.

Let's say you want to sublease your rental property; you still have to fulfill the lease terms. This would take an assignment. On the other hand, if you want someone else (the transferee) to take over both rights and obligations under your purchase agreement completely—like paying the mortgage—that's a novation.

Understanding these differences is crucial because choosing either option can greatly impact your legal responsibilities within real estate transactions.

Novation Agreement in Residential Real Estate vs Commercial Real Estate

In both cases, residential or commercial, novation draws out the negotiations, which can be simple. Still, all parties need to review updated documents, and that can take more time.

In the world of residential real estate, deals typically involve two parties: the buyer and seller. This makes the process relatively straightforward when changes need to be made, as everyone can gather easily for review.

However, things get more complex in commercial real estate transactions that often involve three or more parties or legal entities. With frequent modifications happening in these deals, novations come into play to create a new contract that requires signatures from all involved.

In commercial transactions, delegation novations ensure fairness by redistributing debts appropriately among stakeholders. Closing may take longer due to cautious buyers seeking maximum investment returns while considering future obligations.

Whether dealing with residential or commercial properties, taking the necessary time during negotiations ensures satisfaction at closing and beyond.

Examples of Novation Agreements in Real Estate

Renegotiating a Home's Price: In residential real estate, a "novation" occurs when the seller and buyer agree to change the original selling price for different reasons. A seller might decide to lower the price instead of fixing problems that come up during the home inspection if they don't want to fix them.

Transferring a Lease: Let's say someone signed a one-year rental agreement but needs/wants out after six months; they have an option known as "lease assignment." With landlord approval, they could assign their lease responsibilities - financially and legally - to another person who would then fulfill all terms outlined in it.

Changing Earnest Money Deposits: In some instances where buyers are unable or unwillingly make upfront earnest money payments as agreed upon initially in written contracts—sometimes prices require adjustment promptly due to non-payment avoidance.

Tips for a Smooth Novation Process

  1. Negotiate and Communicate: Clearly discuss your intentions, concerns, and expectations with the other party involved in the novation agreement in real estate. Effective negotiation ensures that both sides are on the same page regarding any changes.
  2. Document Everything: Keep thorough documentation of every step throughout the novation process. This includes written communication, amendments to contracts, or any additional agreements made along the way.
  3. Seek Legal Counsel: It is always advisable to consult an experienced real estate lawyer who can guide you through complex legalities associated with novations in real estate transactions.
  4. Assess Contractual Obligations: Have a comprehensive understanding of all existing contractual obligations before entering into a novation agreement. Take note of important deadlines or clauses that may affect future negotiations.
  5. Prepare for Potential Challenges: Anticipate potential challenges - such as resistance from one party accepting new terms or disputes over responsibilities during transfer processes. Consulting professionals early on helps mitigate these issues and keep them from derailing your smooth transaction journey.


The purpose and significance of novation can help you figure it out so you can deal with it easily. Knowing when to consider novation can give you more flexibility when it comes to modifying contracts.

To ensure smooth property deals that prioritize clarity and legal compliance, enlist the expertise of Excelsior Realty. Our experienced agents in Minnesota have extensive knowledge about novation in real estate and can guide you through every step of the process like pros.

So, next time you find yourself dealing with contract modifications or renegotiations, remember that novation is there to serve as your ally within residential or commercial real estate ventures!