Auckland mum Madhu was ecstatic when she bought a dream family home last October.
But seven months later, she's yet to move in and must now stump up an extra $110,000 or risk losing the house forever.
She urged others to learn from her "nightmare" after the seller of her Avondale home had repeatedly delayed the final transfer of ownership.
Seller Renee Xinyu Xu earlier told the Herald she ran into unexpected delays while subdividing and building new homes on the Avondale block and that meant she couldn't yet legally hand over the house to Madhu.
She said Madhu had been pre-warned final settlement could be delayed.
However, the delays had led Madhu's bank to cancel her home loan.
To secure another, she now needed to raise twice as much money - another $110,000 - for her deposit because banks now needed to comply with tougher rules with giving out home loans.
Madhu - who didn't wish to give her last name - also had the option to try to buy another house.
But Auckland's median prices had jumped $125,000 since October, according to the Real Estate Institute.
Madhu said the saga had caused turmoil in her life for months.
"Family, work, every part of my life - I can't concentrate with the stress."
Delayed settlements was a predicament that real estate agents and property experts said could be all too common.
Madhu secured the home in October by making an $880,000 pre-auction offer - on a $110,000 home loan deposit - after the house failed to sell for a higher price at auction.
Madhu's house was the original one on the Avondale block, but the sellers had also been building two more houses behind.
They told Madhu they expected she would be able to move into the house in January because at that point the sellers expected to have final approval from Auckland Council to officially subdivide the land into three new properties.
Barfoot & Thompson selling agent Clara Wu earlier told the Herald it was "very common" for homes - especially new-builds - to be listed for sale like this without finalised land titles.
That was especially the case with developers, who pre-sold homes before they were built to help pull in the money needed to get big projects off the ground.
But Wu said Madhu was fully warned settlement could be delayed and that was why a sunset clause was included.
That legally obliged Madhu to buy the house if it was handed over before May. But after that date Madhu was free to walk away from the deal if the home wasn't delivered.
Ray White Manukau owner Tom Rawson said buyers often landed in trouble in such situations when projects ran late.
That was because builders and developers did not typically need to pay financial penalties to buyers for late delivery, he said.
Xu - who sold the home to Madhu - told the Herald the hold up was linked to delays in gaining approval for work from Auckland Transport as the development site was on a main road.
The Christmas break had caused further days, putting the project three to four months behind schedule, she said.
"We were expecting everything to go smoothly so we [could] do it in time."
She earlier told the Herald she was not a professional developer and the Avondale property was her "first and last" project.
She said she had followed the advice of planners but that the project had run into unexpected delays that had also caused her huge stress.
"We are not developers, we need our life to be back to normal from that kind of havoc," she said.
However, Madhu said she had not been able to get clear answers from Xu about why the delays had occurred.
She questioned whether these delays were known or should have been known at the time of the sale. And if so, she said it wasn't fair to offer the house for sale.
As a single mum, the IT professional said she had worked hard to save her deposit without any help from her parents.
But she feared she now needed to go cap in hand to friends and relatives to help raise the extra cash for a deposit or new home if she was forced to go house hunting again.
She said she bought the house after missing out on other properties at the time when the housing market was running hot and felt rushed by the deal.
"I was naive at the time, but now I would not go for a deal like this again," she said.