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How Long Between Exchange and Completion?

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The timeframe between exchange and completion is usually two weeks. This gives both the buyer and seller plenty of time to get ready for the big day. Note that the time from exchange to completion can vary.

Chain-free buyers or those paying with cash are likely to complete the transaction more quickly. On the other hand, buyers who need a mortgage may experience delays and slower completion.

This guide will take you through what to expect between exchange and completion.

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Exchange of Contracts Explained

The exchange of contracts is an essential step in property transactions. It marks the moment when both parties become legally obliged to complete the sale. The conveyancing solicitors of both parties will exchange identical signed contracts, and the transfer of ownership will then take place.

The process is known as the exchange of contracts, it usually happens over the phone as a verbal agreement. The solicitors agree to send their contracts and arrange a date to end the conveyancing process.

The buyer’s solicitor must transfer the deposit funds to the seller’s solicitor and provide proof of mortgage funds to guarantee payment of the remaining funds upon completion.

The buyer will also pay an exchange deposit at this point to secure the sale. Before the sale can be finalised, the buyer and seller must pay any remaining fees, such as solicitor costs, disbursement fees, and mortgage fees.

Completion Day Explained

Completion day marks the final stage of the conveyancing process. Ownership has been fully verified and transferred to the buyer, and all funds have been paid. This usually happens between 7 and 28 days after exchanging contracts.

The seller will receive all remaining funds, and the buyer can collect the keys from the seller’s estate agent. All parties will be informed of the agreed time when the seller must vacate the property beforehand.

Traditionally, completion day takes place on a Friday, giving buyers the whole weekend to move into their new property. But it’s possible to complete it earlier in the week. This reduces the chances of delayed completion, as the bank transfers can be done the next working day. If there are delays on a Friday completion, buyers would have to wait until the following Monday.

On completion day, the buyer can move into their new property and have access to the title deeds. It’s best to use a removal company to take the stress out of the move and make sure all belongings are safely transported.

Following completion, the buyer’s solicitor can contact the Land Registry on their behalf. They will then confirm the signed transfer.

How Long Between Exchange And Completion
On completion day, the buyer can move into their new property and have access to the title deeds.

Average Time Between Exchange and Completion

On average, exchange and completion take around two weeks. This gives both parties plenty of time to get everything ready for the move. This includes hiring a removal company, arranging mail redirection with Royal Mail, taking out home insurance, informing broadband and utility providers, and taking final meter readings.

Though it is rare, exchange and completion can take place on the same day.

However, completion may be delayed for several months if there are significant delays with mortgage lenders or funds can’t be transferred on time or by mutual consent.

What if there is a delay?

There’s no fixed time frame for completion. As a rule, the completion should take place between 7 and 28 days after contracts are exchanged. This gives both parties enough time to make sure everything is in order, and the transaction can go ahead.

If completion hasn’t happened in a month, it can cause serious issues for both parties. If the seller is responsible for the delay, the buyer may want to re-negotiate their offer, meaning the conveyancing process needs to start again.

But if the buyer is the one causing the hold-up, the seller may decide to look for another buyer and withdraw from the sale.

Can I Exchange and Complete On the Same Day?

It is possible to exchange and complete on the same day, although this depends on the situation. There are a few cases where it is possible.

Cash buyers can make quick purchases, as they do not need a mortgage and are not dependent on selling another property. This makes them attractive to sellers, as they will receive the funds promptly.

Investors, such as landlords, do not need to worry about arranging removals as they are not moving in themselves. If they are buying a property with existing tenants, exchange and completion can occur on the same day.

For sellers who have already moved out or there’s no property chain, exchange and completion can also take place on the same day. This suits both parties as the buyer will want to move in quickly, and the seller will want to receive the funds promptly.

Why-Would-Completion-Day-Be-Delayed
If a payment further up the chain is not successful, it could cause huge delays - even if it isn't related to your property transaction.

Why Would Completion Day Be Delayed?

Completion day can be pushed back due to various unexpected circumstances. 

Here are the most frequent reasons for a delayed completion day:

  • Delays in the Chain

If a payment further up the chain is not successful, it could cause huge delays – even if it isn’t related to your property transaction.

  • Adjustments in Financial Situation

This includes delays from the mortgage lender on the buyer’s side, as the transaction cannot be completed without the necessary funds. The majority of buyers require a mortgage when purchasing a property, and if their personal circumstances have altered, the lender may not release the funds. The banking CHAPs systems close at 4 pm and are only open on weekdays. If the bank has not sent the funds by then, the completion may be postponed until the following business day.

  • Change of Heart

The buyer or seller may have had a change of heart about the sale and want to withdraw. If this occurs before the exchange of contracts, they can pull out without going through any legal repercussions.

If they back out between the exchange and completion, they will be responsible for covering the fees the other party has already paid. They may also be taken to court for additional damages.

What if a Party Pulls Out After Exchanging?

After exchanging contracts, the transaction is legally binding. This means none of the parties can back out of the transaction without facing legal consequences. This is considered a breach of contract and could result in hefty financial penalties for the party that withdraws.

If the buyer pulls out, they risk losing their deposit and any other costs they have incurred, such as mortgage-related fees, legal fees, and disbursements. They may also be expected to pay the difference if the home’s value has decreased since they made their offer.

Should the seller withdraw, they must return the buyer’s deposit and any other fees they have spent so far. The seller must also cover the cost of returning any documents, and the buyer may take the seller to court in certain circumstances.

It is important to recognise that enforcing a breach of contract will require you to instruct a commercial litigation solicitor, and they are reassuringly expensive at £300/hour.  You could end up throwing good money after bad with no guarantee that you will receive a compensation.

How Will My Solicitor Help?

Solicitors are there to provide guidance and expertise throughout the property transaction. They provide reassurance, often under stressful circumstances.

Your solicitor will take care of conveyancing searches and payments to third parties on your behalf.

They will help you make an informed decision when it comes to the property sale.

If you’re a buyer, you should hire a solicitor as soon as your offer is accepted. Sellers should do the same once they’ve accepted an offer. This marks the start of the home-buying process.

The conveyancing process finishes when the sale is completed.

Is Your Buyer Dithering?

Statistically speaking, the longer a buyer takes, the less likely the sale will complete successfully.

If your buyer is dithering, delaying or wasting your time and you need to sell, then issue them with a notice to complete.

Use us as your backup buyer.

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