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How long does it take to exchange contracts?

Property Saviour » Buying » How long does it take to exchange contracts?

Exchanging contracts is an exciting phase of the home-buying process. It’s when the seller and buyer sign legally binding documents to complete the purchase and sale of the house.

Despite the Coronavirus pandemic, buyers and sellers still want to understand what’s involved.

We’ve put together this guide to give you a comprehensive overview of the process.

We’ll provide expert advice to answer questions like “How long does exchanging contracts take?” and “What do I need to do to exchange contracts when buying a home?”. Read on to find out more.

Table of Contents

How long does it take to exchange contracts?

The exchange of contracts typically takes 8-12 weeks, however, this may take less time if there is no property chain. It is important to remember that each sale is different and some can take more or less than 8-12 weeks. We recommend using 8-12 weeks as a guide.

What happens when I exchange?

When you buy or sell a home, the following process will take place:

  1. The solicitors or conveyancers for both the buyer and the seller have a signed contract in their possession.
  2. The solicitor of the seller holds the signed TR1 form (Transfer of Title Deed).
  3. The solicitor for the buyer holds the cleared funds for the deposit, a building insurance policy and a mortgage offer (if needed).
  4. A completion date has been agreed.
  5. The solicitors of the buyer and the seller contact each other to confirm that they have the required legal documents. They then exchange contracts, usually on a phone call, to make the transaction legally binding and to prevent anyone from backing out without paying a penalty. This involves making sure the documents they have are identical, such as no fixtures and fittings being left out or any errors made regarding the costs.
  6. Once this has been done, each solicitor sends a copy of the documents to the other. Both legal teams receive the contract paperwork in the post and give copies to their clients.
How long does it take to exchange contracts
It is important to remember that each sale is different and some can take more or less than 8-12 weeks.

What does completion date mean?

Completion is the final step in the process of buying and selling a property.

Once the buyer’s solicitor has received confirmation that all the money for the purchase has been received, legal possession of the property is transferred to the buyer from the seller through the transfer and dating of the title deeds.

Typically, the buyer gains vacant possession of the property by 1 pm on the completion date, meaning the seller should leave the property by this point. The buyer’s estate agent will provide them with the keys, allowing them to move in.

Completion takes place after the contracts have been exchanged. The process typically goes as follows:

  • The seller’s solicitor receives the full amount for the house.
  • Then contact their client to confirm receipt of the funds before contacting the seller’s agent and the buyer’s solicitor to confirm the sale is complete.
  • The seller usually moves out during the morning of the completion date.

After 1 pm, the buyer can collect the key and start moving in. They must also pay Stamp Duty (if applicable) to HMRC, which is usually handled by their solicitor. More information about Stamp Duty can be found on the Gov website.

Lastly, the buyer’s solicitor will register the ownership of the property with HM Land Registry on their behalf. The buyer is responsible for ensuring the payment and registration have been completed.

What do I need to do before exchanging contracts?

You should only exchange if you have done all of the following:

  1. Agreed on the offer, including fixtures and fittings.
  2. Had a mortgage valuation and any surveys conducted.
  3. Received a written mortgage offer.
  4. Arrange funds for your deposit and make sure the deposit is paid.
  5. Had your solicitor or conveyancer review the required searches?
  6. Arranged building insurance.
  7. Agreed on a completion date for your sale.
  8. Read the contracts and understand them.
  9. Give your solicitor or conveyancer your deposit or provide proof of funds.
  10. Signed the contract or agreement, the lease or transfer, and the mortgage deeds.
  11. Once all of the above is done, you can go ahead and exchange, and start preparing for your move.

Could anything cause delays?

When buying or selling a house, many things can cause delays in the conveyancing process. Even with the best preparation, plans can change due to various circumstances. Common causes of delays include:

How long does it take for an exchange to go through
If you're buying an older property or selling a house to a current homeowner, any issues in the chain could cause a delay.

Property chain size

If you’re buying an older property or selling a house to a current homeowner, any issues in the chain could cause a delay. Even if you’re a first-time buyer, you’ll need to wait for the seller to find another home.

The exchange of contracts cannot take place until a completion date has been agreed. On the other hand, buying a new-build property does not usually lead to delays. However, there could be hold-ups if the property developer falls behind schedule.

Mortgage lender issues

You may have already received a loan offer in principle which allows you to make an offer on the house. However, exchange of contracts cannot take place until a formal offer is received from the lender. Delays can occur if the lender has issues with applications.

Valuation differences

When the mortgage lender values the house, there is no guarantee that it will match the price that you have agreed to pay. If the valuation is lower, the lender will only offer the mortgage if you buy at this reduced price. Resolving financial issues like these can take time.

Why do solicitors take so long to exchange contracts
If a check or search reveals something unexpected, this could cause buyers to pull out further down the chain. There is not much that can be done to speed up this part of the process.

Checks and searches

Your conveyancing team need to carry out searches with the Local Authority, Water Authority and other bodies. While you don’t have to deal with these things yourself, it can take up to six weeks to receive the results.

If a check or search reveals something unexpected, this could cause buyers to pull out further down the chain. There is not much that can be done to speed up this part of the process.

If you want to speed up the process, here are some tips: provide the estate agent with the conveyancer’s details as soon as you make an offer;

  • Get all documentation relating to the house ready in advance;
  • Give your conveyancer everything they need, including payment for the searches, straight away.
  • Use a reputable mortgage broker with experience in expediting offers.
  • Get the survey done as quickly as possible.
  • Make deposit funds easily accessible.
  • Arrange building insurance for the day of exchange.
  • Avoid going on holiday – two weeks away from the process will just result in extra hold-ups.
  • Choose a skilled and experienced conveyancer.

How can I speed up my contract exchange?

To expedite the exchange of contracts, collaboration with all parties is necessary. This will ensure that buyers and sellers can take turns to attend to their respective steps, thus allowing the exchange to proceed.

Property Saviour Exchange with Delayed Completion (Assisted Sale)

At Property Saviour, we offer an assisted sale service for homes that require extensive renovation. We agree to buy the property and pay for the refurbishment, then we sell it on the open market.

Our client completes the sale at a much higher rate. Completion of the sale can take up to a year (or longer) to complete.

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Property Saviour Price Promise

  • The price we’ll offer is the price that you will receive with no hidden deductions.
  • Be careful with ‘cash buyers’ who require a valuation needed for a mortgage or bridging loan.
  • These valuations or surveys result in delays and price reductions later on.
  • We are cash buyers.  There are no surveys.
  • We always provide proof of funds with every formal offer issued.
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We'll Pay £1,500 Towards Your Legal Fees

  • No long exclusivity agreement to sign because we are the buyers.
  • You are welcome to use your own solicitor. 
  • If you don’t have one, we can ask our solicitors for recommendations.
  • We share our solicitor’s details and issue a Memorandum of Sale. 
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  • Our approach is transparent and ethical, which is why sellers trust us.
  • 100% Discretion guaranteed. 
  • If you have another buyer, you can put us in a contracts race to see who completes first.
  • Complete in 10 days or at a timescale that works for you.  You are in control.

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