What Happens on Completion Day?
Completion day is when the buyer will pick up the keys for their new house. The ownership will be transferred from the seller to the buyer, and the seller must move out. The buyer can move into the house on completion day with the help of a removal company.
For a smooth completion day, you should keep in touch with your conveyancer. Your role will be to liaise with your conveyancer who will be able to confirm when completion has taken place, allowing you to liaise with the seller or estate agents to collect the keys.
Compare My Move has created this guide to help you understand everything you need to know about what happens on completion day. From what it means to how to ensure a successful outcome, we cover it all to help you as much as possible during this busy time.
What Does 'Completion' Mean When Buying a House?
When buying a house, the term 'completion' means you are at the end of the sale and ownership of the home has now passed onto the buyer. In short, it means everything has been finalised.
If you have completed the transaction, it means the buyer has successfully obtained a mortgage agreement and has paid the seller, allowing them to obtain the keys and begin moving in.
What is a Completion Day?
Completion day is the final step in the conveyancing process for sellers and buyers. It typically occurs between 7-28 days after the exchanging of contracts. When you exchange contracts, your conveyancer will set a completion date that has been previously agreed by all parties.
At the end of the conveyancing process for buying, the buyer’s conveyancer will transfer the final funds to the seller’s conveyancer. Once the payment is received by the seller’s conveyancer, that is the moment that completion has legally taken place. The buyer will then receive the keys to their new house, finally being able to move in. Completion day is when your removal company will arrive and you can begin moving in.
For the completion day of a house sale, the seller will need to have moved out of the property. The target time to move out by is usually 12pm, but this can change depending on how big the property chain is. Alternative times and arrangements can be made if both the buyer and seller agree to them.
Completion Date and Moving Date
Completion date is the day the seller will receive payment for the property and the buyer will receive the keys and can begin moving in.
As a seller, you must move out on the completion day of your house sale. But as a buyer with no property to sell, you can move into the house whenever you're ready, either on or after completion day.
If the transaction is part of a property chain, you may have to wait until the seller also has their completion day. However, generally, the completion date marks the day in which the ownership of the property is exchanged and so you should be able to begin moving in.
Can you Complete on a Saturday?
A completion date cannot be scheduled for a Saturday or Sunday as most banks and solicitors are closed. The most popular day to complete on a house is Friday, according to research by the TwentyCi Property & Homemover 2018 Report. Friday is also the most popular day to move house, which was revealed in Compare My Move's 2019 data.
What Happens on Completion Day?
To help you prepare, here's a basic breakdown of what will happen on completion day:
- The buyer's conveyancer will pay the final funds due to the seller’s conveyancer by same day bank transfer. The funds are usually transferred in the morning. Your conveyancer should contact you once payment has been made.
- Once the seller’s conveyancer receives the payment, usually between 12pm – 2pm, then completion has legally taken place.
- The seller's conveyancer will then contact the buyer's conveyancer to confirm receipt of the funds and they will also then contact the estate agent to authorise the release of the keys to the buyer.
- The estate agent will then make contact with the buyer to confirm that the keys can be collected.
- Conveyancers for both parties should then call their respective clients to confirm that completion has taken place.
- The seller should vacate the property and allow the buyer to move in. Both the buyer and seller should have booked their removal companies in advance by now.
Transferring Money on Completion Day
Transferring the final funds to the seller's conveyancer will be the main event on completion day. Before this can be done, you will need to ensure that you have paid all required funds due from you to your conveyancer and if buying with a mortgage, that the mortgage funds have been paid to your conveyancer. These funds includes the conveyancing disbursements.
Once all payments have been received, the buyer's conveyancer will transfer the final funds to the seller's covneyancer. This will be done via the CHAPS banking system. Don't forget to compare conveyancing quotes to find the most trusted verified conveyencers, saving you both time and money.
What Happens on Completion Day in a Chain?
A property chain refers to the number of house purchases that are linked together in a chain. Each one is dependent on the other transactions. A chain is usually made up of around 4 or 5 transactions. The completion day timeline will depend on how many people are in the property chain and if any unexpected problems arise.
The completion process will usually start with someone who is only buying. If you’re a first-time buyer or don’t have a house to sell, then the chain will start with you. The chain will then end with a seller who is only selling a property.
The chain will usually start around 11am. Depending on the chain’s size, it could end at 4pm when the last buyer picks up their keys. Below, we’ve provided a quick example of a common completion day timeline for someone in a property chain.
Completion Day Timeline:
- 11am - The first buyer in the chain, usually a first-time buyer living with their family, completes their purchase transaction.
- 1pm - Next, the second buyer (who sold their property to the first buyer) will complete their purchase transaction.
- 3pm - The third buyer (who sold their property to the second buyer) will then complete their purchase transaction.
- 4pm - The final person in the chain (who only has a property to sell) receives payment from the third buyer and completes the sale transaction, thus ending the property chain.
The completion deadline will often be before 5:30pm as this is the time the CHAPS banking system and most conveyancer's offices will close.
You should use a moving house checklist to make sure you know the moving house process timeline.
What Happens on Completion Day With No Chain?
A ‘property chain’ refers to the number of house purchases that are linked together in a chain. Each one being dependent on the other transactions. The timings on completion day will depend on whether you’re in a property chain.
If you’re not in a chain for your current transaction, then completion day should be more straightforward than those involved with property chains, as you won’t be reliant upon other transactions being completed first.
If you’re not in a property chain, the timeline will be similar to the one above, but should finish earlier. It will usually be around 11am that completion will take place, assuming all payments have been received by the buyer’s conveyancer, allowing them to transfer the final funds to the seller’s conveyancer in the morning of the completion day. As the seller is not buying another house, the buyer should not have to wait as long to move in.
Even though it’s not always advised, it’s even possible to exchange contracts and complete on the same day as it’s less risky when there’s no chain. This will lengthen the process on the completion day but is still possible to do. We cover this in more detail in the section below.
Can I Exchange Contracts and Complete on the Same Day?
Completion typically happens between 7-28 days after the exchange of contracts. However, it's possible to exchange and complete on the same day, but it’s not suitable for most buyers.
Generally, it’s not advised to exchange contracts and complete on the same day. You could be attempting too many tasks at once and, if anything was to go wrong, it could have a knock-on effect. This could delay the process for everyone involved and cause unnecessary stress and inconvenience. The main reason why there is an exchange of contracts on one date and then completion on another, is to give all parties security, allowing them to book and pay for removals in the knowledge that the completion date is legally binding on everyone.
We've provided examples of when and when not to exchange contracts and complete on the same day to help you determine the best course of action for you.
When to Exchange and Complete on the Same Day:
- The property you are buying, or selling, is sold with vacant possession and the seller has already moved out
- The buyer of the property does not require a mortgage, known as a ‘cash buyer’.
- The buyer does not need to physically move in on the completion day.
- You are not in a chain, so you are not reliant upon other transactions completing first.
When Not to Exchange and Complete on the Same Day:
- You are in a property chain and are relying on other transactions to be completed first.
- You need to move in on the completion day.
- You need to book a removal company to help you move in.
- Some conveyancers will charge extra for completing the same day as exchanging contracts. Discuss this option with your conveyancer before deciding your course of action.
Completion Day for New Builds
If you're buying a new build home, you won't be able to agree on a fixed date as conveyancing for new builds is different compared to older properties. The main reason your conveyancer may not provide a completion date is usually because the house is still being built. This means a completion date can't be certain.
Unfortunately, the period between exchanging contracts and the date of completion for new builds could end up being a few months. It all depends on your circumstances and the property developer you're dealing with. Once the property has been fully built, the completion date can then be set.
What Can Go Wrong on Completion Day?
There can be various problems that may cause delays on the completion day. Some of these completion day problems include:
- Delay of Purchase Funds - Most buyer’s will fund their purchase with a combination of their own funds and a mortgage. Its best practice for all of the purchase funds to be paid to the buyer’s conveyancer the day before the completion day, allowing the buyer’s conveyancer to make full payment to the seller’s conveyancer in the morning of the completion day. If the buyer or mortgage lender is late in making payment to the buyer’s conveyancer, then this can cause a delay to the timeframe for completion.
- CHAP's Deadline - If the final funds are not in the seller’s conveyancer’s bank account by 4:00pm, then the completion of the transaction may need to wait until the next working day for everything to go through. This is because it's the time most bank CHAPs systems close for the day.
- Delay in Chain - If you’re in a property chain, then it only takes delay of payment in one link to cause a delay to the whole chain.
How to Avoid Completion Day Problems
To ensure a successful completion day, it's important to:
- Be Organised – You should know exactly what’s happening throughout the day. Your conveyancer should be in regular contact with you.Make sure you're free to keep track of any progress.
- Early Payment - You should ensure that you have paid any funds due to your conveyancer before the completion day. If you wait to the actual day of completion to make payment, then it could cause delay.
- Talk to Your Conveyancer – Good contact is key to a successful completion day. Schedule a time to call your conveyancer on the morning of the completion day to discuss progress.
- Be Easily Contactable – It’s vital that you remain contactable throughout the day. Your conveyancer and the estate agent will need to contact you to conclude the process.
- Vacate the Property Quickly – The earlier you are able to move out of the property you are selling, the easier it will be for everyone involved. You should aim to be out of the property by 12pm at the very latest.
How Can Hiring a Conveyancer Help?
Exciting and chaotic, your completion day will often feel rather overwhelming. But your conveyancer will be there to help guide you through the process.
It’s not recommended to complete the conveyancing process alone as the legal issues involved are thorough, confusing, time consuming and pertinent to the transaction. It’s always wise to seek the help of a professional to ensure that the process is done right. Any issues could later affect the transaction or even your time living in the property.
During completion day, your conveyancer will coordinate payments to the relevant parties. They will also be the liaison with the other party’s conveyancer. A professional conveyancer will engage through communication with all parties and ensure that the legal completion process is done correctly.
If there are issues that need to be resolved or you have any questions about the process, your conveyancer should be there to help. If they’re qualified and experienced, they should be able to provide the correct answers and be able to resolve any issues that could cause delays to the completion process.
Next Steps of Buying a House
This article is the penultimate part of our home buying guide. The final stage in the buying process will be paying any Stamp Duty or Land Transaction Tax if applicable. To find out more read what is stamp duty.