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How Long Between Exchange and Completion

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23rd May 2023 (Last updated on 14th Mar 2024) 8 minute read

The length of time between exchange and completion is typically 2 weeks. This gives both the buyer and seller ample time to make their final arrangements before moving day. Be aware that the time between exchanging contracts and completion can differ.

Chain-free buyers or cash buyers are more likely to undergo a quicker transaction. Those requiring a mortgage may experience delays and slower completion.

This guide takes you through the time between exchange and completion and what to expect.

  1. Exchange of Contracts Explained
  2. Completion Day Explained
  3. Average Time Between Exchange and Completion
  4. Is There a Maximum Time Limit?
  5. Can I Exchange and Complete On the Same Day?
  6. Why Would Completion Day Be Delayed?
  7. What if a Party Pulls Out After Exchanging?
  8. How Will My Conveyancer Help?
  9. Finding a Conveyancer

Exchange of Contracts Explained

The exchange of contracts is one of the most important steps in property transactions. This is when the parties are legally bound to complete the sale. Both parties' solicitors will exchange identical signed contracts. From this point onward, the transfer of property ownership has changed.

Despite being called the exchange of contracts, it tends to happen over the phone as a verbal agreement. Both conveyancing solicitors agree to send their contracts across. They will then arrange an agreed date that marks the conveyancing process's end.

The buyer’s conveyancer must transfer the cleared deposit funds to the seller’s representative. They must also send proof of mortgage funds, so the seller can be assured that the remaining funds will be paid upon completion.

The buyer will also pay their exchange deposit at this stage to secure the sale. Before completion can take place, both the buyer and seller will need to pay any outstanding fees. These include solicitor costs, disbursement fees, and mortgage fees.

In Scotland, the exchange of contracts is replaced by missives. These determine the terms and conditions of the contract. The exchange is complete when the conclusion of missives has taken place. Once this happens, completion can take place and the buyer can receive the keys to the property.

Read more about Buying a House in Scotland

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 will have been paid. Completion typically occurs 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 agent. Typically, there will be an agreed time when the seller must vacate the property by. All parties will be informed of this beforehand.

Traditionally, completion day takes place on a Friday, giving buyers the whole weekend to move into their new property. However, it is possible to complete earlier in the week. Completing earlier in the week means a smaller chance of delayed completion as the bank transfers can be done the next working day. However, buyers facing delays on a Friday completion would have to wait until the following Monday.

The buyer can move into the property on the same day. They will also have access to the title deeds on their new house. Using a removal company is best as they can remove the stress of the move and ensure all belongings are moved with peace of mind.

Following completion, the buyer's representative can contact the Land Registry on your behalf. They will then confirm the signed transfer.

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Average Time Between Exchange and Completion

The average time between exchange and completion is around 2 weeks. This gives both parties plenty of time to finalise moving arrangements. This includes the following:

  • Hire a removal company via Compare My Move to assist with your packing
  • Arranging mail redirection with Royal Mail
  • Take out buildings insurance and home insurance
  • Inform broadband and utility providers
  • Take final meter readings

There are instances when exchange and completion can happen on the same day, although this is rare.

Those who are chain-free such as first-time buyers are more likely to complete shortly after exchanging contracts. If they require a mortgage, it is unlikely that they will be able to complete on the same day.

However, in some cases, completion can happen several months after exchanging contracts. This tends to happen when there are significant delays with mortgage lenders or failure to transfer funds on time.

Is There a Maximum Time Limit?

There is no legal time limit for completion to take place. However, it is recommended that completion should occur between 7 and 28 days after the exchange of contracts. This allows both parties to ensure everything is to finalise the transaction.

If completion hasn’t occurred after a month, this could cause significant problems for both parties. If the delay is because of the seller, the buyer may wish to renegotiate their offer, which would restart the conveyancing process.

However, if the buyer is the cause for the delay, the seller may withdraw from the transaction altogether and seek out another buyer.

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Can I Exchange and Complete On the Same Day?

It is possible to exchange and complete on the same day. However, this is dependent on the circumstance. Most mortgage lenders require a minimum period between exchange and completion.

A general rule of thumb is that mortgage transactions will not exchange and complete on the same day.

Here are some cases where a simultaneous exchange and completion can occur:

Cash Buyers

Cash buyers can make quick purchases as they will not require a mortgage. They are also chain-free, meaning they are not reliant on selling another property. Cash buyers are often favoured by sellers because of the minimum timeframe. The seller will also be able to receive the funds directly rather than having to wait for a mortgage provider.

Investors

Investors looking to purchase a property will not have to worry about arranging any removals. Investors include landlords seeking rented accommodation.

If the investor is buying a property with tenants in situ, the exchange of contracts and completion can happen on the same day. This is because no moving is required as the existing tenants will remain, making it a quick transfer of ownership.

Vacant Property

If the seller has vacated the property, exchanging contracts and completion can happen on the same day. The buyer may be eager to move in and the seller will want to receive property funds as quickly as possible.

Why Would Completion Day Be Delayed?

Completion day can be delayed due to various unforeseen circumstances. For those looking for a quick exchange completion turnaround, knowing the leading causes of delay is crucial.

Here are the most common reasons that delay completion day:

1. Delay in Chain

If a payment further up the chain fails to go through, it can cause massive delays. This is the case even if it is a payment not directly associated with your property transaction.

2. Change in Financial Circumstances

This can include delays on the mortgage lender’s part of the buyer's as the transaction cannot complete without the necessary funds.

Most buyers require a mortgage when purchasing a property. The mortgage lender may not release the funds if personal circumstances have changed.

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 delayed until the next working day.

3. Change of Heart

The buyer or seller may have changed their mind about the sale and wish to withdraw. If this occurs before the exchange of contracts, they can pull out without facing legal implications. However, if they pull out between the exchange and completion, they will be liable to cover the fees the other party has paid so far. They may also be taken to court for extra damages.

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What if a Party Pulls Out After Exchanging?

After exchanging contracts, the transaction becomes legally binding. This means no party can pull out of the transaction without facing legal ramifications. It is viewed as a legal breach of contract, meaning that there may be severe financial penalties for the party that has withdrawn.

Here is what you need to bear in mind when pulling out of a property sale:

If the Buyer Pulls Out

Buyers have a lot more to lose if they pull out after exchanging contracts. They will lose any deposit they have paid so far. The seller may also claim extra damages. This may be the case if the market has depreciated since accepting the buyer’s offer.

The buyer may be expected to pay the difference if the home's value has decreased since the offer was accepted.

Any additional fees the buyer has spent thus far will also be lost. This includes mortgage-related fees, legal fees, and disbursements. Some conveyancers run a ‘no sale no fee’ policy, meaning that

If the Seller Pulls Out

Sellers will have to return the buyer’s deposit if they withdraw from the sale. They may also be liable to pay for the buyer’s fees that have been spent up to that point.

The buyer will have to send back any crucial documents. However, this is done at the seller’s expense. In certain circumstances, the buyer may also take the seller to court.

Read more on Solicitor Fees When a Buyer or Seller Pulls Out

How Will My Conveyancer Help?

Conveyancers are responsible for guiding you through the property transaction. It is not a legal requirement to instruct a conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor. However, unless you are a trained professional, it is highly recommended.

Your conveyancer will arrange conveyancing searches and make payments to third parties on your behalf. They are there to provide expertise and ensure you make the best decision regarding the property sale.

If you are a buyer, you should hire a conveyancer once your offer has been accepted. Sellers should instruct their conveyancer when they have accepted an offer. This marks the beginning of the home-buying process.

The conveyancing process ends once the sale has reached completion.

Read more about What is a Conveyancer and What Do They Do?

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Finding a Conveyancer

Compare My Move can connect you with up to 6 regulated conveyancers. Fill out our conveyancing comparison form to compare quotes and save money on your conveyancing fees.

All our conveyancing partners must pass a verification process. They must be regulated by one of the following:

  • Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
  • Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC)
  • Law Society of Scotland (LSS)
  • Law Society of Northern Ireland (LSNI)
  • Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX)

Once accepted onto our network, our partner support team will ensure that they are adhering to our code of conduct.

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