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What Happens on Completion Day?

Martha Lott
Written by Martha Lott
24th October 2018 (Last updated on Tuesday 6th November 2018)

The day of completion is when all of the financial and legal work that comes with selling or buying a house will be fulfilled by your licensed conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor, transferring ownership from the seller to the buyer. However, there are two principal things you need to do on the day of completion to ensure a smooth process.

Firstly, you must keep in contact with your conveyancer. Your role will be to liaise with your conveyancer and act as a mediator between parties to ensure everything goes to plan. To ensure nothing goes wrong, it is your responsibility to know what’s happening throughout the day.

Secondly, you must move out of the property if you are the seller. The day of completion is the day in which your property legally changes ownership to the buyer, so you will need to vacate the property by the pre-agreed time in your contract.

We’ve compiled this guide to help you understand everything you need to know about completion day, from what happens on the day to how to ensure a smooth completion day.

This article will cover the following points

What is Completion Day? What Happens on Completion Day? House Completion Money Transfer What is a Property Chain? Completion Day Timings Can I Exchange Contracts and Complete on the Same Day? Completion Day for New Build What Can Go Wrong on Completion Day? How to Avoid a Day of Completion Nightmare

What is Completion Day?

Completion day is the final step in the conveyancing process for both the buying and selling of a house. The buyer’s conveyancer will transfer the final funds to the seller’s conveyancer and as the buyer, you’ll receive the keys for your new house, finally being able to move in.

As a seller, you will need to move out of the property by the time of completion, which is traditionally 12pm on a weekday, but can change depending on how big the property chain is, if there's any requirements from the buyer or seller and if there's any issues that delay the process. The latest time for completion can be 3.30 pm. 

Monday or Tuesday are typically the preferred days to complete as issues can be resolved at the beginning of the week. Friday is to be avoided as if any problems were to arise, you’d have to wait until the following Monday to resolve the issue as the CHAPS (Clearing House Automated Payment System) banking system will be closed on the weekends. 

What Happens on Completion Day?

The completion date would have been agreed on previously between the buyer, the buyer's conveyancer, the seller and the seller's conveyancer. Here's a breakdown of what will happen on completion day. 

  1. For the buyer to become the new registered owner of the seller's house, the transfer deed and documents must be signed by the seller. 
  2. Regular contact will be kept between both conveyancing sides throughout the day.
  3. The buyer's conveyancer will pay off outstanding bills and invoices from the move.
  4. Your conveyancer will be responsible for transferring the final funds from the buyer to the seller.
  5. The buyer's conveyancer will complete a transfer form which will change the ownership information with the Land Registry from the seller to the buyer. 
  6. Finally, the buyer's conveyancer will contact the estate agent to release the keys to the buyer once the seller has left the property.

House Completion Money Transfer

The transferring of final funds to the seller will be the main event on completion day. However, before the money can be transferred, the seller's conveyancer will pay disbursements such as estate agent fees and fees to your conveyancer. 

Once the necessary fees have been paid on your behalf, the seller's conveyancer will transfer the seller the final funds. This will be done via the CHAPS banking system. 

What is a Property Chain?

A ‘property chain’ refers to the number of house purchases that are linked together in a chain, with each one being dependent on the other transactions. The timings on completion day will depend on if you are in a property chain or not and how long it is. 

The chain will start with someone who is only buying and not selling, so if you are a first-time buyer or don’t have a house to sell, the chain will start with you. The chain will end with a seller who is only selling and not buying a house as well.

The chain will usually start at about 9am with someone who is only buying and doesn’t need to sell a house. Depending on the size of the chain, it will commonly end at 1pm when the last buyer will pick up their keys. 

The people who find themselves being first or last in the chain will usually have less responsibility and won't have to worry as much about another transaction delaying your process. 

Completion Day Timings

Completion day timings will depend on how many people are in the property chain and if no problems arise. Commonly, a typical chain is made up of around 4 or 5 transactions. The chain will have a minimum of 2 people and in rare occasions could even see up to 10 property transactions in. 

Completion Day Timeline

9am - The first buyer, usually a first-time buyer living with their family, will collect their keys.

11am - Next, the second buyer will collect their keys. They will usually already have a flat or apartment but are buying a house. 

12pm - The third buyer will collect their keys. They will have a house to sell and a house to buy.

1pm - The final person in the chain will complete. They won't be buying a house, just selling.

The completion deadline for most conveyancers will be 3.30pm as this is the time the CHAPS banking system will close. 

Can I Exchange Contracts and Complete on the Same Day?

Completion typically happens between 7 and 28 days after the exchange of contracts between buyer and seller. However, it is 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, as you’ll be attempting too many tasks in one day, and if anything was to go wrong, it could have a knock-on effect.

That said, doing so significantly speeds up the selling process and can benefit some people. We've listed when and when not to exchange and complete on the same day. 

When to Exchange and Complete On the Same Day - 

  • You have already moved out of the property or are able to move in on that same day.
  • You are dealing with a cash buyer who doesn’t rely on mortgage providers.
  • You are not in a chain so you have sorted out a removal company in advance.

When Not to Exchange and Complete On the Same Day - 

  • Your mortgage provider has asked for a waiting period of at least five days.
  • You are not in a property chain, so you're not relying on other transactions to complete.
  • Some conveyancers will charge extra for completing the same day as exchanging contracts.

Completion Day for New Build

If you're buying a new build home, you won't be able to agree on a fixed date for completion. The main reason for your conveyancer not providing a completion date usually is because the house is still being built and 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, depending on your circumstances and the conveyancer you choose. 

What Can Go Wrong on Completion Day?

There can be various issues that may arise on the buyer’s side which could cause a delay in the process on completion day.

1. Lack of Money - One primary complication is when the buyer’s finances are being sent from their mortgage provider to their conveyancer, and then to the seller’s conveyancer. If this isn't done by a certain time, it could affect your transaction and others if you're in a chain.

2. CHAP's Deadline - If the deposit money is not in your conveyancer’s account by 3pm, you will have to wait until the next day for everything to go through as 3pm is usually the time the CHAP's banking system closes for the day.

3. Delay in Chain - Proceedings may also be delayed if you are in a chain of buyers and sellers. It takes just one link in the chain to cause the day of completion to come to a halt for everyone involved, so it’s not just the buyer or seller that can affect moving day.

4. Unpaid Stamp Duty - As a buyer, you will have to pay fees such as stamp duty and VAT to your conveyancer in order to complete on that day. You will not be able to complete if these fees are unpaid. 

5. Gazundering - If you're in a property chain, a buyer can reduce their offer on the house just before exchanging contracts which could delay the process.

6. Gazumping - After your offer has been accepted, the seller accepts a higher offer from a buyer outside of your property chain, this is called gazumping.

How to Avoid a Day of Completion Nightmare

Although your conveyancer will know what they are doing, they can make mistakes, so it is important to keep on top of proceedings to ensure a successful day of completion. Most of what happens on the day is out of your hands, but it is good to act as a mediator. To ensure a successful completion day, it's important to:

1. Keep on Top of Things – You should know exactly what is happening throughout the day, as well as completion day times. Make sure you're free for the day, keeping track of any progress. 

2. Talk to Your Conveyancer – Good contact is key to a successful day of completion. Schedule a time to call your conveyancer on the morning of the day of completion to discuss progress. 

3. Be Easily Contactable – It is vital that you remain contactable throughout the process. It is extremely common that your conveyancer or estate agent will need to contact you in regards to finalising the selling process. Call your conveyancer mid-morning to midday so you know exactly where things stand.

4. Vacate the Property Quickly – If you were able to plan ahead, you may have already moved out of the property, although if you are in a chain this isn't always possible.