There is no doubt that the procedure to buy or sell a house can take a long time. And you are probably curious to find out if you can exchange and complete on the same day, and whether this will save time.
Exchange is when contracts are signed and both sides receive a signed copy. After exchange of contracts, the parties are contractually obliged to complete on a day agreed between them in the contract.
Completion is the day when the transaction is finalised, and the owners are given the keys to their new house. Find out more about what happens on completion day.
What is the normal delay between exchange and completion?
After exchange, there is normally a couple of weeks until completion, but the interval could be for months. These considerable delays might occur if:
- The chain includes a buyer who is renting their property and needs to give notice of termination
- Someone in the chain is buying a new property, which doesn’t get built in time
- A seller of a property in the chain hasn’t managed to purchase themselves another property.
Most people find it very useful to leave time in the process between exchange and completion. The time can be used for:
- All parties can pack up their possessions and arrange removals
- Cancel or transfer services like gas, electric and telephone
- Organising mail redirection with the postal service, and informing necessary parties about the change of address. Check our article for more information on changing address
- Book time off work for moving day
- Take care of child or pet care so you don’t have your hands full at the point of completion
You may need to be prepared to compromise on the completion day, as the date will need to satisfy all parties, if your property transaction is taking place as part of a chain. Friday is ordinarily chosen as the day of completion due to being just before the weekend. However, if you can avoid Friday, and everyone in the chain is in agreement, it will work out quicker and more economical. The reason being that solicitors and mortgage companies have less work, and removal companies charge less off peak. A bonus is that if you get delayed by one working day then midweek that means the next day rather than after the weekend.
Is it possible to exchange and complete on the same day?
In practice many people do indeed end up exchanging and completing on the same day, and for many this is perfect, for example where there is no housing chain and all parties are looking for a swift transaction, or cash buyers.
On the other hand, if you exchange and complete on the same day it can create problems:
- You may be under a lot more pressure on the day, which could make it very tense
- It doesn’t leave a lot of leeway if anything does go wrong, such as the mortgage not being ready on time, searches being delayed, or contracts not arriving in time. If your completion date is a couple of weeks after exchange you can deal with these issues, but not if you have already contracted a removal team and already have your possessions boxed up, which could turn out to be costly to reschedule.
- Sometimes mortgage companies will demand that there is a minimal period between exchanging and completing so, if exchanging and completing on the same day is your goal, you will need to check this is acceptable with your lender beforehand.
- If your transaction forms part of large chain, then the probability of there being a problem if you complete and exchange on the same day becomes much more likely.
A housing chain is when the sale of a property depends on the seller being able to purchase another property, or a sale and purchase transaction. Whether a chain is longer or shorter comes down to how many subsequent transactions are dependent upon each other .
When there is a chain it can be quite confusing for all the parties to exchange contracts. The conveyancing firm whose clients are at the bottom of the chain must connect with the next firm up the chain to confirm they have sufficient funds for the deposit and the signed contract of sale, and suggest a date for completion. They will suggest a release time, a deadline on the same day, by which time the exchange needs to be confirmed. The same process occurs between conveyancers all the way up to the top of the chain, and then the replies need to work their way back down to the bottom of the chain, before the deadline expires.
If the exchange process is not concluded before the release time, the procedure will resume again the next day. This won’t be a problem if you have left a gap between exchange of contracts and completion, however if you were expecting to complete on the same day, then this could result in logistical and monetary concerns, preventing you from moving into your new home.
If you are chain free, and your move is not bound to others, you are less exposed when things go wrong, which they invariably do.
Accelerating exchange and completion
In the event you still need to exchange and complete on the same day, there are some ways of reducing the risk of exchange falling through.
Advice for buyers:
- When you make an offer on a property, give the estate agent the contact details of your solicitor to commence the transaction as quickly as possible.
- If there is anything you don’t understand about the process get help from your conveyancer.
- When asked for information by the estate agent or solicitor, make sure you are available by phone or email, and give them whatever they need promptly.
- Ensure you appoint a legal firm and mortgage company with abundant experience. Check independent reviews at Trustpilot so you know you are getting a quality service. Check their online conveyancing quotes beforehand.
- Find a dependable surveyor and get the property surveyed early in the process to highlight any issues early.
- Make certain you have sufficient funds to cover the expenses of the transaction and send the deposit promptly to your Solicitor.
- Arrange adequate property insurance, and give a copy of the details to your Solicitor before exchange
- Postpone going on holiday during the process so you are present if needed.
Advice for sellers:
- Provide any documentation for modifications made to the property during your ownership early.
- Before you find a buyer for the property appoint a conveyancing firm, so that you have the legal work prepped.
- Familiarise yourself with the legal process of selling a property, and choose a law firm with adequate experience.
- Fill in the Sale of property information form and fixtures and fittings forms with your Solicitor promptly.
- Be available by phone or email to answer any additional enquiries as soon as they are raised.
- Ensure documents are signed and returned to your conveyancer swiftly, especially the deed of transfer and the contract.
- Defer going on holiday throughout the process so you are present if needed.
You might be tempted to think you can save time by having exchange and completion on the same day, but steer clear of it if possible. For a cash buyer with no property chain then exchanging and completing on the same day might be a gamble worth taking, but have a better chance of success by following the guidance above.