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What happens on completion day?

After attending countless house viewings, you have found your favourite property, made an offer, the offer has been approved and the contracts have been signed. What happens next?

Why is completion day important?

The biggest day in the conveyancing process, for both the person buying the house and the person selling the house, is completion day. On this day the seller will receive a balance of monies, and the buyer will be allowed access to their new property. Completion day can be very exciting, but can also cause feelings of anxiety or uneasiness. This can be due to the property transfer invariably taking months to complete and invoking mixed emotions. It is imperative to be patient and stay strong in preparation for this important day.

What in fact will happen on completion day?

As a buyer, you receive the keys of the property on completion day after the money has been transferred. The day is more troublesome for your legal team as your solicitor or conveyancer needs to check all the papers and title deeds, get the mortgage funds released before the transaction can be authorised. If you are selling, they need to finalise your existing mortgage.

  • The conveyancer for the buyer confirms that all the mortgage prerequisites have been fulfilled, and requests that funds are sent over by the mortgage company before completion day.
  • The conveyancer for the seller, if there is a mortgage outstanding on the sale property, asks the mortgage company for a redemption certificate with the funds due predicted for the completion date.
  • The conveyancing teams for both the buyer and the seller prepare their completion statements detailing the amounts of all the payments and receipts.
  • Moreover they arrange for extra bills due to be paid on completion, for example estate agents.
  • After making their ultimate review of the paperwork on completion day, the solicitors for the purchaser transfers the purchase monies into the financial system, where it makes its way to the seller’s solicitor.
  • Subsequent to getting the purchase monies, the seller’s conveyancer acknowledges completion to the other side’s legal team and notifies the estate agent to surrender the keys to the buyer.
  • They ensure all other fees owed by the seller are settled, for instance the estate agents expenses. They tell the buyer that completion has concluded, so they can take possession of the property.

When is completion day?

Usually the buyer and seller already agree a date for completion day before exchange of contracts. Completion day is typically proposed to take place within one to four weeks after exchange.

It needs to be during business hours on a weekday, for the mortgage company, conveyancer and estate agent to be available, so they can send confirmation, transfer the money and release the keys. There can be benefits, as removal companies charge less midweek than over the weekend.

Could exchange and completion be on the same day?

Hypothetically, exchange of contracts and completion can happen on the same day, if permitted by your mortgage company. This expedites the transaction and means you no longer need to pay a deposit at the point of exchange.

This makes it more challenging for your conveyancer to plan in advance, putting them under more pressure. It is hard to know the exact date that exchange of contracts, and hence completion, takes place on, making coordination and planning problematic. You need to provide a firm date to your removal company, and they usually need to be reserved months in advance. It also leaves little time to fix any problems that might crop up. For more information check out our article What is holding up my move?

If you are planning to complete and exchange at the same time, please bear in mind:

  • This can go as planned if you are not in a chain; when you have no home to sell or you are a first time buyer. Completions can be delayed in a housing chain if one of the parties misses a deadline and a document doesn’t get signed in time. It is possible to reduce the risk of being in a chain, by avoiding buying a property where the owners are trying to move to another house, or by buying a newly built home. Another option is to live with family or friends, or rent a property, during the transaction.
  • You can avoid waiting for the mortgage company to transfer the money if you are a cash buyer, which will get rid of some obstacles. When using CHAPS (Clearing house automated payment system) to transfer the money to your conveyancing solicitor consider send it a day earlier to make sure it is available on the day.

For more information read our article about exchange and completion taking place on the same day.

Checklist to simplify completion day:

  • Start preparations to move out of your old house before completion day, so that you are ready to leave immediately by being organised. Pack up your things ahead of time.
  • Make sure you can always be reached by the conveyancing solicitors or estate agent. Keep your phone with you, charge it and make sure it is not in silent mode. They may need to get in touch urgently to conclude the conveyancing process. Make sure you have your estate agent and conveyancer’s contact details with you in case you need to call them back. Not being obtainable could hold up the housing chain and it might be your fault!
  • Ensure the funds for your property purchase are cleared and accessible on the day.
  • Store all the relevant paperwork close to hand in case you need to be prepared to provide any last minute information. Keep it on your phone, in the cloud or on a USB stick.
  • Verify the timetable for completion day with your conveyancer. If you are not organised you might be ready to move in the morning but things don’t happen until the afternoon and you are left waiting around.

More advice about preparing for completion day can be found in our conveyancing advice.

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