Delayed Completion: What Are The Risks?

Written by Millie Archer

I love all things property and have a real eye for detail. I’m always reading up on property news, whether it be renting a first property or buying a mansion.

Exploring what delayed completion is, what the risks are and what you can do if your buyer delays completion...


Moving house is stressful enough, without the possible risks of a delay to completion. Whether it’s been decided at exchange or there have been some last-minute issues, delayed completion can be extremely frustrating for all parties involved, and in some cases can lead to a sale falling through.

But what is delayed completion? Why would anyone exchange with an agreed delay? And what should you do if your buyer is causing big delays to your sale?

We’re going to answer all this and more right here, leaving you feeling confident in knowing how to face any delays.

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What is delayed completion?

Delayed completion refers to a completion date being set later than one would expect. Normally, the exchange of contracts takes place 2 weeks to 28 days before completion, but with delayed completion, the completion date could be set a few months, or longer, after exchange.

In some cases, delayed completion can mean the completion of the house sale doesn’t go through for a few years. This is a long time to wait if your buyer has requested delayed completion and there are a number of complications that can occur the longer the delayed completion is.

Exchange with delayed completion originally came about with those who were buying a new build home, as often the houses aren’t even built at the time of exchange. However, over recent years delayed completion has become more popular in all different house buying and selling situations.

Delayed completion can also refer to an unexpected delay to completion. This can happen for multiple different reasons – maybe your buyer didn’t get their funds in time, or an unexpected problem appeared on the house searches.

Unexpected delayed completion is extremely frustrating and can lead to either penalties for the party causing the delay, if there’s been a breach of contract, or can lead to the sale falling through altogether.

There’s also always the risk that someone below you in the chain delay completion, or are unable to complete, which in turn will mean you’re unable to complete.

Why would you exchange with delayed completion?

As we mentioned earlier, normally exchange of contracts takes place 2 weeks to 28 days before completion, however, there has been a change in this as of recent years. The reason for a delayed completion can vary amongst buyers and sellers:

  • The seller may not have found a new house yet and so doesn’t want to only give themselves 2 weeks to find a house. With delayed completion, they can be sure they have a sale, as exchange makes the deal legally binding, whilst also giving themselves a bit longer, maybe a few months, to find a new house
  • You have exchanged ‘subject to planning’. This means a buyer isn’t 100% committing to a sale, until they get confirmation they can get planning permission to alter the property
  • The buyer is relocating from another country and doesn’t want to take possession of the property until they’re back in the UK
  • The buyer is relocating from another area, but has kids and therefore can’t complete until school holidays/end of the school year
  • Buyers further down the property chain have asked for a delayed completion, causing yours to be delayed too
  • The buyer or seller may be on holiday between exchange and completion and so need extra time when they get back to make sure everything is sorted

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What are the risks of delayed completion?

Naturally, with delayed completion comes more risk, as there’s more time for things to go wrong after exchange. There’s no exact list of what could go wrong, as every house sale is different, but this list will give you a general idea of what could go wrong:

  • As the seller, you’re legally obliged to ensure the property is in the same state at exchange and completion. Any damages or issues after exchange is your responsibility to sort
  • Delayed completion gives the buyer more time to change their mind about the sale. Although exchange adds a ‘legal seal’ to the deal, the buyer could still change their mind and decide to pull out altogether
  • The buyer will have an agreement in principle for their house repayments, but with a delayed completion there’s no guarantee this agreement will still stand when it comes to the completion date, as the value of the property may alter over time

What to do if your buyer has delayed completion?

A buyer can cause delayed completion, which may be beyond what was agreed at exchange. We know how frustrating it can be when you’re a seller and you get delayed completion, especially if it leads to the sale falling through.

To help you out, we’ve got some top tips for sellers on what to do if you’re experiencing delayed completion:

  • Speak to your solicitor to apply some pressure as soon as it looks like there may be a delay. Your solicitor is an expert on this topic and so will be able to provide you with some advice. They will also know the best way to speed up your sale
  • Your other point of contact is the estate agent and it’s important you get onto them at any signs of a possible delays. This will allow them to be in touch with the buyer and their solicitor to help iron out any possible problems
  • If you’ve passed the delayed completion date agreed at exchange, you can serve your buyer a completion notice, which means your buyer must complete within 2 weeks before contracts are rescinded. You can also claim interest on the amount of the purchase money which is owed to you and hasn’t been sent through
  • If you can see that there’s going to be a delayed completion date, you could hold off exchanging. This way, if the buyer is really serious about your property, they will resolve any issues they can to help reduce the delay to completion or even agree to exchange without the need for a delayed completion
  • A way to avoid getting stuck in a delayed completion is to find yourself a guaranteed buyer, who’s able to complete quickly – in other words, a cash buyer will be your best option.
  • Cash buyers can be hard to come by, after all, it is rare to find someone who can afford to buy a house without the help of house repayments. Having said this, it may not be as hard as you initially think…

    This is where we come in!

    Here at The Property Buying Company, we’re a cash buyer of houses, buying any house in any condition. We’re a guaranteed buyer, specialising in fast sales, meaning you don’t need to worry about delayed completion around here.

    In fact, we complete in a timescale of your choice, so whether you want to complete next week, next month, the choice is yours.

    We also have over 50 years combined experience and we’re rated ‘excellent’ on Trustpilot, with over 1,000 reviews.

    On top of all this, we will cover all the fees for you – meaning you have nothing to pay, cash in your bank and no worries of a delayed completion!

    Why not give us a call or fill in our online form for a no-obligation CASH offer, which we can have in your bank by next week…

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