Exchange Of Contracts And House Completion Explained

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.

Explaining all things exchange of contracts and house completion, including what can go wrong between exchange and completion...

Exchange of contracts and house completion are the two key components to selling and moving into your new home, but do you know what actually happens during each stage?

Do you know whether they can happen on the same day? Are you aware of all the things which can go wrong between exchange and completion?

If you’ve answered no to those questions, don’t worry! We’re going to answer all these questions for you, giving you everything you need to know about exchange of contracts and house completion.

Use the menu below to help you find the answers you’re looking for:

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What is exchange of contracts?

Exchange of contracts is the part of the process where the deal officially becomes legally binding, meaning no party can back out without consequence. At this stage of the process the buyer will hand over their deposit to the seller’s solicitor and the seller’s solicitor will also receive the signed transfer of the title deed.

What happens at exchange of contracts?

Exchange of contracts is no longer a physical handover of contracts and instead happens over the phone. If you’re in a chain, the exchange of contracts process is more complex and there’s more room for things to go wrong.

On the day of exchange of contracts, the solicitor at the ‘bottom’ of the chain will contact the solicitor directly above them in the chain, who will confirm that they have both the signed contracts, and also have the deposit funds. They will also confirm at this time the term of sale and the house completion date.

Once this is done, the solicitor at the bottom of the chain will then give the solicitor above them a ‘release time’, which is the time that someone must get back to the bottom solicitor to confirm the exchange.

This process will then continue up the chain until it reaches the solicitor at the ‘top’.

If the exchange of contracts isn’t confirmed back down the chain to the first solicitor before the ‘release time’, then exchange of contracts can’t happen on this day. The process must then be attempted again the next day, or as many days as it takes, to get the exchange of contracts done within the timeframe.

What time of day does exchange of contracts happen?

The answer to this will be different in each individual case, with each chain being a differing length. However, the most common time tends to be around midday.

Can you exchange contracts without a completion date?

In short, no, you’re not able to exchange contracts without the house completion date. This is because the house completion date needs to be written into the contracts before they can be exchanged.

Want to know more about completion? That brings us right onto…

What is house completion?

House completion is the final stage of the house purchase transaction. Basically, it’s the part where you actually officially gain ownership of the property, collect your keys and move in!

What happens at house completion?

When the seller’s solicitor has received the full purchase price, they will confirm with their client that the sale has completed. At this stage, the seller must then move out of the property and hand over the keys.

Normally this stage of the house completion process is done by 1 pm.

Once the sale has completed, the buyer is responsible for making sure the Stamp Duty Tax is paid to HMRC and that their new ownership of the property is registered correctly with the Land Registry.

Normally, the buyer’s solicitor will register it for them, but as a buyer, it’s important to double-check this is done, to avoid consequences.

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Can I exchange and complete on the same day?

Yes, exchange of contracts and house completion can legally happen on the same day but does make the process a lot more difficult and stressful. This is because, without exchange of contracts, there’s no legal ‘seal’ on the deal.

It could come to completion day and the buyer decides they want to pull out. Meanwhile, you’re sitting with your whole house in boxes and removal vans at the ready. This leaves you with removal men to pay, boxes to unpack and, most importantly, no new house to move into and no sale of your property.

Exchange and completion tend to happen on the same day when the buyer is a cash buyer. This is because they have no chain and have the funds readily available, meaning they don’t need time between exchange and completion to get together the funds.

How long between exchange and completion?

There’s no specific amount of time there needs to be between exchange of contracts and completion, but the most common amount of time is 2 to 4 weeks. This allows all parties to make moving arrangements such as removals, booking time off work, changing addresses with postal services, change addresses on broadband or tv services.

You may have to wait even longer if you’re wanting to complete on a Friday. With most people working, Fridays are the most popular days for completion, due to the fact you only have to book one day off work and have the rest of the weekend to settle into your new home.

Because of the popularity, you may not be able to organise everything you want, e.g. removals, for a Friday and so when deciding a house completion date it may be a good idea to avoid a Friday if you’re in a rush and want to get moved ASAP.

What happens between exchange and completion?

Once exchange of contracts has taken place, before completion can happen there’s a lot of different things that need organising, as we mentioned earlier. What sort of things need to be organised after exchange, before completion? Well…

  • Insurance – as soon as you exchange contracts on a property, the buyer becomes liable for the property they’re buying. As a result of this, it’s best to get insurance just in case anything was to go wrong
  • Removals – once you exchange, you will need to decide whether you’re going to need some extra help to get all your ‘stuff’ out before completion day. If you will need help, this time between exchange and completion is a perfect opportunity to arrange removals for the right day
  • Finances – at exchange the deposit is paid over, but the rest of the money is transferred at completion, meaning that between exchange and completion is a good time to get all finances in order to be able to pay over the full amount on time
  • Time booked off work – with most people working full-time jobs, the time between exchange and completion gives you enough time to give work notice you may need a few days off for moving
  • Changing addresses on services – once the house completion happens, you will instantly have a new address. The gap between exchange and completion allows you to take your time letting different mail services know your new address and any parcel to your old address needs to be redirected
  • Organising utilities – the gap between exchange and completion allows you to look at the different utility providers at your new home and choose one which gives you the best deal

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These are all factors that could potentially cause delays to the house completion. If there is a delay to completion, whichever party is causing the delay will receive consequences. Want to know more about the different things that can go wrong between exchange and completion? That brings us onto…

Can anything go wrong between exchange and completion?

In a word, yes, things can and do go wrong between exchange and completion, which could cause the house completion to be delayed or for the sale to fall through altogether.

What can go wrong between exchange and completion?

  • Death of one party – this is one of the unforeseen events which can cause problems after exchange of contracts. Whoever has been left the property in the will isn’t legally able to take ownership of the property until probate has passed, meaning there could be a lengthy delay to completion
  • One party made redundant – if your buyer is made redundant after exchange before completion, this makes it very difficult for completion to happen when planned. Their house repayment lender may withdraw their offer, making it very financially difficult for the buyer to be able to complete with no job and no house repayment offer, potentially causing the sale to collapse
  • Issues are found – it’s very possible an issue with the property could arise, something that wasn’t disclosed before exchange of contracts, causing a dispute between buyer and seller. This could lead to the buyer wanting to pull out and take the financial consequences, instead of going through with the sale
  • Break to the chain – in a property chain, you’re relying on other members in the chain to also complete when they’re meant to for your sale to be able to go through. It’s possible someone below you in the chain may have a problem and pull out of the sale, causing a chain break, making it difficult for your sale to be able to complete
  • House repayments company withdraws offer – this is a rare problem as a house repayments company will give a date by which the offer will expire, meaning all parties work to get the house completion done by this date. In some cases, this doesn’t go according to plan and the buyer will have to work to get another house repayment offer or have to pull out of the sale and take the consequences
  • House prices may fall – this is another less known problem but if between exchange and completion house prices fall, then a house repayment lender may ask you to undergo a new valuation, meaning a buyer may be unable to get a new house repayment offer. Or a buyer may now feel the property is overpriced and so decide to pull out of the sale
  • Buyer pulls out of sale – despite there being financial consequence should a buyer pull out of a sale, it does happen, leaving you with a house to sell and financial consequences yourself, as you will have to pull out of the purchase of your next property

We know, it’s quite concerning when you see all the potential problems which can go wrong after exchange, despite the legal ‘seal’ on the deal. This brings up the question ‘is there anywhere I can find a buyer who is GUARANTEED and won’t pull out of the deal?’ and the answer is YES!

Now, this is where we come into this…

Here at The Property Buying Company, we’re a cash buyer of houses, buying any property in any condition in any location. We’re a cash buyer so we’re able to complete in a timescale of your choice – a week, a month, the choice is yours!

We have over 50 years combined experience AND we’re rated ‘excellent’ on Trustpilot – all things to help you rest assured you’re in safe hands! Also, unlike a buyer on the open market, once exchange of contracts takes place, we’re a guaranteed buyer – no pulling out from our side.

Not only this, but we will also cover ALL your fees – no legal fees, no estate agent fees, NOTHING. You will get the full offer in CASH in your bank, what more could you want?

Ready to get your house sold ASAP with no worry about what could go wrong, even after exchange of contracts? Give us a call or fill in our online form for a no-obligation CASH offer…

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