How Long Between Exchange & Completion?

Written by Mathew McCorry

If you read my property blog now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you and I will make you read it.

We’ve previously written a post covering the topic of exchange & completion as a whole. Off the back of this, we saw an uplift in questions around how long you can expect it to take between exchange and completion, so we decided that we would cover this topic in more detail.

Page Highlights

  • The average time from exchange to completion is 2 weeks
  • It typically takes so long due to buyer and seller requests
  • There are several aspects of the process that can cause delays
  • Communication and choosing a quiet day is key


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Table of Contents

Quick Answer: Average Time Exchange To Completion

As an average you can expect it to take 2 weeks between the time when you exchange and when you actually complete.

This is typically down to preferences as it allows adequate times for buyers and sellers to arrange removals, transferring of bills, redirection of mail & any funding required from house repayments applications to be drawn.

What does exchange of contracts mean?

Exchange of contracts is just a term that is given to explain the process in which two solicitors, one on the sellers behalf and one on the buyers behalf, swaps documentation to signify that both parties have reached an agreement on the sale of a property.

What happens at the time of exchange?

When it is finally time to exchange and all the paperwork has been completed by solicitors on both sides both the buyer and seller will both sign contracts which are identical. Typically your solicitor will send you the contracts through the post for you to sign and mail back. At this point the exchange becomes binding and you will pay the deposit amount. If you’re in a chain, everyone in the chain needs to be lined up to exchange at the same time.

Why is the exchange a significant part of a house sale?

The exchange of contracts is the first time that a house sale or purchase becomes legally binding. At this point it is extremely rare that any party will bull out as it would be considered a breach of contract and therefore often includes financial penalties. The exchange is the most important part of the whole sale and purchase process.

What does it mean to complete?

That is after the exchange and when absolutely everything is finalised, all the search have come back, any queries you have has been answered, your house repayments has been redeemed and you have the keys for the property in your hand, or you’re handing them over if you’re selling.

What happens at the time of completion?

It’s the big day! Time for the buyer to pick up the keys as the ownership is transferred from the seller to the buyer, officially. You will often need to liaise closely with your solicitor and estate agents on this day, often properties are sold in chains so the seller of the property might be moving out on the same day that you want to move in, which you need to be able to co-ordinate.

The completion typically takes place anywhere between 7 to 28 days after the exchange and before hand you’ll often have a plan of action on what to do on the day in regards to picking up the keys for the property.

Why is the completion a significant part of a house sale?

Well, hopefully this should be fairly obvious, but it’s the time that everything is building up to. It’s when you finally get the keys to the property and everything is sorted. It’s the final stage of the process and once

Why Does It Take So Long?

As we mentioned above, it mostly takes this long due to the request of the buyers and sellers. There are however a few other reasons for the average time from exchange to completion being two weeks, which includes:

  • If the person buying the property is coming from a rented accommodation, they will most likely have to serve notice, which you shouldn’t do until the purchase is legally binding (exchange)
  • New builds tend to take longer, bumping up the average, as it may not have been completed by the time you exchange
  • Long property chains also mean delays as other parts of the chain may need to catch up
  • It can take a while to redeem the house repayments, depending on who you’ve applied with

What Can Cause Delays To Exchange & Completion?

We touched on some of the things that can mean the process takes longer than you would expect from exchange to completion above, any one of these points could take longer than expected and therefore cause a delay to the completion.

The main cause of a delayed completion is primarily to do with the house repayments redemption and the money being transferred. This tends to be one of the many reasons cash buyers can speed up the sale considerably.

Depending on when the solicitor requests the funds from the lender, and when the lender sends the funds it can take a fair amount of time. There’s a lot of hoops to jump through, but essentially if the funds aren’t received by the seller’s solicitors by 3pm then the completion won’t happen on that day, typically speaking.

It’s a busy time for solicitors, so it can be hard to know what stage things are in at any given point during these last few days. If the buyer or seller needs to arrange removals it can be tricky and also cause delays, as you’re unsure when everything is going to line up and completion is going to take place it can be hard to arrange a removal company at such short notice. Not being able to arrange removals is another common reason for delays in completion.

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Can You Speed Up The Process?

Two weeks is just the average, it can be a lot quicker than this, you can even technically exchange and complete on the same day although it’s not generally advised. There are a few things you can do though to ensure that there is a speedy exchange to completion time:

  • Communication: This is key throughout the duration of any purchase or sale. Keeping in constant communication with everyone involved in the sale or purchase at all times is vital, it allows you to be aware of the progression and when you need to act or arrange removals as an example. It also helps if you need to give an extra push to your buyer or seller to ensure they are moving quickly enough
  • Choose a cash buyer: As we’ve touched upon throughout the article, one of the main reasons for the delay between exchange and completion is the time it takes to redeem the funds from a house repayments. If you are able to choose a cash buyer for your property then this can speed up the time taken considerably
  • Make arrangements well in advance: Make as many arrangements as you can with good time, tell your estate agent when you will be leaving the keys with them, have a removal company prepared and ready to go & anything else you can possibly line up prior to getting the green light
  • Keep all your legal documents organised: There can be times where the solicitor or house repayments company are missing a particular document through it being misplaced.

Choosing A Quiet Day

A big factor that may cause delays in your process is the day that you choose to move home. Most people choose Friday, to give them the weekend to move everything and get settled in. If you choose a day like Friday then it will often mean your solicitor has multiple people who need to complete that day, house repayments companies are likely busier & so are removal companies.

Busy days mean that it’s more likely to fall through. If you choose a day that is midweek or at the beginning of the week your less likely to have issues and generally will have a smoother exchange to completion.

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Can you exchange & complete on the same day?

As we’ve touched on usually the completion will take place around 7 to 28 days later than the exchange, but is it possible to do so on the same day? There are several buyers and sellers that want transactions to be as quick as possible, so a quick exchange and completion can be beneficial.

In extreme cases, this can happen, but it can be very stressful to organise everything in a day and there are quite a few things that can go wrong. Often if you aim to do both on the same day, you might run into issues with paperwork not being submitted on time, any last minute house repayments issues or delays in searches. There are also some lenders that will specify that there needs to be a minimum time between exchange and completion. All that being said, if everything lines up, it is in fact possible!

How can you make the whole process less stressful?

The whole house purchasing or sale process takes a long time, but when it comes to exchange and completion, it all happens pretty quick and there is a lot to deal with when everything starts finally falling into place. There are a couple of things you can do to ensure the transition is as smooth and stress free as possible, here’s our advice:

Organise everything before hand

When you hear about exchanging, that’s the time to start organising everything you need to move and make the day as easy as it possibly can be. Plan for every eventuality, and it’s never going to be completely painless, but you can make it much easier by having everything ready for completion time.

  • Start packing everything – be living from boxes!
  • Have a removal company at the ready
  • Plan out the day

Communication is key

During this period you need to be in regularly communication with the estate agents and your solicitors to ensure that you are aware of what is happening when. Things change quickly, and being in constant communication with all parties makes the whole process much easier, and a lot less likely to have any hiccups.

Sign and return documents quickly

A key part of the exchange is getting both parties to sign and confirm all the documentation, the quicker this is done the quicker that a completion date can be put into place. Make sure you read through and sign the documents quickly, it will speed up the process.

Make a list of who to notify

Another stressful thing about moving is how many people that you need to tell. On the completion day you often need to notify several companies that you’ve moved from one house and into another, so make a full list of this including contact details to make it easy to get in touch with everyone on the day.

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