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Should you complete and exchange on the same day?

Completion and exchange are two big milestones when selling or buying a property - but can they be achieved on the same day?

Should you complete and exchange on the same day?

There’s no getting away from the fact that buying or selling a house can be a long process. It can seem tempting to speed it up, and you may be wondering if you can complete and exchange on the same day.

Exchange is when both parties in the transaction are in possession of a signed contract. From this point, both parties are legally bound to complete the transaction on an agreed day.

Completion is the day the owners get the keys to their new home, and the transaction is finished. Read more about what happens on completion day.

How long between exchange and completion?

Completion usually takes place 1-2 weeks after the exchange of contracts, but it can take up to a few months. Longer delays can occur if:
  • Someone in the chain is renting and needs to give notice to terminate their tenancy.
  • A property in the chain is a new build, as they might not be finished on time.
  • The sellers of the house being purchased are yet to secure a new home for themselves.
The time between exchange and completion is vital for lots of people involved in the process. It allows time for:
  • The buyer and seller to pack and organise removals.
  • The transfer of services like Wi-Fi.
  • Informing people of the change of address and organising mail redirection – have a look at our change of address checklist.
  • Booking time off work.
  • Sorting childcare and pet care arrangements.
Remember that if you’re in a housing chain then the selected completion day must suit everyone involved, so you might need to compromise. Completion day will generally be on a Friday, although if everyone in your chain is willing and able to avoid Friday, then do – it will be cheaper (removals cost less earlier in the week), quicker (mortgage lenders and solicitors won’t be so busy), and a one-day delay would really only be one day, instead of having to wait for the whole weekend.

Can you exchange and complete on the same day?

It is possible to exchange and complete on the same day, and for some people – for example, cash buyers who aren’t in a chain and where both parties want the transaction to happen quickly – it might be ideal.

However, there are many downfalls to exchanging and completing on the same day:
  • It could be very stressful – you’ll have a lot to organise in one day.
  • There are all kinds of things that could go wrong, like signed paperwork not being received in time, searches being delayed, and last minute mortgage issues. If you’re moving 2 weeks after exchange these aren’t too much of a problem, but if you’ve already redirected your mail and your removal team are halfway through loading your stuff then it could be both inconvenient and costly.
  • Some mortgage lenders state a minimum time between exchange and completion, so wanting to complete and exchange on the same day may limit your options for lenders.
The chances of something going wrong if you exchange and complete on the same day are vastly more likely if you’re part of a housing chain.

A housing chain is when a house is being sold to someone who is buying a house from someone else, who is buying a house from someone else, so that the separate transactions all depend on each other.

In a housing chain the exchange of contracts can be quite a convoluted process. The legal firm at the bottom of the chain must contact the next company up to confirm to them that they have a signed sale contract and they’re in possession of the deposit, and also confirm the terms of sale and the completion date. They’ll give the next firm up a ‘release time’ to confirm the exchange (which will usually be later that same day). This works its way up the chain and then it must be confirmed back down the chain, reaching the bottom of the chain again before the release time deadline.

If this is not completed before the release time, the process will need to be restarted the following day. Again, this isn’t too much of a problem if you’re just exchanging contracts – but if you were counting on completing the sale and moving into your new home, a delay of even one day can cause serious financial and logistic issues.

You’re much less vulnerable to things going wrong if you’re chain free, meaning your transaction is not tied to others.

How to speed up exchange and completion

If you must complete and exchange on the same day, there are things you can do to minimize the chances of things going wrong.

For buyers:
  • Be ready to provide the estate agent with your conveyancer’s details when making an offer.
  • Use your solicitor’s expertise to make sure you fully understand the process.
  • Be contactable – respond to your conveyancer, estate agent or anyone else involved, providing them with what they need as soon as possible after they ask for it.
  • Choose an experienced mortgage broker and conveyancing solicitor. At reallymoving we publish customer reviews for all our conveyancing firms, so you know you’re getting the best. Get conveyancing quotes.
  • Have a survey carried out on the house as soon as possible. Get surveyors quotes.
  • Have your funds in order and make sure your deposit is transferred to your solicitor in good time.
  • Have your building insurance organised by the time you exchange, so you can give the details to your legal firm.
  • Don’t go on holiday halfway through the process.
For sellers:
  • Have the paperwork for any work or improvements done on the house easily to hand.
  • Hire a solicitor before you’ve got an offer, so by the time you do then the legal side is ready to go.
  • Choose an experienced conveyancer and be sure you understand the conveyancing process.
  • Make sure the information and fittings & fixtures forms are completed as soon as possible.
  • Respond to additional enquiries as soon as you’re able to.
  • Make sure the contract and deed of transfer are signed and returned in good time.
  • Don’t go on holiday halfway through the process.
Completing and exchanging on the same day may seem appealing, but it’s best to avoid it if you can. If you’re a chain-free cash buyer and feel that completing and exchanging on the same day is worth the risk, be sure to follow the advice above to increase the chance of everything going smoothly.

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