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How long does it take from exchange to completion?

author: Sarah Beresford

By Sarah Beresford

Buying a property is an exciting but equally frustrating time. We’ve looked at what you can expect when you’re ready to exchange contracts - and what delays you could suffer around that time. 

How long from exchange to completion? 

It used to take almost a month from exchange to completion, but these days it can be a lot quicker than that.  

In some cases, you might be able to complete more quickly than this - a week, a few days, and in some rare cases, on the same day as exchange. 

When to exchange contracts 

You can exchange contracts when the following has taken place: 

  • all surveys have been returned and are satisfactory (or you’ve amended your offer to reflect any issues) 
  • you and the seller have agreed on the final purchase price, including any fixtures and fittings 
  • the mortgage valuation survey has completed 
  • your mortgage offer has been received in writing 
  • your deposit money’s ready to be transferred 
  • you’ve read and are happy with the contract 
  • you’ve arranged buildings insurance for your new property 
  • everybody in the chain has agreed on a completion date. 

How to exchange contracts 

When everything else is in order, your solicitor will speak to the seller's solicitor - usually over the phone – to arrange an exchange of contracts.  

Both parties will read out the contract to make sure that everyone agrees. When the contracts get posted from one solicitor to the other, they're officially exchanged. 

What typical delays can incur? 

Buying a house isn’t always straightforward - so what can hold the process up? 

Your mortgage offer 

Mortgage offers don’t last forever. They’re usually valid between three and six months, but this varies between lenders. 

If your mortgage offer expires before you complete it, you'll need to start the application process again, which could significantly delay proceedings. In the worst-case scenario, you could get denied if your circumstances have changed. For example, if you changed your job or a decrease in your credit score.  

If your mortgage offer’s due to expire before you complete your purchase, speak to your lender about extending it. Some will allow an extension in certain circumstances. For example, Nationwide will allow you to extend your offer for a mortgage on new builds. Barclays will extend your offer if you’ve exchanged contracts but haven't completed them due to the pandemic. Terms and conditions vary between lenders, so speak to them if you're worried you won't complete it in time. 

Conveyancing searches 

Searches are necessary when it comes to buying a property. You need to check that the property, the land, and the local area are in good condition before you buy.  

Depending on the type of searches required, you could face some delays. The amount of time searches takes to come back varies widely, and while we can’t put an exact timescale on it, some could take a couple of days while others might see you waiting a couple of months. 

Busy solicitors 

If your solicitor has other clients to juggle, you might find your purchase isn't at the top of their pile. Keep in contact with your solicitor regularly to track the status of the purchase. You might be able to avoid delays by choosing a solicitor who specialises in conveyancing.  

What to do after the exchange 

The sale’s now legally binding and you’ll be expected to complete the purchase even if the property suffers damage before completion.  So, you should have already arranged buildings insurance on the property. 

Now’s also the time to start contacting utility companies and notifying people of your change of address too.  

Don’t forget the DVLA, insurance companies, and your doctor and dentist. Make any last-minute packing arrangements, and look forward to the completion date when you can pick up the keys to your new home. 

Find out how long the entire house buying process can be. 

Disclaimer: We make every effort to ensure that content is correct at the time of publication. Please note that information published on this website does not constitute financial advice, and we aren’t responsible for the content of any external sites.

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