Exchange and completion - First time buyer

What happens on completion day?

4 min read

Completion day is the final part of the buying process, when the property ownership is transferred from the seller to the buyer. Find out more about what happens on completion day below.

  • Arti Dhamu, Move Specialist at My Home Move Conveyancing
    Arti Dhamu

    Move Specialist

    Published June 14th 2024

excited children with mum seeing their new home on completion day

What is completion day?

Completion day is when the property ownership is transferred from the seller to the buyer. The money is transferred, you pick up the keys and can move into your new home.

When is completion day?

As all of the legal work is completed before the exchange of contracts, flagging any risks of the sale falling through, completion day is the at the end of the conveyancing process.

The buyer and seller’s solicitors will liaise to arrange a date that suits all parties in advance. Completion will have to take place on a weekday, so the money is transferred, and transaction confirmed on the same day.

Friday is usually a popular option, giving the buyers enough time to move in and get their life in order over the weekend. However, if there are delays and financial holdups completion might fail – meaning you’ll have to wait until Monday to complete, possibly with all your belongings packed up in boxes.

How long does completion day take?

Completion day is usually 7 to 14 days after the contracts have been exchanged. However, it is possible to have more or less time in between, as long as all parties are happy with the agreed date, and in some cases, you may need to pay a premium.

What happens on completion day?

After you’ve signed and exchanged contracts, your conveyancer needs to take a few steps to legally transfer the property into your name.

Before completion:

  • Ensure your mortgage conditions have been met. Purchasing a house with a mortgage? Your conveyancer will contact your lender to arrange getting your money released.

  • Request a Redemption Statement. If there’s a mortgage on the seller’s property, their solicitor will ask for a Redemption Statement – showing how much they still owe on their mortgage.

  • Prepare the completion statements. Conveyancers also need to create completion statements that break down all payments made and received.

On completion day:

  • Make final checks. When completing on a house, your conveyancer will arrange the money transfer, along with the remainder of your mortgage deposit.

  • Finalising completion. Your conveyancer will have already confirmed the balance, and you’ll need to ensure you have the funds ready them well before the big day enabling them to finalise the completion.

  • Gaining ownership of the property. You’ll be informed of the completion, which means you’ll legally own the property and can collect the keys, usually from the Estate Agent.

  • Register your ownership to the Land Registry. The final step to complete is updating the data held by the Land Registry, which your conveyancer will sort out for you. This can take a significant amount of time depending on the transaction type, so don’t expect the final paperwork to be with you for at least a couple of months.

Can you exchange and complete on the same day?

Exchanging and completing on the same day can sometimes be possible, however it is uncommon and can also be stressful.

Here are a few aspects to consider before deciding if it’s the right option for you:

  • A housing chain makes it potentially a risky option, as more parts in the process mean more problems and if someone along the chain changes their mind at the very last minute there’s nothing you can do.

  • Some lenders ask for a minimum period between exchange and completion, which could limit your options.

  • You need to make sure you can transfer the funds to your solicitor the day before completion to avoid any last-minute transmission problems, but you will be doing this without the security of having a fixed and definite completion date.

Average completion day timings

If you’re buying or selling with no chain and there are no complications on completion day itself, completion will usually take place late morning, around 11am. This gives your conveyancer time to get everything together and transfer the monies before you complete.

If you are part of a chain, it’s likely you will complete later in the day, especially if part of a large chain, as there is a knock-on effect from when the first person in the chain completes to when the last person can complete. For example:

  • 11am – first buyer completes and collects keys

  • 12 noon – second person in the chain completes and collects keys

  • 2pm – third person in the chain completes and collects keys

  • 3pm - fourth person in the chain completes and collects keys, and so on.

New build completion process

Buying a new build property can seem more complicated, however, an experienced conveyancer will make sure there’s a ‘long-stop date’, when the new build property will be ready for you to move in. If it’s not completed by then, you have the right to cancel the contract and get your deposit back. You also have the option to go on with your purchase, extending this date.

Find out more about buying a new build property here.

What happens if you don’t complete?

If you fail to complete a property transaction on the agreed date specified on the contract, because of issues with the transfer or funds or a change in personal circumstances, the completion will automatically roll over to the next working day. It is important to note, however that if the delay is your fault, you’ll be in breach of contract and get a financial penalty including contractual interest and potentially out of pocket expenses for the onward chain – including removals, overnight accommodation and furniture storage costs. You should never agree to a completion date unless you are 100% certain you will be able to meet it.

Completion day checklist

It can seem like a lot to think about, so here’s a completion day checklist to help you stay on top of the process.

  • Plan ahead. Start organising your move once the day of completion is set. Start researching home removals services, agree dates and times and start packing. Remember to contact your new utility suppliers, arrange your bills and sort out your building’s insurance.

  • Make sure you can be easily reached in case your conveyancer, estate agent or anyone else involved has queries or needs last minute documents.

  • Have all your paperwork to hand. Make sure you have all the necessary documents relating to your house sale and all funds are ready to go.

  • Collect your keys. You can pick up the keys to your new home from the estate agent or the seller as soon as the completion day money transfer has been confirmed.

Already planning your home move? Download our handy moving house checklist.

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