Your trusted property experts

Exchange Of Contracts And Completion | Ultimate Guide

Author avatar
Share Share article to LinkedIn Share article to Twitter Share article to Facebook

Exchange is the moment where the property legally changes hands. Up until this point, both buyer or seller can back out of the sale. 
So, what happens between exchange of contracts and completion? Here’s a handy guide to help the process go as smoothly as possible. 

What does exchange of contracts on a house mean?

The exchange of contracts is the moment when the buyer and seller sign identical contracts, usually organised by the solicitor or conveyancer. The buyer also pays a deposit. This is the moment where the sale becomes legally binding.

Afterwards, neither party can withdraw from the deal without serious consequences. 
Therefore, prior to exchange, buyers should already have organised a property survey to ensure there are no hidden surprises that could impact your enjoyment of living there. 

What happens when you exchange contracts?

There are many different actions that happen during exchange, including:

  • Both parties receive a signed contract
  • Transfer of the title deed
  • Agree a completion date
  • The buyer’s solicitor is in possession of:
    • Deposit funds
    • Mortgage offer
  • The buyer sorts out buildings insurance and other protection
  • All necessary paperwork is received
  • Ownership is registered with the Land Registry 
  • The freeholder is informed of the change of hands (if it’s a leasehold property)

The ‘exchange’ itself often takes place on the phone, usually handled by the solicitors. 

The house sale must be confirmed across the whole property chain. The seller’s solicitor must confirm with the next conveyancer – and so on. This is why first time buyers are often more attractive to sellers, as they’re chain free. 

If a moving timeframe isn’t released, exchange will have to be delayed until a later date, usually the next day. 

As soon as this occurs, both parties are legally bound to the sale. 

What to expect of exchange of contracts and completion

So, what happens next? Once a completion date has been set, there’s plenty to organise and prepare for. 

Following a completion day checklist can help ensure you’re ready for moving day. From organising post forwarding to sorting out your bank account, this will be a busy time. 

For this reason, simultaneous exchange and completion isn’t advised.

Here are just some of the things you need to prepare before exchange of contracts and completion: 


It’s important to note that you become legally responsible for the property the moment you exchange. So, if anything happens to the building and you’re not covered, you’ll be liable. 

Therefore, always sort out your insurance when buying a house! Get home insurance quotes here to help you get the ball rolling. 

Home Insurance Quotes

Mortgage lender

Your lender will do one last check of the property before releasing any mortgage funds. Once these are transferred to the seller, you can collect the keys from the estate agent on completion day. 


You need to ensure all your finances are in order. For example, the deposit is usually 5-10% of the purchase price. 
Being poorly organised at this stage can mean the purchase fails to complete. Delayed completion does have its advantages, but also significant drawbacks.

What happens if you pull out after exchanging?

As the buyer, you have the most to lose by withdrawing from the sale after exchange. You could lose your whole deposit – and may even face legal action from the seller. 

Home Buyers’ Protection Insurance can protect you to a certain extent. 

Advice for the exchange of contracts and completion

To help the process run as smoothly as possible, here are some top tips:

  • Maintain a good relationship with the seller
  • Ensure you understand everything in the contract 
  • Keep open, clear communication with your solicitor
  • Make sure your solicitor is organised and keeping on top of things
  • Find out as much as you can about others in the chain
  • Ensure you have all the required documents
  • Have the contact details of all parties e.g. solicitor, seller
  • Make sure you understand the process

How to speed exchange of contracts and completion up

Completion usually happens within 7 to 28 days, however this can vary. Some take much longer. It has been known that exchange can take months!

Faster isn’t necessarily always better, however, no one wants a long, drawn-out process. There are ways to do everything that’s needed in the best possible time, including:

  • Try to be organised at all times
  • Check and double check every detail
  • Make sure you’re not holding anything up on your end
  • Ensure the estate agent is in touch with all parties
  • Give everyone a timescale to work towards
  • Communicate with everyone in the chain
  • Don’t go on holiday, ensure you’re easily contactable
  • Make sure the conveyancer has everything they need

Setting a completion date

Before completion day, you need to ensure a number of things are taken care of. 


Comparing energy prices and switching utility providers can help you save money. You’ll want to have this organised before you move in.

Organise removals

It’s recommended to use a professional removals company, otherwise your possessions may not be covered by your insurance when in transit. 

Therefore, it’s essential to find a company you can trust. Moving home is a stressful time; it’s essential you have the right individuals on your side to help it go more smoothly. 

We can connect you with the professionals you need. Whatever you’re looking for, we can help you find it. Get removal quotes below. 

Removal Quotes

Last Updated: January 3rd, 2024