What happens on Completion?

Completion is the point where the buyer’s solicitor transfers the purchase money from their bank account to the seller’s solicitor’s bank account, the ownership of the property is transferred to the buyer, and the seller’s solicitor arranges for the keys to be handed over to the buyer. This all happens on the same day. The legal completion date is agreed on exchange of contracts. Any completion date discussed before exchange of contracts is purely tentative and should not be relied on. We recommend that you don’t book removals or give notice to quit rented property until exchange of contracts has taken place.

What happens on Exchange of Contracts?

Exchange of contracts takes place between the buyer’s solicitor and the seller’s solicitor, usually over the telephone. They check that their clients have signed identical contracts, agree the completion date and agree to send each other the contracts signed by their respective clients straight away. The buyer is normally expected to pay up to 10% of the purchase price at this stage as a contract deposit – this is normally held by the seller’s solicitor pending completion.

When does exchange of contracts take place?

It is therefore important to exchange contracts as soon as possible. Only when contracts have been exchanged is the transaction legally binding. Until then either seller or buyer can seek to renegotiate the purchase price, completion date, or other terms discussed, or can pull out of the transaction altogether, without any obligation to compensate the other party.


Once exchange of contracts has happened, everyone will know where they stand and when they will be completing and when they will need to transfer money, sign documents and make their moving arrangements. Do not be tempted to leave exchange until just before, or even the same day as, the completion date you are aiming for. We recommend that you allow at least 7 working days between exchange of contracts and completion. In practice this period can sometimes be shorter, but there is an increased risk of something going wrong because someone does not have time to get organised.


The buyer’s solicitor will not exchange contracts until they are satisfied with the results of all their legal searches and enquiries, any conditions and legal requirements on the buyer’s mortgage offer have been satisfied, and the buyer is happy with their survey results.


If either the buyer is dependent on the sale of another property, or the seller is dependent on another purchase, they will need to exchange contracts simultaneously on the dependent transactions. Please refer to our note on Buying and Selling in a Chain which explains the implications.

How long does it all take?

This depends on a number of factors, and unfortunately most of them are not entirely within our control. A standard transaction, with no unforeseen complications or delays arising, will normally take some 6 to 8 weeks. However it can be done faster with the co-operation of all parties involved throughout.

What are the common causes of delay?

You can rest assured that we will always endeavour to drive the transaction forward and chase-up other conveyancers and third parties who are holding things up. However, we cannot provide any guarantee at the outset that everything will be in place to complete by any particular date, and advise you to be very wary of anyone who thinks they can. These are common causes of delay:


  • Length of the chain involved – a delay at one point in the chain will delay everyone else
  • Mortgage application taking longer than normal to process, perhaps because a reference required by the lender from a third party is not immediately forthcoming, or because the mortgage lender is unusually busy
  • Mortgage offer issued with unforeseen conditions
  • Searches or enquiries revealing something unexpected
  • Someone else in the chain not wanting to proceed as quickly as the others.

Who will look after my interests?

When you instruct us to act for you, we will let you know the name and contact details of both the conveyancer who will be handling the transaction for you, and the senior lawyer to whom they report who has overall responsibility for the Conveyancing Team. The conveyancer will be your main contact, and they will ensure that the transaction is progressed to suit your best interests, negotiating on any legal issues as appropriate on your behalf, ensuring all required legal documents are drawn up and signed and sent to the appropriate place within the necessary timescales.


If at any time your conveyancer is on holiday or absent from the office, we will ensure to delegate another member of the team to act on their behalf and keep you informed of progress. If your conveyancer is busy on another call when you ring, any other member of the team can give you an update on the transaction and what is due to happen next.

How much Stamp Duty do I have to pay?

Under the new system, stamp duty land tax will be payable in slices. There will be no tax payable on the first £125,000 of the purchase price, a 2 per cent charge on the next £125,000, a 5 per cent charge on the next £675,000 and a 10 per cent charge on the next £575,000. The top rate of stamp duty (12 percent) will apply to the slice of consideration above £1.5 million.


  • Purchase price £275,000 (average UK house price). Tax was £8,250 – now £3,750
  • Purchase price £510,000 (average London house price) Tax was £20,400 – now £15,500
  • Purchase price £2,000,000 Tax was £100,000 – now £153,750
  • First time buyers stamp duty will differ – no stamp duty is payable up to £500,000.
  • The tax is payable by the buyer – not the seller.

What searches need to take place?

There are many different types of searches that can be made according to the nature and location of the property. Some conveyancers will only carry out the basic standard searches required for all properties by mortgage lenders. It is important to establish that your solicitor is going to make all the enquiries relevant to the property you are buying. Doorsteps solicitors have the breadth and experience to advise you on the trickiest legal problems, and offer a solution. We recognise that every transaction is different. Even an ordinary house can be affected by unusual legal features such as:


  • Restrictive covenants, rights of way and other easements
  • Charges such as service charges and rent charges
  • Flying freeholds
  • Liability for Church repairs
  • Flood risk, radon gas, past contamination, and other environmental issues.

Where do I get a surveyor?

We have a number of professional surveyor contacts in our local areas. Please let us know if you would like us to recommend someone.