The Countdown To Homeownership: Contract To Completion In The UK

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That magical moment when you finally get the keys to your new home follows many milestones. The journey from offer accepted to legal completion involves extensive coordination.

Understanding the timeline and processes between signing contracts and completing a purchase keeps expectations realistic. This enables smoother progress for buyers and sellers alike.

This guide covers key phases in the UK’s property sales journey, including:

  • The purpose of exchanges vs completion
  • Typical timescales at each stage
  • Why delays happen and how to prevent them
  • Managing the financial elements
  • Preparing for moving day
  • Final steps to ownership

Read on for clarity regarding the countdown to completion – and homeownership!

Exchanging Contracts vs Completion

The terms exchange and completion denote distinct stages:

Exchange of Contracts – A legally binding agreement between buyer and seller to complete the transaction. Both parties are then locked into the sale.

In exchange, the buyer pays their deposit and a completion date is agreed upon. The contract terms cannot be changed after the exchange.

Completion – The legal change of property ownership on the day of moving. The buyer pays the remaining balance and receives the title deeds. Keys are released and the seller vacates the property.

Completion occurs after exchange, typically 1-3 months later. The time between is spent finalising legalities like mortgage approvals and title transfers.

Why Does Completion Take So Long After Exchange?

While the sales principles are agreed at the exchange, much behind-the-scenes work remains to legally finalise the transaction:

  • The buyer has to formally arrange their mortgage if required. Lender valuations and approvals take time.
  • Title deeds and property searches need checking for any issues. Remedying problems can cause delays.
  • The buyer has to organise home and life insurance to take effect from completion.
  • Utility accounts like broadband must be transferred into the buyer’s name from completion.
  • Preparations like removals and storage have to be scheduled around the completion timeline.
  • Any advance rental or compensation payments are calculated based on the chosen completion date.

Rushing this due process risks problems, so a buffer of 4-12 weeks from exchange allows for unexpected delays.

So, let us understand how long from signing contracts to completion UK really takes.

While the precise timeline differs by property, expect 1-3 months between exchange and completion in straightforward sales:

  • 4-6 weeks is typical for empty properties with no chain issues.
  • 8-10 weeks is common for occupied properties where the seller must arrange moving out.
  • 12 weeks plus may occur if transactions are chain-dependent or surveys flag issues requiring renegotiation.

Communication by all parties helps stick to the originally agreed completion timeline. Be prepared for some delays, but avoid open-ended timeframes.

Managing Finances Around Exchange and Completion

Two significant financial transactions underpin exchanges and completion:


  • The buyer submits their deposit, typically 5-10% of the purchase price. This secures the transaction pending completion.
  • The deposit is held by the seller’s solicitor and is non-refundable except in special circumstances.


  • The buyer’s conveyancer transfers the outstanding balance owed.
  • The seller’s conveyancer receives this final payment, repays their mortgage lender, and deducts any fees.
  • Agents release the keys once funds have cleared, marking legal completion.

Ensuring finance and deposits are available on schedule is vital to avoid losing money if unable to complete.

Preparing for Moving and Completion Day

To make the completion day go smoothly:

  • Book removals and storage well in advance once you have confirmed the completion date.
  • Begin decluttering unwanted belongings as soon as possible.
  • Notify all utilities like broadband, TV and phone providers regarding connection and disconnection schedules.
  • Arrange insurance for valuables, furnishings and fixtures to be moved and for your new home.
  • Check the property’s Energy Performance Certificate rating and consider any improvements needed.
  • Collect important records like warranties and instruction manuals left by the seller.
  • Finalise deep cleaning, rubbish clearance and any temporary storage like furniture removals.

Being organised ensures you can fully enjoy the excitement of moving in on completion day!

Final Steps for a Smooth Completion

On the actual day of legal completion:

  • Your conveyancer will confirm when funds have been transferred safely and the legal title has been passed to you.
  • The estate agent will arrange to hand you the keys to access the property for the first time as owner.
  • Check the inventory and that any included fixtures, fittings and furnishings are all present. Make notes of any issues.
  • Carry out a final walkthrough, testing appliances and switches. Take meter readings. Report any problems.
  • Make sure the previous occupants have vacated fully and removed all unwanted items.

With anticipation building, stay in close contact with your conveyancer until you get the green light that all financial transactions and the title transfer have been officially completed.

Enjoy the Completion Celebrations!

The day you get your keys deserves celebration – pop that move-in bubbly! Completing each step in the buying journey brings you closer to the magic moment when you can finally call the property your own.

Patience and teamwork get everyone across the line together smoothly. Keep spirits high in the final stretch before moving day knowing the efforts will be worthwhile once you begin making your house a home.


The countdown from exchanged contracts to completion rarely goes 100% to plan, but preparation helps manage the ups and downs. Maintaining good communication channels with your representatives mitigates most issues.

The critical timeline actions include:

  • Exchanging contracts and paying your deposit
  • Allowing 1-3 months for conveyancing searches and approvals
  • Liaising closely with your solicitor and mortgage broker
  • Getting removal arrangements firmed up
  • Transferring utilities and services ready for completion day
  • Patience! Delays nearly always occur somewhere along the chain

Staying flexible, organised and enthusiastic through the final stretching line will ensure your home purchase is completed as smoothly as possible. Enjoy the excitement of the journey’s closing chapters.

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  • NAPB
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  • Trading Standards

We are proud to be the most regulated property buyer operating in the ‘Quick House Sale’ industry. We are an active member of the NAPB (National Association Of Property Buyers) and are RICS regulated, which means you can have every confidence of selling your home with us quickly & easily.