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Understanding Exchange and Completion of a House: A Step-by-Step Guide

Jul 05, 2024

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Exchanging contracts on a house marks a pivotal moment in the home-buying journey. It signifies the point where the sale becomes legally binding, setting the stage for the final steps towards ownership. Here’s what you need to know about the process, from preparation to completion.

Preparing for Exchange of Contracts

Before contracts are exchanged, several key preparations must be completed:

  • Agreement on Purchase Price: Buyer and seller must agree on the price.
  • Financial Readiness: Buyer secures a formal mortgage offer and prepares the deposit.
  • Legal Checks: Buyer’s solicitor conducts necessary searches and verifies the EPC.
  • Insurance Arrangements: Buildings insurance is arranged.
  • Agreement on Fixtures and Fittings: Details are finalized.

Exchange of Contracts Explained

What is Exchange of Contracts?

Exchange of contracts is the moment when buyer and seller swap signed contracts, legally committing to the property sale.

When Does Exchange Happen?

Typically occurs 5-28 days before completion, often around 10-14 days prior.

Understanding the Exchange Deposit

Buyer pays a deposit (usually 10% of the purchase price) to confirm commitment. This deposit is non-refundable and protects the seller if the buyer withdraws.

Completing the Purchase

Setting the Completion Date

Agreeing on the completion date involves coordination, especially in property chains. Flexibility may be necessary, particularly in larger chains.

Completion Day: What to Expect

On completion day, all financial transactions are finalized. Once funds are received, keys are released to the buyer.

Completion Checklist

Ensure these steps are covered:

  • Funds are ready.
  • Removal company is scheduled.
  • Buildings insurance covers the new property.
  • Key collection logistics are clear.


Can I Exchange and Complete on the Same Day?

Possible but uncommon due to logistical complexities. Typically, a gap of at least 5 days is advised.

Can I Change My Mind After Exchange?

Yes, but consequences are significant, the seller can issue a 'Notice to Complete' and retain the deposit if the buyer defaults.

Costs Involved in Exchange?

Usually a deposit of 10% of the property price, but first-time buyers might negotiate a lower amount.

Can I Proceed Without a Solicitor?

Not recommended. Legal intricacies require a qualified solicitor’s expertise.


Navigating the exchange and completion of a house involves careful planning and adherence to legal procedures. Understanding these steps ensures a smoother transition to homeownership. For personalized guidance through this process, contact Howards today. Discover your path to owning a new home with confidence.