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Exchange of contracts explained

Exchanging contracts is a huge deal. This is where everything becomes official between you and the other party in the property transaction. You’re both 100% committed and legally bound.

We get that exchange can feel a tad tricky or overwhelming though. There are a few moving parts to navigate here.

But take a deep breath – we’ll walk you through exactly what’s involved so you feel prepared, not panicked. Let’s get into it.

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What is exchange of contracts?

Exchange day is a biggie – this is when everything becomes legally binding between you and the other party. Up until this point, either side could have walked away without (too many) consequences.

Essentially, you’ll both review and sign identical contract agreements, then your conveyancers will formally swap (exchange) them. Once exchanged, you’re legally bound to the property transaction. If someone pulls out now, there are penalties. The seller would have to return the exchange deposit, while the buyer risks losing it completely.

Not only that, walking away post-exchange likely means wasted time and money too.

It’s rare for people to pull out after contracts have been exchanged, so try not to overthink it too much. Typically, exchanging means the time for worry is over, and you can be confident that you are locked into your property transaction.

When do I exchange contracts?

There’s no one set timeline for when the exchange happens – you and the other party will agree on the dates during the pre-exchange phase. Typically, the exchange of contracts will happen 7 – 28 days before completion, but it could be any agreed date or time, but it could be any agreed timeframe.

No matter when you aim to exchange, there are a few things that need to happen before:

  • You’ve accepted an offer and agreed to purchase terms
  • Mortgage valuations and any surveys needed have been completed
  • The buyer has a formal mortgage offer locked in
  • Finances are lined up for the deposit and other costs
  • Your conveyancer has finished all the necessary property searches and checks
  • The buyer has a building insurance policy in place for the new property
  • A target completion date is decided on
  • All parties have reviewed, are happy with and have signed the contracts

Don’t stress if that seems like a lot. At Eden, we’ll guide you through every step of the way checking off each item as we go and making sure you’re ready to exchange when you need to be.

We take the stress out of conveyancing to make the process as smooth as possible for you, allowing you to focus on what’s important to you about your move.

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How long is there between exchange and completion?

The next major milestone after the exchange is completion day. Completion typically happens 7 – 28 days after the exchange of contracts. The average time between exchange and completion is 2 weeks, but your exchange and completion date timeline can be whatever you have agreed.

If you’re in a property chain, that may impact the timing a bit. The more links in that chain, the more potential for delays if something falls through up the line.

Lucky you if there’s no chain! That usually means a speedier path from exchange to getting those keys in your hand.

No matter your situation, we’ll be here to keep everything progressing smoothly. Read our full guide on completion day here.

Can you exchange and complete on the same day?

We get it – waiting for completion day can be a pain, especially if you’re stuck in a long chain. You might be looking at months until finally reaching moving day.

Some try to streamline things by exchanging and completing on the very same day. While possible, this speedy approach requires some seriously smooth logistics, as well as the right circumstances to facilitate it. The tight turnaround time makes it a fairly risky option.

With same-day exchange and completion, you won’t know for certain you’re moving until the day arrives. That makes planning removals and organising temp housing (if needed) a little more tricky.

Releasing mortgage funds fast can also throw a spanner in the works. Some lenders can transfer funds on the same day. But others may take up to 5 working days to process the payment.

While possible, and relatively common, same-day deals involve a lot of moving pieces coming together perfectly. Even small snags can cause major headaches with such little wiggle room.

What can delay the exchange of contracts?

As we mentioned, there are quite a few moving pieces involved in exchanging contracts. Unfortunately, that leaves some room for unexpected issues to pop up. Try not to stress though, issues can be resolved with swift action and strong communication.

Here are some things that could potentially cause delays:

  • Surprises from the survey: Major problems uncovered here may need to be resolved first, hitting pause on the process.
  • Waiting on missing documents: For things to keep progressing smoothly, your conveyancer needs all the necessary paperwork. Incomplete files slow momentum.
  • Communication roadblocks: We get it, life is busy. But delays in responding can really jam up the progress. Stay as communicative as you can.
  • Mortgage hurdles: Issues with your mortgage application getting approved can throw a major surprise at the last minute.
  • Chain reactions: With multiple linked transactions, setbacks anywhere impact the full chain.
  • New build delays: Off-plan purchases have construction timelines that may get pushed back.

Every property journey has its own potential roadblocks. Yours might be totally smooth sailing – but if you do hit snags, that’s also normal and everything can be resolved.

What’s the process of exchanging contracts?

Phew, you’ve made it through a big chunk of the conveyancing journey to finally reach exchange day. We know this feels like a big milestone (because it is). For more on the full conveyancing process, check out our complete guide to conveyancing.

So, what actually happens when it’s time to exchange? Here’s a quick play-by-play:

First, your conveyancer will do one final sweep to ensure that everything is lined up and ready for exchange. They’ll confirm any queries are resolved, your financing is good to go, and you’ve lined up building insurance for your big move.

With the official greenlight, it's time to review and sign those contracts. As a buyer, you would have also needed to pay your conveyancer your exchange deposit, which is typically 10% of the property purchase price.

Finally, signed contracts are formally swapped between the buyer’s and seller’s conveyancers. You are both now legally bound to the transaction. Congrats, you’ve exchanged!

What happens after exchange of contracts?

So, the exchange is behind you, you can breathe a sigh of relief, but what happens next?

First off, finalise those moving plans if you haven’t already. We’re talking about coordinating packing, booking a removal crew, updating addresses – all the logistics.

When the day comes to load up the truck, just take some deep breaths amongst the chaos. Even with perfect planning, moving can feel hectic, but you’ve got this.

With keys to your new place finally in hand on completion, soak in the new homeowner feeling and breathe a big sigh of relief.

Post-completion, there are few housekeeping tasks left. You’ll want to update all billers, banks, employers etc with the new address. Also be sure to sync up doctors, dentists, memberships, subscriptions, and anything else you might need to update.

If you’re the buyer, your conveyancer will register the deeds and ownership switch with the Land Registry. It can take a little time for the Land Registry to fully process, but this won’t impact you settling into your new home.

Your conveyancer will also handle paying any stamp duty on your behalf at this stage.

Exchanging contracts marks a pivotal moment in your property journey, where commitment becomes legally binding. While it may seem complex, we're here to guide you through, ensuring you feel prepared rather than panicked.


We make conveyancing make sense

We understand the frustrations of finding a trusted conveyancer, that’s why we built Eden.

Our team take the stress out of the process so you can focus on the exciting parts of your move. You’ll have your own dedicated property lawyer from start to finish who will always keep you updated.

No more jargon. No more stressful chasing. No unclear fees. Just simple, transparent conveyancing.

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