Exchange of contract and completion date timing

Buying a house and moving, it’s been said before that this must be one of the most painful experiences in life.  I think it’s actually made more stressful because of the all the legal hurdles and the way in which it all happens.  The English version (the Scottish one is much better) requires your solicitor to do lots of work with searches and checking previous authorisations, ensuring proper title etc.  This is all fine and of course, quite understandable. You need to know exactly what you are buying and the mortgage company or lender needs to know that the property is a sound investment.

However, when did the completion date (the date you actually move) become largely set in stone well before contracts have been exchanged?  The, more sensible, approach used to be that the solicitors did all the work, drew up the contracts and then agreed the completion date with all parties at the same time as exchange of contracts.

Buying a house, exchange and completion datesNow you often have to commit yourself to paying for a removal company, redirection of post, changes to utilities etc. even before you have any contract exchanged whatsoever.  This strikes me as a little bit daft…  Apparently, it’s become quite normal for the exchange of contracts to occur just a few days, or even hours, before the move, leading to massive amount of anxiety for all concerned.

a minimum period between exchange and completion

Solicitors shouldn’t go along with these practises, even if put under pressure by clients who ‘bully’ them.  Even better, the Law Society should insist on a minimum period between exchange and completion (unless all parties agree a lesser period).  Perhaps then the process of moving home would be less painful.

Most house buyers get too involved in the initial excitement of finding their next property to fully consider, at the outset, that they will need some time to finalise everything – AFTER contracts have been exchanged.

By: Robert

22 Responses

  1. Angry of Bishops Stortford 10/04/2014 / 12:18 am

    A word of warning to all. There is a father and son-in-law operating as property solicitors in Chelmsford, Essex who have sent their firms bust 3 times. Each time they did it, many clients in house purchase mid stream lost the houses they wanted as exasperated sellers withdrew from the deal.
    The solicitors names are Michael and Dean Alexander. Their last firm was Alexander Lawyers LLP, but they crashed that and are now operating as Edward Marshall Solicitors. They owe plenty to clients, creditors and HMRC.
    Google 'Michael Alexander SRA' and details of his prosecution by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for misuse of client funds will come up.
    Google 'Worst ever conveyancing solicitor' and an account of their antics can be seen.
    Don't risk your house purchase/ sale with these bandits.

  2. Rod Jones 08/04/2014 / 6:41 am

    After being bullied buy the sellers into waiting 5 months from a whole number of excuses from our house purchase in Benfleet, on the day of the exchange the sellers pulled out knocking the legs from all in the house chain, therefore leaving us like others out of pocket and the frustration of starting again, this system must be tightened up surely to protect all concerned, I understand there should be a cooling off period for all, but you are selling and buying property you must know what you are doing, there needs to be sum sort of protection in place so nobody wastes time or money in the property market.

  3. Bannay 03/02/2014 / 1:58 pm

    I've signed my contract with the solicitor who informed me the Seller has also signed the contract. We've even agree on a completion date. I received an email from Estate agents today that the vendor for the house my seller is moving into has decided to purchase a new house. That vendor was supposed to be moving to a rented property, so there was no chain there…
    I'm very furious at the moment. can I pull out of this purchase and will I incur any penalties. Obviously not my fault!

  4. jj 20/11/2013 / 3:54 pm

    Is anyone have the nightmare am going through i sold my house 10 wks ago got told average complerion 8 to 10 wks just been told possible another 2 wks, but my solictor has just said cut off time when near xmas is around 3 wks before xmas, in total why has it took nearly 3 monthes to sell a house, we are only in a chain of 3 the to previous in chain are further ahead it will sicken me to pay a bill in total with estate agents and solicitors of nearly 2k , not looking good to having it completed till new year new, leaving me in a right mess for xmas surley it shouldnt take as long as it does.

  5. Jeff 19/08/2013 / 2:32 pm

    After reading these, I couldn't agree more. The lack of communication is infuriating. We have been waiting to exchange for two weeks although no one will ever actually address a clear date to get this wrapped up.

    The goal of the whole process is to work towards a completion date but it seems like a taboo subject.

    How are you meant to get stuff sorted? How is this legal in the UK?

    Absolute sh1t!

  6. Teutonic Knight 15/08/2013 / 7:45 pm

    Can you sue the arrse off those who have lost trace of your money?

  7. Phil 15/08/2013 / 12:45 am

    Has anyone every heard of this. I am selling my house to first time buyers and I am buying a new build, simple so you would think!!!! Exchanged contracts on Wednesday the 7th of Aug 2013 with a fixed completion date of Wednesday the 14th of August. So on the day all appeared to be going well. We packed up the house and moved all our stuff over to the new house. Had to sit outside until we had word of completion. So all day I was on the phone chasing both solicitors to move the money. 330pm I get a call that my property has completed and the funds are now in place to buy my new build house. 530pm get a call. We are very sorry the New Build Company solicitors have not received your funds so you can not move in. I call my solicitors who tell me sorry we can't find your money. It's vanished.
    So I now have NO house, No money as its missing and am sleeping in the removals van with my wife and 2 very young children. Oh and just if things can't get worse i now have to pay £3685 to my mortgage company as I was porting my mortgage and did not complete on both properties on the same day. Any advice…….

  8. Joe from Splott 19/07/2013 / 2:19 pm

    I think we need a situation where it is no longer possible to profit from housing. So if house prices increase you can only rent it at the value you bought it or its initial rentable value.Dave Likewise you would only be able to sell it at cost price plus inflation. There would then be an end to estate agents (hooray!) and the whole ghastly mechanism of profiteering out of such a basic necessity. The house price rises of ten years ago have, in effect, created a currency devaluation for those who had not bought property prior to the housing madness and buy-to-let craze.

  9. sleepless 19/07/2013 / 11:25 am

    7 days ago I was asked to change completion dates to 1st August, was not happy but agreed and spent the Friday & Saturday rearranging removals, house insurance etc….. I did request at that time that my solicitor tried to get exchange done asap so that I could stop any further slippage, he has sat on his hands and now what 6 days later I am told they need another two weeks so they can get their broadband in place ( both work from home)……………………. a chain of 6 have now been effected by the same persons twice, I do undertand that the law states until contracts are exchanged there is no recourse for us but morally and ethically this cannot be right …. perhaps the law is simply inadequate/out of date in this area.

    Angry,frustrated and just about done in……………..

  10. mike 02/07/2013 / 3:36 pm

    Oh and don't forget to get buildings insurance changed over on day of exchange as that is when you take ownership of the property and your responsibility for yours ends

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