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  1. Blog
  2. What happens on completion day?
House selling tips
20 May 2024

What happens on completion day?

Sam Edwards
Senior Writer & Researcher
Couple celebrating their move with pizza and surrounded by cardboard boxes.

Table of contents

  1. 1. What is completion day?
  2. 2. The completion day process
  3. 3. What happens on completion day if you're in a chain?
  4. 4. What happens on completion day if you're not in a chain?
  5. 5. Completion process for new builds
  6. 6. How to make sure completion day goes smoothly
  7. 7. Summary: Just one last push!
  8. 8. FAQs

Completion day is a significant milestone, and one you should be proud to reach!

While much of what happens on completion day is practical, it marks the final stage of the transaction. Your solicitor will be working diligently behind the scenes, transferring your mortgage funds and organising necessary paperwork.

But what ensures a successful completion day? How can you make sure the big move goes smoothly?

What is completion day?

Completion day is the final stage of a property transaction. The buyer's solicitor confirms the mortgage and transfers the purchase funds to the seller's solicitor. The seller's solicitor then receives the funds, confirms completion, and releases the house keys to the buyer, so they can finally move into their new home.

When is completion day?

There isn't a universal date for completion day, but it is the next and final stage of a property transaction after the exchange of contracts.

The date for completion is arranged before the exchange of contracts and then confirmed by the conveyancing solicitors of the parties involved. Most people choose a completion date that is convenient for all parties, typically scheduled about two weeks after exchanging contracts.

The completion day process

Apart from some small variables, your completion process should follow a timeline similar to this:

Before completion

  1. Final checks: The buyer's conveyancer will carry out final checks to ensure all aspects are in order before finalising the transaction.
  2. Mortgage confirmation: The buyer's solicitor confirms all mortgage conditions have been met before requesting purchase funds from the mortgage lender.
  3. Redemption certificate: The seller's solicitor requests a Redemption certificate if there's any mortgage left to pay on the seller's property.
  4. Completion statements: Solicitors on both sides of the transaction create completion statements of all payments made and received. They also prepare invoices to be paid on completion.

Completion day timeline

Remember: Have your phone with you throughout the day. Your solicitor and estate agent will need to contact you.

  1. Funds transfer: The buyer’s mortgage lender transfers purchase funds to the buyer’s solicitor.
  2. Solicitor transfer: The buyer’s solicitor then transfers purchase funds to the seller’s solicitor’s bank account by 3pm.
  3. Completion confirmation: Once the seller’s solicitor receives the purchase money, they confirm completion with the buyer.
  4. Key release: The estate agent releases keys to the buyer while the seller’s solicitor ensures any outstanding charges (like the seller’s estate agent fees) are paid.
  5. Sale completion: The house sale is completed when the buyer collects the keys and the funds are transferred. The buyer is notified of completion, allowing them to move into their new property. It’s typical for home sellers to vacate their properties by 1pm, but this isn’t set in stone!

After completion

  1. Land registry: The buyer's solicitor registers their client's new ownership with the Land Registry and prepares to pay off any outstanding taxes, such as Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT).
  2. Stamp duty payment: Buyers have 14 days to pay outstanding Stamp Duty before incurring penalties.

What happens on completion day if you're in a chain?

If you’re in a property chain, completion is usually the same as the process above, but with a greater emphasis on timing. The solicitors of each party need to contact one another to confirm the completion of each transaction. One after the other, parties can vacate their properties and collect their keys.

It is crucial to understand the average completion day timeline, which refers to the estimated timing of completing property transactions within a chain. The completion times for each buyer in the chain will vary based on the presence of a chain and potential delays.

In most transactions, both the buyer and seller are attached to property chains. Chains are often the primary cause for problems during property transactions. Completion is a big process after all, with a large number of interlinked parties (who cannot communicate directly) relying on one another to pull through their transactions intact.

While a big chain can be intimidating, there isn’t a lot you can do. Quite literally, you cannot manage other people’s transactions. The only thing you can actually do is be proactive in following the moving timetable. Usually, it looks a little bit like this:

  1. 9am to 11am - First time buyer in the chain collects keys.
  2. 11am to 12pm - Second buyer in the chain collects keys
  3. 12pm to 1pm - Third buyer in the chain collects keys.
  4. 12pm to 1pm - Fourth buyer in the chain collects keys.

What happens on completion day if you're not in a chain?

If you're lucky enough to be in a chainless transaction, you'll enjoy much more flexibility with your moving schedule on completion day. Not being reliant on the completion of other transactions means you can move in (or out) on a different day to completion.

Completion process for new builds

For new build purchases, the road to completion is a little different from standard properties. Let's take a closer look at the process...

Before completion

  1. You receive your purchase report, a completion statement, and any other important documents from your solicitor. You'll need to sign any required documents, discuss the completion date that the developer expects to achieve, and provide payment details for the mortgage deposit.
  2. Solicitors typically exchange contracts on a new build home with the completion date ‘on notice’. In other words, when the exchange is done, they wait for a notice that the property is ready to progress to legal completion. There's usually a timescale for this included within the contract.
  3. With completion ‘on notice’, the structural provider will inspect the property when it is physically complete. Your conveyancer will be served with a notice outlining 7-10 days in which to complete the sale. You will be asked to complete your own inspections during this time period. It's important that you inspect the property thoroughly as you won't be able to prevent completion once the notice period is over.
  4. You should complete a snagging list by identifying anything that you don’t think has been completed to a good standard. Check out fixtures and fittings, as well as appliances that haven't been installed correctly, or even at all. The ideal time to make this list would be before completion. These issues can then be fixed prior to completion leaving less possibility of disputes about liability for the issues.
  5. Once there is a fixed completion date, your conveyancer will request the mortgage funds from your lender. Any final balance due from you will also be requested at this time. If you're using a Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme or Help to Buy ISA, your solicitor will request funds from them.

On completion day

Your solicitor will send the purchase monies to the developer by bank transfer. Once received, they'll release the keys. They will also provide you with any relevant paperwork for the site and any contents at this stage. This should include any guarantees and manuals.

After completion

  1. Your conveyancer will arrange payment of Stamp Duty (if required) and also apply to the Land Registry to register the property in your name. For new builds, this process may take slightly longer as the property will not have been registered previously.
  2. With all new builds, the developer provides a warranty. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the limits of some of its guarantees.

How to make sure completion day goes smoothly

To prevent any hiccups on your completion day, you should prepare in advance with these quick tips:

  • Hire a reliable conveyancing solicitor: The success of completion day hinges heavily on the conveyancing process. Hiring a good conveyancer will help ensure your completion deadline is met - that lenders are contacted on time, that mortgage completion statements are completed, and that the final money transfer is completed before 3pm. You can read more about how to find a good conveyancer here.
  • Make sure you plan ahead: That means booking your removal company well in advance, and making sure all your belongings are packed to prevent problems on the big day.
  • Manage your funds carefully: Make sure you have the right budget for removals and any other fees you’ll need to pay on completion.
  • Communicate consistently: Whether you're buying or selling, it's important to keep things open and friendly. Ensure all communication is clear and transparent.

What can go wrong?

While completion day should run smoothly, there can be issues down the line.

Money problems

On completion day, all money should be transferred on time, and in full, to each of the sellers involved in the chain via telegraphic transfer. On rare occasions, this might not happen on the same day. As a result, completion is moved to the next day, which can cause logistical issues with removal bookings and work.

Keys not being released

If the seller's solicitors haven’t received completion money, the seller will be legally advised to withhold the keys to the property. If this is through no fault of your own, you may be able to claim compensation from the guilty party. Mortgage lenders, while usually on-time with their transfers, aren't immune to making mistakes from time to time.

Summary: Just one last push!

Completion day is a day you should look forward to - it's the day that you finally reap the rewards from all the stress and hard work. But with a lot still at stake, it's also the last push from all parties to close the transaction.

Our advice is simple - as long as you've chosen a reliable solicitor, and there are no troubles down the chain, you should complete in one piece. Just make sure you keep your phone handy, and your day's itinerary fool-proof.


Can I exchange contracts and complete on the same day?

You can exchange and complete the sale on the same day, but it's not recommended. Moving these dates together can increase the possibility of problems further down the line:

  • Parties may not receive the money on time and late payments will prevent completion from going ahead.
  • Removal companies need enough notice to book you in. Same day exchange and completion can prevent you from finding a decent removal company.
  • It's good practice to spread out your exchange and completion dates. Book your removal vans with confidence, rather than in a rush.

Who decides when completion day is?

The completion date is decided before the exchange of contracts by the parties in the property chain.

What time do you normally get the keys on completion day?

The time you receive your house keys depends on where you are in the property chain. Usually, the first time buyer receives their keys between 9 and 11am, then other buyers collect their keys in hourly increments depending where they are in the chain.

When do I receive funds from house sale?

Funds from your house sale should arrive in your bank account on the day of completion. Your conveyancer will transfer them to your account once they have been received.

How long does it take for a solicitor to transfer money?

It can take anything from several minutes to several hours for the money to show in your bank account.

Are moving date and completion date the same?

No, they aren't the same, but they usually happen on the same day to best serve the interests of everyone in the property chain. Completion refers to the completion of the sale (transfer of funds), while the moving date is the day you literally move into your new home. If there isn't a chain (first time buyers), then your moving date can be later.

What happens after completion?

If you've purchased a property, your conveyancer will register your ownership with the HM Land Registry. You will also need to pay any outstanding taxes, such as Stamp Duty.

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