What happens on completion day

9 min read
What happens on completion day of any house or flat sale is the same, however there are a number of things that can go wrong or that cause delays leading to you not moving in until late in the day, or sometimes not at all. On the day of completion the buyer's solicitor sends to the seller's solicitor the balance of the purchase price (as 10% deposit is normally paid on exchange of contracts). Once received the seller's solicitor releases the keys to the buyer.

What happens on completion day - 3 easy simple steps:

    Buyer's solicitor receives mortgage from the mortgage lender and the balance to complete from the buyer (click on Purchase Completion Statement Explained to find out more about the various money flows)
    Buyer's solicitor sends the completion monies to the seller

Whilst there are only 3 stages to complete there are be a number of issues that often arise on the day of completion so we have set out these below and provide solutions of what to do:

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What is the best and worst day to complete?

You can choose to complete on any day that both the seller and the buyer agree to (read more on how long between exchange and completion).Most people choose Friday as their completion day so they can tie in moving in with the weekend; maximising the time to unpack and get their life in order. However, with Friday being in such high demand, you can find the cost of removals are alot more than any other day of the week. If you have the capacity to do so, choosing a Monday or a Tuesday to complete can save on removal costs and your solicitor is less likely to be busy.

Another issue of completing on a Friday is that if you do fail to complete, you have to wait until Monday before you can complete which means the breaching party is covering the other party's costs over the weekend.

What can cause delays on the day of completion?

The most common reasons for delays on the day of completion are:

    No Mortgage Money
All too often conveyancing solicitors draw down the mortgage funds for the day of completion which could mean you end up waiting for your mortgage lender to release the mortgage money. You should always ask your solicitor to draw down the mortgage advance the day before completion.

    No Completion Money
Delays in receiving the completion money from the buyer is often a challenge as buyers want to hold onto their money (accruing the interest) for as long as possible. The best advice is to make sure you send your completion monies the day before you are supposed to complete. The completion monies include:

  • Balance of the purchase price of the property (less deposit and mortgage);
  • Stamp duty (must be held by the solicitor before they can complete);
  • Land registration fee;
  • Solicitor's legal fees; and
  • Any other property associated costs (including, for leaseholds, ground rent, service charge apportionments and landlord notice fees).

    No Signed Documents
You solicitor can't complete without being in receipt of the signed transfer documents  from you; some won't even exchange without this. If you are selling and haven't received your transfer document to sign (it normally is sent with your contract) then chase your solicitor for it - and never return this in normal post, always send it recorded delivery.

    No Money From Buyers
Waiting for your buyer to send their completion money can feel very frustrating as you have no way to speed the process up. What all too often happens is the bottom of the chain fails to draw down mortgage monies the day before completion or the buyer hasn't sent in their completion monies. The best way to combat this is to make sure your estate agent and solicitors confirm that the buyer's solicitors are in receipt of the mortgage and completion monies the day before completion.


What time does the seller release the keys?

What time you collect your keys from the seller on completion will depend where you are in the chain and how on the ball your solicitor is. It can also depend on how ready the seller is to move out of the property.

  • 9am to 11am - First buyer in chain collects keys - this is normally a first time buyer.
  • 11am to 12pm - Second buyer in chain collects keys - this is normally the second home mover
  • 12pm to 1pm Third buyer in chain collects keys.
  • 12pm to 1pm - Fourth buyer in chain collects keys.

Who do you collect the keys from?

You normally collect your keys from the selling estate agent after you complete, however you sometimes collect them directly from the sellers. You should speak to the estate agent to find out if they hold all the keys to the property and if not, confirm where the seller will be so you can collect the keys after they have been released.

Does the seller have to release keys once their solicitor receives the buyer's completion money?
No. Under the terms of the exchange contract, the seller has until 1pm (sometimes 2pm if there is a long chain) to provide vacant possession of the property. Most sellers want to complete quickly, however there are some who will want(need!) every last minute to pack and move out of the property.

What is the cut off time for completion?

3.30pm is the cut off time for most solicitors to be able to complete because the CHAPS banking system closes down. If the both the seller and buyer's solicitor bank at the same bank then the buyer's solicitor can send over completion monies up until 5pm.

What happens if the completion monies are received late in the day?

If the completion monies are received by the seller's solicitors late in the day, they may not have enough time to redeem their mortgage on the property. In cases like this, it is common for the seller's solicitor to not complete and the buyer won't be given access to the property. If this happens the seller's solicitor serves notice to complete on the buyer's solicitor and the the buyer will be liable for the cost of the notice fee and any other costs incurred by the seller as set out under the exchange contract (removal fees, hotel costs, storage fees, etc.). Completion will then take place the next working day (which could be Monday if you fail to complete on Friday).

There are occasions where the solicitors will agree with the chain for everyone to move into their new property 'under licence' until completion formally takes place. This is only something that can happen if the seller has received the completion monies from the buyer buy isn't able to settle their mortgage and complete. The buyer is still likely to be served notice by the seller's solicitor, however they will be able to move into their new property.

What happens if you don't complete on the completion day?

The majority of transactions complete on the same date set out in their exchange of contracts, however what happens on completion day when you don't complete? For whatever the reason for not completing, for example the buyer's mortgage didn't get sent by thew bank or the seller doesn't release the keys, then the breaching party is at fault and will be liable for the costs for late completion. The breaching party is served a notice to complete by the otherside's solicitor and then has 2 weeks (10 working days) to complete before the contract is rescinded.

The costs for failing to complete a purchase are considerable. Read more about the costs of pulling out after you have exchanged contracts.

What are the costs for not completing?

The late completion costs are:

  • Contract interest on the purchase price (normally 4% on top of the Bank of England Base Rate);
  • Notice to complete legal fees; and
  • Seller/buyer's foreseeable costs/out of pocket expenses (removal fees, hotel fees)

How to calculate the daily rate of interest for late completion
If the property value is £250,000 and you paid a 10% deposit on exchange but fail to complete on the day of completion, then you'll be liable to pay interest on the £225,000 you haven't paid. The daily rate of interest in this example is £27.74 (£225,000 * 4.5% = £10,125 / 365 days = £27.74 per day).

If you fail to to complete after 2 weeks (10 working days) and the contracts are rescinded then the breaching party will be liable for other costs. Read more about the costs of pulling out after you have exchanged contracts.

Are you worried you might not be able to complete?

There can be reasons why a buyer or a seller might fail to complete. Here are just some of the reasons:

Why would the buyer not complete?

Why would the seller not complete?

  • Their seller on their onward purchase pulls out; or
  • The seller changes their mind.

It is very rare for a property to fail to complete after exchange so you shouldn't worry too much on this. If you are concerned that you aren't going to be able to complete for any reason after you have exchanged contracts, you must speak to your solicitor as soon as possible. This article will guide you through what happens - Can I pull out after exchange of contracts?

For any further help or advice for what happens on completion day, email us at help@samconveyancing.co.uk and let us help you.

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What happens after completion

What happens after completion

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