How long from signing contracts to completion ?

Understanding the Process: From Signing Contracts to Completion

When embarking on a journey to buy, sell or rent a property in the UK, understanding the timeline from signing contracts to completion is crucial. It’s a process laden with legal, financial, and practical steps that need careful attention to detail. In this article, we will illuminate the stages involved in this process and provide you with the knowledge needed to navigate this journey successfully.

Timeline Breakdown: From Contract Exchange to Completion

The process from signing contracts to completion varies greatly depending on numerous factors such as the type of property, whether it’s a chain transaction, legal complexities, and more. Here’s a typical timeline overview:

Stage Typical Duration
Offer Accepted Day 1
Solicitors Instructed 1-2 weeks
Property Survey 1-2 weeks
Mortgage Offer 3-6 weeks
Exchange of Contracts 8-12 weeks
Completion On the day agreed at exchange

Stages of the Process

Solicitors Instructed

After an offer is accepted, both parties will instruct solicitors to act on their behalf. The solicitor will prepare draft contracts and the necessary legal documents. This stage is critical to the timeline as any delay in this process can prolong the overall timeline.

Property Survey

Once the draft contracts are prepared, a property survey is typically the next step. Carried out by a qualified surveyor from a reputable firm like Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a property survey is a thorough examination of a property’s structure. The type of survey will vary depending on the property’s age and condition.

Mortgage Application and Offer

If you’re buying a property with a mortgage, this stage is crucial. It involves applying for a mortgage and awaiting the lender’s offer. The time taken for this stage is determined by the lender’s procedures and the buyer’s financial position. Companies such as Nationwide can guide you through this process.

Exchange of Contracts

At this stage, the buyer and seller are legally committed to the sale. The buyer’s solicitor will typically send the deposit to the seller’s solicitor, and the completion date is agreed upon. After the contracts are exchanged, both parties are legally bound to go through with the transaction.


Completion usually happens at a specified date after the exchange of contracts. It’s when the balance of the purchase price is transferred from the buyer’s solicitor to the seller’s solicitor, and the keys are handed over.

signing contracts to completion

Factors Affecting the Timeline

There are a number of factors that can affect the timeline from contract signing to completion.

Legal Issues

The presence of any legal complexities such as disputes over boundaries, planning permission or issues with the property’s title can elongate the process.

Mortgage Approval

Mortgage approval times can be impacted by the lender’s efficiency and the clarity of the financial information provided by the buyer. Delays can occur if there are any discrepancies or issues to be resolved.

Property Chain

The length of the property chain can significantly impact the timeframe. A chain refers to the sequence of buyers and sellers linked through their property transactions. If you are part of a long chain, you may experience delays as you will be dependent on the speed of other transactions in the chain.

Survey Issues

Should the survey highlight any structural issues with the property or if there is disagreement over the valuation, this may delay the process whilst the issues are negotiated or resolved.

Ways to Expedite the Process

There are a few proactive measures that can be taken to help speed up the process:

Prepare Financials Early

Ensure you have all your financial details in order early in the process. If you’re applying for a mortgage, get an agreement in principle before you even make an offer. This will speed up the mortgage application process later on.

Appoint a Solicitor Promptly

Instruct a solicitor as soon as possible. Doing so allows for the prompt preparation of the draft contract and other necessary documents. Try to appoint a solicitor with local knowledge and experience in similar property transactions.

Communicate Regularly

Regular communication with all parties involved can also expedite the process. It helps resolve issues more quickly, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Choose a Property with No Upward Chain

If possible, choose a property with no upward chain. This can speed up the process considerably as you won’t be waiting for other transactions to complete.

The Role of Conveyancers and Solicitors

The professionals you choose to work with can greatly impact the process. Solicitors and conveyancers play a crucial role in managing the legal side of the transaction. They conduct necessary legal work such as handling contracts, providing legal advice, carrying out local council searches, dealing with Land Registry, and transferring funds.

Organisations such as the Law Society can provide a comprehensive list of accredited conveyancing solicitors in the UK.

Step-by-Step Guide: From Contract Exchange to Completion

Navigating from the exchange of contracts to completion involves a sequence of vital steps. Each action must be undertaken with due diligence and precision. Here is a detailed step-by-step guide to help you through this crucial phase:

Finalise Contract Terms: Both parties, along with their respective solicitors, should finalise the terms of the contract. This includes the purchase price, the completion date, and any other special conditions.

Sign Contracts: After finalising the terms, both parties sign their respective copies of the contract.

Deposit Transfer: The buyer then transfers the deposit (typically 10% of the purchase price) to the seller’s solicitor’s account.

Contract Exchange: The solicitors coordinate a time to exchange contracts. At this point, both parties are legally committed to the sale.

Insurance: Following the exchange of contracts, the buyer is generally responsible for insuring the property.

Pre-Completion Checks: Your solicitor will conduct final checks, ensure the mortgage money is in place, and collect the balance of funds from the buyer.

Completion: On the agreed date, the balance of the purchase price is transferred from the buyer’s to the seller’s solicitor, and the property is legally transferred to the buyer. The keys are then handed over, marking the completion of the process.

The journey from contract exchange to completion is indeed a significant one. It is essential to undertake each step meticulously to ensure a smooth, efficient transition to the culmination of the property transaction.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does it take from signing contracts to completion?

The timeline can vary widely depending on various factors such as the complexity of the transaction, the length of the property chain, and the efficiency of the solicitors involved. On average, it usually takes around 8-12 weeks from the exchange of contracts to completion.

2. Can the process be expedited?

Yes, there are several proactive measures you can take to expedite the process. Preparing your financial details early, instructing a solicitor promptly, maintaining regular communication, and choosing a property with no upward chain can all help speed up the process.

3. What happens if there are legal issues with the property?

Legal issues such as disputes over boundaries or problems with the property’s title can delay the process. Your solicitor will advise you on the best course of action in these circumstances.

4. What is a property chain and how does it affect the timeline?

A property chain refers to the sequence of buyers and sellers linked through their property transactions. The length of the chain can significantly affect the timeline. Longer chains generally mean a longer wait time, as you will be dependent on the speed of other transactions in the chain.

5. What role do solicitors and conveyancers play in this process?

Solicitors and conveyancers are vital in managing the legal aspects of the transaction. They conduct the necessary legal work, including handling contracts, providing legal advice, carrying out local council searches, dealing with the Land Registry, and transferring funds.

6. What happens on the day of completion?

On the day of completion, the balance of the purchase price is transferred from the buyer’s solicitor to the seller’s solicitor. Once the money is transferred and confirmed, the keys are handed over to the buyer.
7. What happens if the completion is delayed?

Delays in completion can occur due to several reasons. If there is a delay, your solicitor will try to resolve the issues as quickly as possible. Depending on the cause and length of the delay, there might be financial penalties, especially if the delay is due to the buyer not being able to transfer funds in time.

8. What is an agreement in principle, and why is it necessary?

An agreement in principle, also known as a ‘decision in principle’ or ‘mortgage in principle’, is a certificate or statement from a lender to say that, in principle, they would lend you a certain amount. Having this in hand can speed up the mortgage application process and shows sellers that you are serious about buying.

9. What if the property survey reveals issues with the property?

If a survey reveals problems with the property, such as structural issues, you have several options. You can negotiate with the seller to get them to fix the issues or reduce the price. Alternatively, if the issues are significant, you may decide to pull out of the purchase.

10. Can I pull out of the sale after the contracts have been exchanged?

After contracts have been exchanged, the sale becomes legally binding, and pulling out of the sale can have serious legal and financial consequences. The buyer could lose their deposit, and the seller might also start legal proceedings to force the completion of the sale.

Remember, the above are general answers and may not apply in every situation. Always consult with your solicitor or conveyancer if you have specific queries related to your transaction.

Conclusion: Patience and Preparation

Navigating the path from signing contracts to completion is a complex process that requires patience, preparation, and understanding. Whilst the average timeline suggests a period of about 8-12 weeks from contract exchange to completion, this timeframe can be influenced by a multitude of factors.

Ensuring all financial and legal documents are in order, maintaining open lines of communication, and being responsive throughout the process can help expedite the timeline. It’s always worth remembering that buying, selling, or renting a property is a significant step, and so it’s important to ensure all aspects of the transaction are handled thoroughly and carefully.



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