Can You Exchange Contracts Without Setting a Completion Date?

The exchange of contracts is a major step in the house-moving process, as it transfers ownership of properties into the hands of the new owners. 

However, exchange and completion are legal processes, and ones that can cause confusion for property buyers and sellers alike. 

In short, you can’t exchange contracts without setting a completion date. In this article, we’ll explore why and delve a little further into the process. 

Understanding the Exchange of Contracts

The exchange of contracts is a critical stage in property transactions in the UK. It is the point where both buyer and seller are legally bound to the sale or purchase of a property. This stage ensures that both parties are committed, and any withdrawal post this point can have significant financial costs for whoever fails to execute the completion.

What Happens on the Day of Exchange?

On the day of exchange, the solicitors representing each party will confirm the details of the transaction and swap signed contracts. This process is usually conducted over the phone, and it is essential that all details align to avoid any discrepancies that could delay the process.

The Role of Solicitors in Exchange of Contracts

Solicitors play a pivotal role in ensuring that the exchange of contracts is seamless. They confirm the possession of legal documents, manage the exchange of written and electronic contracts, and address any concerns that may arise during this stage.

Why Exchange of Contracts is Crucial

The exchange of contracts is crucial as it solidifies the agreement between the buyer and the seller. It sets the stage for completion, making the deal legally binding and providing a sense of security and assurance to both parties involved.

Delving into Completion

Definition and Significance

Completion is the final step in the property transaction process. It is the day when the buyer pays the seller the agreed amount, and the ownership of the property is transferred. This day is significant as it marks the official change of ownership and allows the buyer to move into the property.

The Process on the Day of Completion

On the day of completion, the buyer’s solicitor will transfer the funds to the seller’s solicitor. Once the funds are received, the seller will vacate the property, and the keys will be handed over to the buyer. This process needs to be meticulously planned to avoid any last-minute hassles.

Responsibilities Post Completion

Post completion, the buyer is responsible for paying Stamp Duty Tax and registering their ownership with the Land Registry. It is also crucial for the buyer to ensure that all utility accounts are transferred to their name and that the property is adequately insured.

Can You Exchange Contracts Without a Completion Date?

As established above, you can not exchange contracts with a completion date, as it is a fundamental component of the property transaction process and needs to be established before the exchange can take place.

Why Not? 

Delving deeper, the absence of a completion date can lead to ambiguity and uncertainty in the selling process. It is the responsibility of the solicitors representing both parties to ensure that a completion date is agreed upon and documented in the contracts before the exchange.

The Role of Solicitors in Setting Completion Dates

Solicitors play a crucial role in setting completion dates. They facilitate discussions between the buyer and the seller to agree on a suitable date, taking into consideration factors such as mortgage deal deadlines and any existing property chains.

Deciding the Completion Date

The Collective Decision

Deciding the completion date is a collective decision made by both the buyer and the seller. It is influenced by various factors, including the availability of funds, the readiness of the property, and the preferences of both parties.

Factors Influencing the Completion Date

Several factors can influence the setting of the completion date. These include the length of the property chain, the speed at which mortgage offers are received, and any unforeseen circumstances that may arise during the transaction process.

The Impact of Mortgage Deal Deadlines

Mortgage deal deadlines can significantly impact the setting of the completion date. It is essential for both parties to be aware of any deadlines and to work collaboratively to ensure that the completion date aligns with the mortgage offer validity period.

Delayed and Same-Day Completions

The Concept of Delayed Completion Date

In some scenarios, a delayed completion date may be set. This could be due to various reasons such as the seller requiring more time to vacate the property or the buyer needing additional time to secure funds.

Scenarios Leading to Delayed Completions

Delayed completions can occur due to a myriad of reasons, including delays in the property chain, unresolved legal issues, or discrepancies in the property survey. It is crucial for both parties to communicate effectively to resolve any issues promptly.

The Possibility and Implications of Same-Day Exchange and Completion

While it is possible to have the same-day exchange and completion, it can be stressful. It leaves little room for addressing any unexpected issues and can lead to complications if any discrepancies are identified during the final stages. 

Consequences of Delayed Completion

Legal Implications for the Buyer

If the buyer is responsible for a delayed completion, they may be required to pay interest to the seller on the amount of the purchase money that isn’t sent through. If they fail to complete by the new deadline, the contracts could be rescinded, and the deposit forfeited.

Legal Implications for the Seller

Conversely, if the seller fails to complete, they must return the deposit and could be liable for the costs the buyer has incurred, such as mortgage and survey costs. The buyer also has the option to rescind the contract in such scenarios.

Receiving Notice in Delayed Completions

In cases of delayed completions, notice will be served to complete within a stipulated timeframe before the contracts are rescinded. It is imperative for both parties to adhere to the notice period to avoid further legal complications.

Exchange and Completion: Simplifying the Process 

The exchange of contracts and completion are integral components of the property transaction process. They are interrelated, with the completion date being a fundamental element that needs to be established during the exchange of contracts.

Having experienced solicitors is crucial in navigating the complexities of property transactions. They ensure that all legalities are addressed, and the interests of their clients are safeguarded throughout the process.

Clear communication between the buyer and the seller is essential in deciding the completion date and addressing any issues that may arise during the transaction process. It fosters a sense of mutual understanding and cooperation, facilitating a smoother selling process. 


Picture of Bobby Turner

Bobby Turner

Market research, writer & property specilaist for Zoom Property Buyer. Over 10 years in property sector. Previously at WhatHouse?