House completion – The Process

house completion

How long does house completion take? This is a question that gets asked thousands of times every year on internet search engines.

Whether you are buying or selling, the process of a property changing ownership can be a complex one.

With a recent study suggesting that those currently in their twenties and thirties will likely own just two properties over their lifetime, the conveyancing process (the legal term for the process of a house changing ownership) is one that few people are overly familiar with.

How long does house completion take?

It is difficult to give an average figure for how long it takes to complete on a house.  There are several stages in the process of buying or selling a property; and the amount of time each stage takes can vary hugely, depending on a wide range of factors.

The house purchase exchange and completion process can be affected by your location, the average time it takes to find a buyer in your area, your financial situation and mortgage application process, and also factors such as survey results and your conveyancing solicitor’s current work load.

House sale completion is a complex issue, and it is therefore perhaps best to break the house purchase completion process down into the individual elements

Finding a buyer/finding a property

The first step in buying or selling a property is, of course, to find a property or find a buyer.

Recent research suggests that most people hugely underestimate the amount of viewings it takes to secure a sale on a property.

Almost 55 per cent of people surveyed believed that properties sell in an average of six or less viewings.  The reality is that it takes an average of 19 viewings before a sale is agreed.  If those first 18 potential buyers felt it wasn’t the right property for them, it means potential buyers are having to put in a lot of research time and attend a significant number of property viewings before finding what they are looking for.

Having said that, in theory the increased popularity of online property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla should have made the house hunting process significantly.

Potential buyers now have the ability to compare most of the properties on the market on one website.  Online property profiles should contain a vast amount of information, including a comprehensive gallery of property images, floorplans, Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) results and an in-depth property description.

Many property portals also now give the ability to research local school information and recent sold prices in the area, to further inform your decision about which properties to shortlist.

Making an offer on a property

Once you have found a property you want to make an offer on, it is time to begin negotiations.

Before you make a formal offer, it is wise to decide what your maximum budget is and what price you would ideally like to pay for the property.

When you have decided what level of offer you would like to make on the property, you should contact the estate agent the property is being sold through and let them know the figure you have in mind.

The estate agent may give one of several responses.  If the vendor and the estate agent have previous agreed the lowest offer the vendor would be willing to accept, and your offer falls below that price, the agent is likely to reject your offer outright.  If the agent and vendor have not agreed a minimum price, or if your offer is above that price, they will take the offer to the vendor for their consideration.

When the agent comes back to you, they will either accept your offer, reject it, or give you an idea of the lowest level of offer the vendor is looking for.

When negotiations have been concluded, and you have successfully had your offer accepted, you will need to instruct your solicitor.  Your solicitor will liaise with the vendor’s solicitor and lead you through the sale process.

How to choose a conveyancing solicitor

If you don’t already have a conveyancing solicitor lined up, it is important that you find one quickly in order to ensure that the house purchase/sale doesn’t get held up.

A good solicitor is vital to a quick and successful house purchase or house sale.  A good solicitor will keep you updating regularly regarding the process of the sale, and will talk you through any aspects of the sale that you are unsure of.

A bad solicitor has the potential to really hold the sale up, and with ‘slow progress’ being one of main reasons cited for property sales falling through, the wrong choice of solicitor could ultimately result in the collapse of the sale.

Personal recommendations from trusted friends and family members are a great way to find a good conveyancing solicitor.  You can also ask your mortgage lender or estate agent for recommendations of solicitors they have worked with, who have previously provided a high level of service.

Solicitors can charge in different ways.  Some will offer to complete the work for a fixed fee, some will charge an hourly rate, and others may charge a percentage of the property purchase price.  Whichever system they use, a solicitor should be able to give you a comprehensive quote before you instruct them.  It is important that you choose a solicitor you are confident will complete the task competently, so ensure you keep this as your main criteria rather than just going for the cheapest option.

How long from mortgage offer to completion?

How long it takes from mortgage offer to completion will depend on your circumstances.  If you have had a ‘mortgage in principle’ agreed, the process of formally applying for your mortgage will be quicker and simpler.

As long as nothing unpredictable comes up, the average time taken from mortgage offer to sale completion is around six weeks.

How long does it take from signing contracts to completion?

Once both the buyer and vendor have signed their contracts, and any other outstanding paperwork has been completed, your solicitor will arrange a date for a formal exchanging of contracts.

Before the exchanging of contracts, either the buyer or seller can pull out of the sale without being liable for any serious financial costs.  Once contracts have been exchanged, it is still possible to pull out of the sale, however it is seriously frowned upon and there would be significant costs involved.

If a buyer pulls out of a house sale after exchanging contracts, they will lose their deposit and may also have to pay damages to the vendor.

If the vendor pulls out of a house sale after exchanging contracts, they will be required to repay the deposit, with interest, and may be sued for breach of contract.

How long between exchange and completion?

After exchanging contracts, the average sale will complete in around two weeks.

What happens between exchange and completion?

At the point of exchanging contracts, a date will be set for completion of the sale.  The completion date will be a date agreed by the buyer and the vendor.

The period of time between the exchanging of contracts and the completion of the sale is given to enable both parties to make the necessary arrangements for the move. It is also necessary because the buyer’s mortgage lender will require notice of the date on which they will be required to release the mortgage funds. Until contracts have been exchanged, there is no contractual obligation to complete the sale, and no contracted completion date.  This means it would be very unwise for either party to make any formal arrangements before exchange.

What does completion mean?

Completion mean the property sale has concluded, and ownership of the property has legally been transferred to the buyer.

How quickly can you complete on a house?

How quickly you can complete on a house will depend on several factors.

Things that have the potential to determine the time it takes to complete on a house sale may include:

  • Whether either the buyer or vendor are in a property chain
  • Whether the buyer is reliant on a mortgage and whether they already have a mortgage in principle in place before an offer is accepted
  • Whether the searches carried out bring up any cause for concern
  • Whether the survey highlights any issues
  • Whether the mortgage lender has any concern about the property value given in the formal valuation report

Can you exchange and complete on the same day?

As previously mentioned, the time given between exchange of contracts and completion is to enable both parties to make the necessary arrangements.

If both parties are chain free, it is a cash purchase (i.e. no mortgage is required), the property is vacant and it is convenient for all involved, you can potentially set your completion date so that exchange and completion happen on the same day, however this is very unusual.

When will you pay your first mortgage payment after completion?

Your mortgage lender will write to you to confirm when your first mortgage payment is due and how much you will need to pay.

You first payment will usually be slightly higher than your usual monthly payment as it will likely include the interest payable between the date the sale completes and the end of that month, in addition to the standard monthly payment for the following month.

For example, if you move on 11th June, your first payment in July will cover the full month of July, plus 11th-30th June.

Is there a way to guarantee the sale of a property?

If you have a property to sell, and are worried about the sale falling through, or you have concerns that it is taking too long and jeopardising your onward purchase, a sale to a genuine cash home buyer may be a good option.

Selling to a cash home buyer offers you a guaranteed sale and allows you to select your completion date, meaning you have complete control over your move.

This content was written by Quick Move Now
Published on 14th May 2018
Last updated on 22nd August 2018


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