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Buying your first home: Exchange & completion

House with a pound coin garden pathExchange

After your lender has approved the mortgage, and your solicitor has completed all the required searches, it’s time for both buyer and seller to exchange contracts.

It is now that you will need to come up with the mortgage deposit. Money is not paid to the mortgage company direct; rather, it takes the long way round from mortgage lender to buyer’s solicitor, from buyer’s solicitor to seller’s solicitor, from seller’s solicitor to seller.

Now comes the exchange part. Your solicitor sends your signed contract to the seller’s solicitor, who in exchange, returns their copy of the contract signed by the seller. Once this is done, the sale is legally binding and you’re past the point of no return. Therefore, if you back out now, you’ll forfeit your deposit to the seller (though the deposit is returned if the sale falters through no fault of your own).

Once buyer and seller have exchanged contracts, you can set a date for completion, typically, one to two weeks after the exchange date.

Get ready…

Before you can move in (which will be the completion date), ensure everything goes smoothly by using the time between exchange and completion to make all the final preparations, such as:

Insure the property – buildings insurance should be in place from the date of exchange.

Sort out removal firms or van hire – don’t spend the first week in your new home sleeping on the floor. Organise well to ensure your stuff arrives on time. The British Association of Removers lists approved removal and storage companies.

Ensure your utilities (water, gas and electricity) are connected – ask the seller to inform the utility companies of change of ownership and switchover date. If the property is vacant, inform the utilities of the reconnection date yourself.

Telephone/broadband connection – inform your chosen provider in good time so you’re wired to the world from day one in your new home.

Arrange for your mail to be redirected and let everyone know your new address.


Completion is the moment when the property legally becomes yours. Before this can happen, your solicitor may call you in again to complete a few formalities, such as signing the final documents, or arranging payment of any outstanding fees/charges etc. The solicitor will also contact your mortgage lender to request the balance of the cost of the home be released.

Once the solicitor receives the balance from your lender, he/she then transfers it to the buyer’s solicitor. The actual point of completion is when the money hits the buyer’s solicitor’s account. When this happens, it’s time to pick up the keys from the seller’s estate agent and crack open the bubbly, because the home is now yours and you’re free to move in… Congratulations!!!

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