What Happens on
Completion Day?
What Happens on Completion Day


Completion Day Arriving Soon?

Congratulations!  You’ll be pleased to know that most of the hard work has been done and there’s not long to go…

As the final stage in the property buying and selling process, things can seem a little tense for all involved.

But fear not!  As long as you’re working with a good conveyancer / conveyancing solicitor, there should be no problems.  They understand the intricacies of house sales and can usually handle all kinds of last-minute problems.

Nonetheless, there are a number of checks and preventative measures you and your solicitor can have in place. These will ensure that things move in the right direction.

Completion Day Check List

Remember also to check our buyer and seller completion day checklists.

What Happens on Completion Day?

A house sale can complete after a series of conditions have been met:

  • The transfer deed or TR1 and the buyer’s mortgage deed have been signed by both the buyer and seller;
  • The buyer’s conveyancer confirms satisfaction of all mortgage conditions;
  • Assuming the buyer’s mortgage has been fully approved, the funds are requested from the lender. Most conveyancers will request this a few days before completion to account for potential delays;
  • If the seller has a mortgage, the solicitor requests a confirmatory (final) redemption statement that contains everything owed back to the lender. This is known as “discharging the mortgage”;
  • The buyer’s solicitor will forward a Certificate of Title to the mortgage company. This confirms that the property is “good and marketable”.  It will also contain the name of the new owner and completion date;
  • The mortgage lender will forward funds to the buyer’s solicitor’s Client Account;
  • If it’s a sell house fast for cash company or cash buyer, there should be no issues as the funds can be transferred immediately via BACS;
  • The buyer’s and seller’s solicitors prepare completion statements that break down all the payments / transfers involved (including conveyancing fees and disbursements).  These are usually sent a few days before to make sure everything is ready to go;
  • Often together with the statements, the solicitors send invoices to the buyer and seller which must be settled on completion day itself;
  • Both solicitors will make final checks (in line with Law Society conveyancing protocols). The buyer’s solicitor will then transfer the purchase funds to the seller’s conveyancer Client Account.  This usually must be complete by 2pm on a weekday (typically on a Friday);
  • Once received, the solicitors will usually exchange emails or have a quick phone call to confirm completion;
  • Pre-agreed conveyancing solicitor fees, estate agency or auction fees are deducted from the seller’s proceeds of sale or are paid directly;
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) (owed by the buyer) will be paid to the HMRC.
  • The buyer’s conveyancing fees and disbursements must also be settled;
  • The seller’s solicitor will confirm that the property is empty;
  • Keys can be collected from the estate agent, auction house or direct from the seller (if it’s a private sale or through a We Buy Any House company);
  • The buyer’s solicitor will register the property in the new owner’s name at HM Land Registry.

Completion Day on a House Sale

When is Completion Day?

Completion usually occurs between 1 and 28 days after exchange, by mutual agreement of both the buyer and seller.

If there is a chain, the timeframe is likely to be longer as the processes above are repeated for each sale.

Conversely, if it’s a direct sale with no onward chain, immediate exchange and completion is possible. However, most solicitors would advise against it unless it’s a cash sale.

Friday is the normal day for completions – but there may be some flexibility. For example, it can make sense to aim for another day in the week when removal van companies may charge less. It’s rarely possible to complete over the weekend.

Sometimes, things can get delayed – particularly if the chain is complex or it’s a new build or a part-exchange property and there are delays with finishing the project.

There may also be an agreement for completion to happen after months (or even longer). This can occur, for instance, when the buyer is a developer and, on the back of a successful planning application, offers the seller a higher amount or an overage clawback payment.

Is it Possible to Complete and then the Seller Moves on a Different Day?

Yes, but the property must be vacant at the point of completion. This is because there is a legal transfer of ownership and there can be no overlaps.

If the property is tenanted, ownership moves to the new landlord at the point of completion. The seller cannot enter the property unless the new owner permits. Note that the existing tenant will also have a series of rights.  For example, the buyer cannot turn up at the property unannounced and expect to get entry.

How to Prepare for Completion Day

It’s important to be organised and anticipate any potential problems. This is especially true in chain sale scenarios.

These days, solicitors have tracking systems that will alert you of any relevant updates and advise if anything needs your attention. You should also have the case manager’s direct line and email.

Outside of the legal aspects, remember that the property must be left completely vacant.  Some buyers may not be flexible enough to let you back in.

If it’s a buy-to-let property, you may want to enter in touch with the tenant beforehand and offer to help with the “transition” between yourself and the new owner.

Be sure to also have all your paperwork in order, just in case. It’s worth making digital copies of everything (using a free scanning tool) and store in your email or via cloud storage.

Completion Day Problems and How to Deal with Them

Ultimately, avoiding issues pre-completion comes down to planning, good communication and all parties being readily available.

Below are some examples of problems that can occur and how to get around them…

Delays with Deposit / Cash Funds

Delays with Deposit Cash Funds

If all the buyer’s funds are not in the solicitor’s Client Account on time, the sale cannot happen.

Remember, therefore, to transfer funds into one bank account in good time (from a partner’s, relative’s or savings account for example).

We would usually recommend transferring the deposit at least 2-3 working days before. You can also pay your bank or building society a relatively low fee for a fast-track transfer of funds.

If the sale cannot complete due to the seller, his/her solicitor can serve a notice to complete.  The seller may have to incur associated costs as laid out in the exchange contract – including removal, cancellation, hotel and storage costs.

Note that, in some instances, it’s possible for the seller to remain in the property after completion under a licence agreement. This is broadly similar to a tenancy agreement but drafted with certain conditions in place. We have used these when people wish to stay in the property after stopping house repossessions, for instance.

Issues with Paying the Seller and Buyer Fees

Issues with Paying the Seller and Buyer Fees

Solicitors usually require payment on completion and may refuse to proceed if there are any delays.

If a property has little or no equity, the seller and/or buyer may have to use personal funds to pay for the various costs involved.

Direct communication with the firm well in advance is key should there be any problems.

Delays with Mortgage Finance

Delays with Mortgage Finance

Mortgage funds are transferred via a system called CHAPS (Clearing House Automated Payment System).

However, be wary of lenders that are slow – often because they’re busy and have backlogs to deal with.

Experienced solicitors will know how to deal with challenges in the best way and communicate with the lender’s own legal department where necessary.

If there are concerns, it’s worth talking directly to the broker who can chase things up direct with the lender.  The estate agent managing the sale may also be able to help.

It’s also worth noting that there’s typically a deadline of 3pm for completion to happen.

Tenant-Related Issues

Tenant-Related Issues

Should this be a sale of a tenanted property, if pre-sale conditions were laid out, buyers may refuse to proceed until they’re satisfied.

Again, as with all other issues, it’s often a case of advanced preparation. Your solicitor may be able to help move things along also.

Chain-Related Issues

Chain-Related Issues

The completion of multiple sales that are dependent on each other is often a hard situation to avoid, particularly in areas with high property values.

Although it may be too late, it’s worth checking that the estate agent undertook the correct checks prior to marking the property as Under Offer or Sold STC.

Others also look into using backup funds or bridging loans (that are similar to auction finance).

Either way, professional conveyancing firms know how to deal with these situations and will work together to stagger the sales in the most efficient way.

Missing Bank Details

Missing Bank Details

Occasionally, missing or incorrect bank details get circulated.

It’s usually a case of a quick email or phone call to the conveyancing firm. Most online banking facilities will verify the details before allowing the transfer too.

Sellers Not Leaving Fixtures and Fittings

Sellers Not Leaving Fixtures and Fittings

Should the sale not include the various fixtures and contents confirmed by the seller in the TA10 Law Society form, the buyer’s solicitor may refuse to release the funds.

Usually, honest dialogue between both sides usually resolves such issues.

Seller or Buyer Pulling Out of the Sale

Seller or Buyer Pulling Out of the Sale

From the buyer’s side, some of the reasons for withdrawing from the sale include the mortgage offer expiring or there’s been a change in the lending environment for the worse. Other times, the anti-money laundering checks have come through as negative.

On the seller’s side, it can be a broken chain, change in circumstances, inability to provide vacant possession, problem or concern that has occurred after signing the contract.

Either side can also simply have a change of mind.

After the exchange of contracts, however, the financial implications that can arise from such actions are huge.

Should the seller decide to pull out, for example, he/she will have to pay back the buyer’s deposit (with interest costs) and face a range of legal costs.

If it’s the buyer, he/she could also lose any deposit paid on exchange and be liable for litigation, damages and other practical costs.

It’s a situation that either party does not want to be in.

Completion Day Checklists

Completion Day Checklist – Buying a Property

  • Confirm your solicitor has drawn down the mortgage funds 3-5 days before completion. Shorter timeframes are fine with cash sales.

  • Transfer remainder deposit funds at least 24 hours before completion.

  • Pay property buying fees (including stamp duty, conveyancing fees and disbursements – all outlined in the completion statement).

  • Confirm with solicitor that completion has happened.

  • Arrange buildings (and contents) insurance for your new property.

  • Check with the solicitor that the property is completely empty and all agreed fixtures + fittings remain.

  • Collect all keys to the property (including back doors, garages, windows etc.).

  • Deal with removal company (providing them access).

  • Notify utility companies and redirect your post.

  • Take note of water, gas and electric meter numbers / readings.

  • Keep all your documentation in a safe place (and have digital / backup copies).

Completion Day Checklist – Selling a Property

  • Request confirmation of receipt of buyer’s mortgage / deposit monies or cash funds 24 hours prior to completion.

  • Pay conveyancing fees, disbursements and other fees outlined in the completion statement. Along with estate agency costs, solicitors often deduct these from the proceeds of sale.

  • Confirm with solicitor that completion has happened.

  • Cancel buildings (and contents) insurance.

  • Make sure the property is completely empty (usually by lunchtime).  This often means organising a removal company well in advance and getting everything well prepared*.

  • Leave all keys with the estate agent, auctioneer or quick / private buying company.

  • Notify utility companies and redirect your post.

  • Take note of water, gas and electric meter numbers / readings.

  • Keep all your documentation in a safe place (and have a digital copy).

*Remember, that spring and autumn tend to be the most popular times to sell a house and you may need to book things well in advance.