What Does ‘Completion’ Mean in Conveyancing?

02 August 2019

Completion is arguably one of the most important stages of the Conveyancing process, after exchange of contracts. Completion is the point at which the sale is finalised and the home legally becomes the property of the new owner. In this article, we explain exactly what 'completion' is in Conveyancing, how you reach this point and how it differs to 'exchange.'

What Happens at the Point of Completion?

The point of completion is when the sale or purchase of a property officially completes. At this point, the property legally belongs to the buyer. This is the point at which the seller must vacate the property and the buyer can move in. The keys will not be released to the buyer seller until the sale has completed.

Completion will not happen until funds from the buyer have been transferred to the seller's Conveyancers or Conveyancing Solicitors, and these funds have cleared. Commonly this will happen by lunchtime on completion day, but it can take longer, particularly if there is a long chain of transactions or if there are any hold ups with the release of funds.

How is Completion Different to the Exchange of Contracts?

Completion and exchange are the two most commonly used terms during Conveyancing. This is because these are the two most significant stages in the process. For this reason, though, these two terms can be easily confused.

Exchange of contracts is very different to completion. Exchange is the point at which the signed contracts of sale are exchanged by the seller and buyer's respective Conveyancers. Once the contracts have been exchanged, the seller and the buyer are both legally obliged to see the transaction through to completion. If either side pulls out after this point there will be consequences, depending on what was agreed in the contracts which have already been exchanged.

How to Reach Completion in Conveyancing

Completion is just one stage in the Conveyancing process, and a lot of work will need to be done before this stage can be reached.

This includes:

  • the completion of all relevant paperwork by both sides
  • the preparation of the contract pack
  • the carrying out of all necessary searches
  • reports on the property's title
  • if there is a lender then a certificate of title is required
  • addressing any enquiries
  • the signing and exchanging of contracts
  • payment of the deposit to the seller's Conveyancers
  • the arrangement of remaining funds to be released from the buyer and/or their mortgage provider

Contrary to what you may think, there are also more steps that will need to be taken after completion too – this isn't the end of the process.

For example:

  • the title deeds and completed transfer deed will need to be sent from the seller's Conveyancer to the buyer's
  • the seller's existing mortgage will need to be discharged
  • Conveyancing and estate agent fees will need to be paid
  • the remaining sale proceeds will be transferred to the seller
  • the buyer needs to pay any Stamp Duty Land Tax that is owned to HM Revenue & Customs
  • the registered title must be updated with details of the new owner (and lender's details) at the Land Registry

These are just a few examples of the work involved in Conveyancing. For a more detailed outline of what's involved, see Stages of the Conveyancing Process.

Choosing a Target Completion Date

During Conveyancing, both the seller and the buyer of the property will be asked if they have a preferred completion date. There's no guarantee that completion will take place on the requested date, but this gives both Conveyancers a date to work towards.

Before picking a target completion date, it's important for both sides to consider the logistics involved in moving house. To make things simpler, we've put together some guidance on What to Consider when Choosing a Target Completion Date.

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