Property Blog: What is Completion?

If you are in the process of placing your property on the market or looking to buy a property, you may hear “completion” for the sale or purchase, but what does this actually mean.  It is important you understand what this means and there are things you need to know and do  before you reach completion.

What is completion?

  • Completion is the final stage of the property sale/purchase transaction
  • It takes place when the seller’s solicitor confirms they are in receipt of the full purchase money
  • Ownership is transferred from the seller to the buyer by the dating and transfer of title documents
  • Vacant possession is given to the buyer by 2pm, unless otherwise agreed
  • Sellers should have left the property by 2pm on completion day, unless an earlier time has been agreed in the contract
  • The buyer is given the keys, usually by the estate agent, and is free to move in.

What happens on completion?

  • When the seller’s solicitor or conveyancer receives the full purchase money, they will confirm to their client, the buyer’s solicitor and the selling agent that the sale has completed.
  • The seller is normally bound to give vacant possession by 2pm, so they will generally have moved out on the morning of the completion day.
  • The buyer is free to collect the keys (usually from the selling agent) and move in.
  • Once the sale has completed, the buyer is liable to any Stamp Duty Land Tax  due to HMRC (usually handled by their solicitor, on their behalf).
  • The buyer’s solicitor/ conveyancer will also register the buyer’s ownership with the Land Registry. However, it is the buyer’s responsibility to make sure the money for the Stamp Duty Land Tax and HM Land Registry fee are paid in full.

What is the significance of completion?

Completion signifies that ownership of and responsibility for the property has transferred from the seller to the buyer.

Agreeing your completion date

Given that the transaction is not legally binding until exchange of contracts has taken place, there is generally anything from two to four weeks between exchange and completion, to allow all parties to make all the necessary arrangements:-

These include:

  • Removals – a deposit is often required by the removals company before a date can be confirmed
  • Arranging for transfer of services, such as gas, electricity, broadband and satellite television
  • Informing providers, friends and family of change of address and arranging for mail redirection with Royal Mail
  • Booking time off work.

The more parties in the chain, the more time it is likely to take to find a completion date that suits everyone, so be prepared to compromise and accept you might not be able to agree on your first choice.

Because most people have a full-time job, completions tend to take place on a Friday to give everyone the weekend to get the initial moving in and unpacking done, without having to take more than an afternoon or a day off work.

As such, it’s often the busiest day for removals companies, so once you have an idea of when you’re likely to complete, it’s a good idea to make a tentative booking.

Most removals companies will be happy to ‘pencil in’ a date, although they are unlikely to guarantee it until you pay the deposit.    Some removal companies offer insurance to cover cancellation or delayed completions but we would always advise against booking your removals and paying a deposit until contracts have exchanged.

If you are in the process of selling or purchasing a property and would like advice about the process, please contact our friendly residential property team who will be happy to help on 01904 624903.

Amanda Alden