What’s completion?

Completion is when the remaining money you owe for the property (depending on your deposit, this is normally around 90%) is paid by you and your mortgage lender, allowing you to finally pick up the keys to your new property.

Here’s how it works. Once your lender receives what’s called a ‘Certificate of Title’ from your solicitor, they’ll release the money to them. This details the home’s ownership, including a complete legal description of the property.

But be aware that your lender could still scupper things at this point if they see fit. Before they hand over the money to seal the deal, they’ll carry out some final checks to make sure your financial circumstances haven’t changed. If your credit situation has worsened – for example, if you’ve been applying for loans or have gone over the credit limit with your cards – they could withdraw the offer at this point.

If you clear these last minute checks (as most people do), the money will be transferred to your conveyancer, who will pass it on to your buyer’s legal representative. When they receive the cash, they’ll let the buyer’s estate agent know they can release the keys and you’re good to go. The procedure is slightly different in Scotland but follows similar steps.

Setting a completion date

You’ll agree the completion date in advance with the seller. Many movers agree a completion date at least two weeks after exchange as there are lots of other jobs to do between finishing up the legal bits and moving in. It’s usual to choose a working weekday for completion as money transfers will take place and your conveyancer will also need to be involved.

Same day

As mentioned in the earlier Exchange section of the Smoove Move moving guide, in certain circumstances exchanging and completing on the same day can be beneficial. It speeds up the process and you don’t have to pay a deposit on exchange of contracts. Plus, it’s a quick and easy way to do things if you paying cash or are 100% sure there will be no hold-ups with your lender transferring funds.

Thank God it’s not Friday

Many people consider Friday to be the best day to complete. A great idea because the weekend is the perfect time to move into your new home, right? Wrong. This could possibly be the worst day of the week to choose, for a number of reasons.

For example, if your funds aren’t transferred, you won’t be able to move. Even worse, you won’t be able to do anything about it until Monday because lenders, banks and legal representatives are all off enjoying the weekend…and if you’re in a chain, your buyer will, quite rightly, wish to take up residence in their new home.

It’s sensible to choose any weekday but Friday as the next day will be a working day so you can sort out any problems should they arise. Or simply because it’s a very popular day to complete and estate agents are busy fending off enquiries from dozens of other buyers and sellers. Plus, you’ll find removals are normally cheaper too.

So give us a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday for completion any day of the week when it comes to giving your stress levels a much-needed break.

What you pay on the day

Money changing hands, or at least being sent down the wire,  is the main event on completion day. And no transaction is more important than the successful transfer of the remaining cost of the property – usually 90% of the agreed price if you’ve paid a 10% deposit. This will tell the seller’s estate agent to release the keys and is transferred from your mortgage lender to your legal representative, then to the seller’s representative.

You’ll also need to pay your conveyancer’s fees and any stamp duty payable on the property purchase on completion day. So a fair few financial boxes to tick if you want completion day to be hassle free.

Be aware that you will be liable to pay a penalty if the funds to purchase fail to arrive on time. But if that’s because your buyers failed to produce the funds, they will also pay a penalty which will hopefully balance things out.

Potential delays

The sound of house keys jangling is temptingly close and everything is in place with your conveyancers, estate agents and lender. So what could possibly go wrong?

A few possible hurdles could trip you up, the main one being if your money fails to transfer in time. If it hasn’t gone through by 3pm, you’ll need to wait until the next working day. This is normally caused when your legal representative is slow transferring, so keeping on top of the situation with phone calls early in the day is recommended.

The chain (again)

You might also be part of a chain of buyers and sellers. If that’s the case, all the buyers and sellers should ideally complete on the same day, otherwise you may have to wait for the seller to have completed buying their new home before you can move in. But if any of their completions go pear-shaped, the whole chain will be affected.

Picking up the keys

Make an arrangement with the seller’s estate agent to pick the keys up. They’ll be told they can release them by the seller’s conveyancer. Don’t forget to check what time they close so you’re not left out the cold.

Things to do before completion

Between exchange and completion is a good time to prepare to move and tie up any loose ends. We’ve prepared handy guides to sorting out trades services, and surviving moving day, but here’s a short list of essentials that people often forget:

  • Notify people like banks and utility suppliers that you’re changing address
  • Before moving in, ask the sellers where the main stopcock and energy meters are and check fixtures and fittings are in place
  • Ask for the instruction manual for any electrical goods they are leaving behind
  • Make sure you have all door and window keys

After completion

You should ensure your conveyancer registers the property in your name and sends the title information document to the mortgage lender for safe keeping.

Next step: Getting Ready to Move

Previous step: Exchange