The answer is that it depends on how quickly you and your seller and every other party in the chain want it to take. If you are the buyer of the property your seller will have their preference, and if they are buying onwards their own seller will also have a preference and so it continues.
It is very important for you to tie down timescale at the very start when you have your offer accepted (or you accept an offer if you are selling). Otherwise, if you want it to be quick, other parties may want it to be slow and none of you know what the other is thinking and so you can start to blame each other and people can get cold feet and the chain can abort.
Securing a buyer is not a guarantee to a house sale, if they have a chance of letting down the chain by having an unrealistic timescale. That includes you if you are selling. Make timescale known at the very start as it is as important as price. The longer the chain, the more difficult tying down the timescale is, but there are always two parties to a transaction and each one will be able to ask the same question all along the chain.
Even if dates are agreed, or even if dates are not, the following additional variables are directly relevant to how quick a deal is:
- How quickly a survey is organised.
- Are the title deeds to any particular property full of defects because the owner chose a very cheap or mediocre conveyancer when they bought and who took little interest and made a catalogue of errors - all of which need to be fixed taking time and causing cold feet by parties along the chain?
- How good will your conveyancer be when you choose them? How fussy in securing a quality one are you going to be? Do you want to select an actual solicitor firm where they have expert lawyers or will you be herded to a conveyancer because the estate agent who recommends them is receiving a big hefty cash payment irrespective of how good they are?
- How quickly can your mortgage be organised? How advanced are you as a buyer with getting paperwork to your mortgage adviser (always use an adviser) in terms of your finances?
- Are there tenants in the property that have to be given notice (often two months) and often on advice by the conveyancer it would not be safe to even exchange Contracts until the tenants are out - meaning an immediate eight week delay when everyone is finally ready.
- Is the local authority in the area of the property very slow in producing conveyancing search results? Some have been quoted as being as long as 56 days at certain given times.
- And of course, how good will the conveyancers be for any party along the chain you are in. It only takes one of the estate agents to be motivated by cash as opposed to a quality conveyancer and farm the party out to a mediocre conveyancer. Will it be yours?
There is no set rule how much gap there needs to be between exchange and completion. It can be simultaneous, one day, two days, a week, two weeks, three weeks. The point of having a gap is until you have exchanged you would be unwise to commit to any expense you cannot recover if in fact the transaction did not exchange and you lost that money (i.e. ordering carpets, arranging removals etc). Exchange therefore takes place first (meaning parties cannot then back out) specifically to then enable completion to take place after a suitable time where all the parties during that gap, can set about placing orders for carpets, removals etc.
But it is true, a house purchase can be carried out within hours or days but frequently the average is about five weeks for many conveyancing firms although up to 12 weeks or more for a lot more. Choose a dynamic conveyancing firm, who have your best interests at heart.