What does your conveyancing solicitor mean by ‘completion’ of your house move and at what point does it happen?

01 Sep 2015

‘Completion’ is the date set in the contract for when the transfer of legal ownership is to take place (i.e when the buyer sends the seller the sale prices, and the seller then releases the keys to the property).

Completion is therefore not only a date, but a process. The process of sending money and keys being released. Not until the seller releases keys, is there actual completion.

But as you can see, completion is not a set time, just a calendar day, so technically, the parties have until midnight on that day.

Midnight?! But do not panic.

All conveyancers know that the reasonable time for completion to have happened is noon, as buyers are often waiting to move in, and daylight hours are needed.

Indeed, the legal contract will also provide that the buyer must at least pay the seller the purchase money usually by 2pm, or the buyer will start to pay the seller interest. True, this is not the same thing as the time for completion, only interest liability, but at least it squeezes some sort of time commitment from the buyer on the day.

However, delays to this timing, and by the seller, can occur, so employing a dynamic conveyancing solicitor in the first place is the best way to make sure you do not suffer a nightmare completion day.

What delays would there be?

1. The seller’s removals take too long. This is usually because the seller has not properly organised themselves for the day, or their lawyer failed to make it clear that they should be out by noon

2. The buyer’s lawyer has to send the seller’s lawyer the money by bank transfer, but if the buyer is also awaiting money coming in from their own sale, then multiple bank transfers can take time to happen.

3. How ‘on the ball’ are the lawyers in watching for when money arrives in their bank, and how prompt they are with their paperwork to authorise the bank to make the bank payment

4. Larger or simply overworked conveyancing outfits can be guilty of failing to even telephone the buyers lawyer to acknowledge receipt of the money, so this creates delay and uncertainty for everyone

5. There will always be a sole buyer with nothing to sell. But did their lawyer obtain cleared funds from their own client (and any mortgage company) at least the day before, so they can put the money in the banking system before 9am?

Another pressure on timing on the day is the fact that the cut-off point for making bank transfer is around 3.30pm, so if money cannot be sent, completion may not happen that day. Though again, the dynamic conveyancers can usually get people in houses based on legal undertakings.

Working example:

Bill is buying 2 Sunnymeadow Road. Ben is selling. Bill’s conveyancer is a little sleepy, and forgot to make sure Bill sent a bank transfer of the money needed to send to Ben’s conveyancer on the date for completion. A cheque arrived instead. It luckily clears the morning of completion. Phew.

Now Bill’s conveyancer can send Ben’s conveyancer the money. But the bank need to do their work too, so it may be a little extra time before Ben’s conveyancer calls Bill’s conveyancer to say the money has arrived. Will it be by noon? At least Bill is not reliant on money coming in to his lawyer on his own sale. But Bill’s conveyancer does not hear anything. Did Ben’s conveyancer get the money, What is he doing?! In fact Ben’s conveyancer is playing golf, and his poor Assistant Sally is ready to resign, muttering audibly in her office as she always does “He is always playing golf, I have had enough of this”.

Ben even calls into his conveyancer’s office and challenges whether the money has come in and can he hand over the keys yet. Sally speaks to the bank and the money has arrived, and she calls the Estate Agents to say they can give the keys to Bill. But she forgets to tell Bill’s conveyancer. Poor Bill’s conveyancer cannot call Bill to say the keys are his. So he chases a hysterically stressed Sally by telephone. Sally is highly apologetic, and ask Bill’s conveyancer… does he have any jobs going.