A smooth and issue free exchange day is only possible if you do all the prep work ahead of the day. Below is our comprehensive exchange day checklist of things you need to get in place in the days and weeks leading up to exchange of contracts.
What do I need to do on Day of Exchange?
Hopefully very little! The whole process of exchange of contracts will be done by the two sets of conveyancers on the day itself. Before that day, your conveyancer would have gotten all the paperwork, documents, and exchange deposit money on hand. Therefore, as a first time buyer, it is important you go through this checklist below well in advance of Exchange Day, so the exchange of contracts goes smoothly without any issues.
The Exchange Day Checklist
This is a comprehensive list below, but not exhaustive, as some transactions will require more steps and some of these steps might not apply to your property purchase. Do organise a call with your conveyancer, to go through the list below, and also ask them to provide you with guidance on what other steps you need to do before Exchange Day.
1. Ensure you are happy with the searches
Your conveyancer would have requested a series of information from various parties regarding your purchase. You should ensure you have received a copy of all these documents, and that there are no searches missing or outstanding.
Read and understand all the documents you have received, as this is an important step for your exchange day checklist. These searches are for your benefit – to flag up any issues, concerns, and risks with the property. Do not depend on your conveyancer to read through them and proactively inform you of any issues, as it is not part of their exchange of contracts checklist.
Remember – you are the buyer with the money, so feel free to hold up the process until you are completely satisfied with all the searches and understand what they mean!
2. Agree a completion date with the sellers
Before exchange, both parties should agree on a completion date. Very rarely can exchange happen without a firm completion date.
Make sure it is a date that suits you, and that you have the time available to complete your home move as well as all the Completion Day tasks (a Completion Day checklist will be coming soon to First Time Buyer Help).
3. Confirmation of end of tenancy notice from the sellers
If the property is currently tenanted and you are seeking vacant possession on Completion Day, get written confirmation from the sellers that they have served the appropriate end of tenancy notice, and confirmation of the date when they expected the tenants to move out of the property. Ideally, as the buyer, you will want to get this confirmation well in advance of Exchange Day. In addition, you should insist that there is at least a week or two between when the tenants move out and your completion date, in case of any delays for the tenants moving out.
A key risk with buying a currently tenanted property is if the tenants refuse to move out. This can cause the sale to collapse, or in the worst case you would have to complete on the property and then have the hassle of evicting the tenants.
4. Get your mortgage offer in writing
If you are buying with a mortgage, ensure you have the actual mortgage offer in writing directly from the bank or lender. A Mortgage in Principle or an Agreement in Principle document is not the same as a full mortgage offer document!
This step on the exchange day checklist is often overlooked by buyers, as they assume that the bank is willing to lend. However, until you get that mortgage offer document, the bank is free to change their mind at any time.
5. Read the leasehold agreement very carefully
If you are buying a leasehold property, the covenants, obligations, and rights you will need to follow are especially important. Many first-time buyers assume that they have full control and rights over their property since they “bought” it. But in fact, a leasehold property means you will be “leasing” (aka “renting”) the property from the freeholder!
Therefore, like a tenancy agreement, a leasehold agreement will set out the terms and conditions. If there is only one thing you do on this exchange of contracts checklist, it is to read every word in your leasehold agreement and fully understand it.
6. Agreed fixtures and fittings list
When you are purchasing a property, you are also purchasing most of the fittings and fixtures as well. These are usually unambiguous – for example light switches, windows, carpets. However, there is often ambiguity and miscommunication on what stays with the property, what the sellers will take with them, and what they must dispose of before completion.
Therefore, make sure you are crystal clear on the following:
- What fixture, fittings, and furniture are staying. For example, you might think that a chandelier is staying, while the sellers might assume they can take it with them! If there are any furniture that you would like to remain, do ask as there’s usually room for negotiation with the sellers.
- What fixtures and fittings are not staying. For example, are white goods like the washing machine staying or not? What about the garden table, or the irrigation system for the flower beds?
- What needs to be disposed of by the seller. Especially when it comes to bulky items, like furniture. Normally it is convention that the seller needs to dispose of them, but often sellers forget, are lazy, or assume you want to keep it. For example, big bulky wardrobes are often left behind, but as a buyer you might not want them! Communicate and establish exactly what furniture you want to remain, and what you expect the seller to take with them or dispose of before you move in.
7. Ensure you are happy with your homebuyer’s survey or building survey
Before exchange is the right time to ask all your questions, after reading your homebuyer’s survey report or building survey report. You do not want to be saddled with huge unexpected costs or building issues after exchanging contracts. If there are any remedial works or indemnities that you need provided by the sellers, ensure these are arranged well before exchange.
8. Get all your finances sorted and ready
You will need to plan ahead and get all your finances in place. Both your mortgage offer, as well as your deposit and equity. If you are using a Help to Buy Equity Loan or Lifetime ISA, you will also need to fill in extra forms ahead of time and get them to your conveyancer.
Make sure your deposit and equity are in easy access accounts that allow quick bank transfers, and you understand the process and timelines your bank requires for large money transfers. These days, banks have to follow rigorous Know Your Customer (KYC) and Money Laundering checks for large transfers, and these often delay or hold up exchange of contracts or completion.
You will also need to transfer over the Exchange Deposit to your conveyancer in advance – read our guide on the safest way to transfer your house deposit to your conveyancer.
9. Ask your conveyancer for their exchange of contracts checklist
Your conveyancer will have their own exchange day checklist. Ask them for a copy of it well ahead of exchange day, so you can see what they need from you.
Keep in touch with your conveyancer in the days and weeks leading up to exchange and request regular progress reports against their checklist. There might be things you can help your conveyancer with – for example chasing your mortgage broker or mortgage bank for a document, or chasing the agents and sellers for additional information.
Remember. your conveyancer is there to do the work, but it is not their job to try to expedite the process or catch up if there is a delay. They still get paid the same whether exchange happens to schedule or whether there is a delay to exchange of contracts. It is in your interest as the buyer, to do what you can to try to hit your ideal exchange date.
10. Negotiate purchase price well in advance of exchange day
If there are any price reductions you are seeking, do not leave it too close to exchange day! Negotiating price on property purchases, especially on your first home, takes time, and you will put yourself in a weak position as a buyer if you have a time pressure.
In addition, any reduction in price will need to be communicated to your mortgage provider, to reassess their offer and requirements on your equity deposit.
Things To Do on Exchange Day itself
On Exchange Day itself, there is very little you need to do, except to be on standby if there are any last-minute decisions or emergencies. The exchange of contracts event itself is very straightforward, provided that you have followed the exchange day checklist above.
Keep your phone with you and on vibrate or ringtone, as your conveyancer will need to get in touch with you quickly if there are any last-minute things to do on exchange day.
Make sure you have established with your conveyancer how you can get in touch with him or her on the day, to get updates on the progress.