What Does Exchange of Contracts on a House Sale Mean


Exchange of Contracts in a House Sale: What Does it Mean?

If you`re in the process of buying or selling a property, you may have come across the term «exchange of contracts.» This is a crucial stage in the house sale process, and it`s important to understand what it means.

Put simply, the exchange of contracts is the point at which the sale becomes legally binding. Before this point, either party can pull out of the sale without penalty. Once contracts are exchanged, both buyer and seller are committed to completing the sale.

What Happens at Exchange of Contracts?

The exchange of contracts typically happens a few weeks before completion, which is when ownership of the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer. At this point, the buyer will need to pay the deposit, usually 10% of the purchase price. The seller`s solicitor will also confirm the completion date, which is the date when the property changes hands.

It`s worth noting that until completion, the property still belongs to the seller. However, the buyer now has a legal interest in the property, which means they can take out insurance and start planning their move.

Why Does Exchange of Contracts Matter?

Exchange of contracts is a significant milestone in the house sale process, as it provides both buyer and seller with certainty that the sale will go ahead. Once contracts are exchanged, the deal is legally binding, which means there are penalties for pulling out of the sale.

For buyers, it means their dream home is one step closer to becoming a reality. They can start planning the move and making arrangements for things like removals and utilities. For sellers, it provides certainty that they will receive the agreed sale price and can start making plans for their next property.

What Happens if Something Goes Wrong?

While rare, there is a chance that something could go wrong between exchange of contracts and completion. For example, the buyer could lose their job and be unable to secure a mortgage, or the property could suffer significant damage.

If this happens, the party that breaches the contract can be liable for damages. For example, if the buyer pulls out of the sale, they may forfeit their deposit. If the seller breaches the contract, they may be liable for costs incurred by the buyer, such as legal fees.

In conclusion, the exchange of contracts in a house sale is a significant milestone in the process, marking the point at which the sale becomes legally binding. It provides certainty for both buyer and seller, allowing them to make plans and move forward with the sale. While rare, there is a risk that something could go wrong between exchange and completion, but both parties can protect themselves by working with experienced solicitors and ensuring they fully understand the terms of the contract.