How Long Does it Take to Exchange Contracts on a House?

News at Williams & Donovan | 06/09/2021


Exchanging contracts on your property is a significant milestone in the homebuying process, and along with completion, it’s the most exciting event for new homeowners at Williams and Donovan.
The exchange of contracts is the point at which the buyer is legally obliged to purchase the property from the seller, and for the new owners, it’s when they can finally start making concrete plans for their new home.

How long does it take to exchange contracts?

As a rough estimate though, you can expect the exchange of contracts to take around 8 to 12 weeks on average.

When purchasing a property, the timescales for each part of the process can vary massively between different transactions.

Why has my exchange of contracts been delayed?

So many factors can slow down the exchange process and unfortunately cause unnecessary hold-ups. Some of the more common reasons for delays when exchanging contracts include:

  • Waiting for a mortgage offer. Buyers only need a mortgage in principle to confidently make an offer on a property. However, once the offer has been accepted, they’ll need to wait for the lender to offer them the actual mortgage. This can be a drawn-out process if they have a messy credit history or a variable salary for example.
  • A difference in valuations. A lender may value a property lower than the agreed sale price. In this instance, they’re likely to offer the buyer a mortgage for the lower amount. This means the buyer either needs to get the price reduced, find a larger deposit to cover the difference or find a new lender who will let them borrow the full amount.
  • Search results can be delayed. When an offer on a property has been accepted, the buyer’s solicitor will begin to conduct several searches, including environmental, water authority and local authority searches. Sometimes it can take several weeks for the results of these searches to come back, and if they flag concerns then the solicitor will need to raise further enquiries, which delays the process further.
  • Overworked or slow solicitors. Unfortunately for buyers and sellers, there are times when a property transaction may not be top of the solicitor’s priority list. They may have a mountain of other cases to work through first, or they may be slow at responding to enquiries from the other party. In these cases, it’s worth chasing your own solicitor for updates and progress.

How can I speed up the exchange process on my property?

In most cases, there is very little that buyers and sellers can do to speed up the process as most of the delays are out of their control, such as slow search results and mortgage lenders having to conduct background checks on the buyer.

However, in some cases, these things can help:

  • Chase your solicitor. Hopefully, this won’t be necessary, as a good solicitor will keep you updated regularly. If they’re not though, then it may be worth just giving them a call to check on progress from time to time. There’s a difference between giving them a slight nudge and being a nuisance, so don’t fall into the latter category. However, if you feel like things aren’t moving very quickly then it may be worth picking up the phone and finding out what the delay is.
  • Buyers, have your deposit ready in advance. One thing that buyers often overlook until the last minute is their deposit funds. These can often be tied up in savings accounts or trusts which aren’t instantly accessible, which can delay the whole process by a few days or more. Therefore, make sure your deposit is instantly accessible before getting to the eleventh hour and discovering you cannot get at it!
  • Sellers have your paperwork in order. If you’re selling a property, then consider the sort of things that buyers will want to know about in advance. Things like double glazing guarantees, boiler service records and electrical certificates may all seem trivial when you’re living in a property, but to a new buyer, these are the sort of things they’ll want to know about before committing to the purchase.
  • Be proactive. Sometimes delays can occur because one side is responding slowly to the other’s enquiries and there can be a breakdown in communication in the middle. If this is the case, contact your estate agent to find out if they can shed any light on the delays, or ask your solicitor to chase the other solicitor. It can often be a minor detail holding up a transaction, which could be nipped in the bud with a couple of phone calls.


Williams and Donovan have an incredible sales progression team each with over 30 years of estate agency experience. Paul and Lynn ensure our clients are always receiving the exceptional service we promise to deliver. They will go that extra mile to make the sale happen and are both vastly experienced at negotiating offers and progressing difficult sales through to completion. People trust us to move them.

We're an independent local estate agency that operates in South East Essex across Hockley, Benfleet and all postcodes in Southend. See our 5-star reviews on Google

Are you thinking of moving home? Give us a call on 01268 755252 or email info@wdhockley.com to chat with one of our friendly and experienced team.

Williams and Donovan - established in 1999, quietly successful and locally loved.