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What can delay exchange of contracts?

28th March 2024 by John Munro

Categories: What's New?

If you are buying or selling a property, it can be frustrating to find that the exchange of contracts has been delayed. We take a look at some of the most common causes of delays.

When you buy or sell property, the contract only becomes legally binding once it has been exchanged with the other party. This is the point at which the date for completion is set and no-one can pull out without breaching the contract.

In order to exchange contracts, all of the parties in the chain need to be ready. Potential hold-ups include:

A problem with the survey

If a problem is revealed in a survey, the buyer will usually want to obtain quotes for any work needed to remedy the issue. It can take time to arrange for builders to visit and provide a detailed quotation. Once this has been received, the buyer will generally want to renegotiate the price to take into account the cost of the work. All of this can delay matters, particularly if you have had to wait for a busy surveyor to be available to carry out their inspection in the first place.

Delay in receiving a mortgage offer

Exchange cannot take place until anyone needing a mortgage has received their offer. If lenders are busy or potential borrowers have been slow to send in their applications or have omitted crucial documents, everyone in the chain could end up waiting for an offer to be issued.

An issue with the legal title to the property

It is essential to ensure that the legal title to the property is sound. If you are obtaining a mortgage, your lender will also insist on this. If an issue arises with the title, you need an experienced solicitor who will be able to deal with this promptly and effectively.

Missing documents

A wide range of documents need to be provided to the buyer’s solicitor, including any documents referred to in the legal title, planning consents, building regulations approvals for alterations and guarantees. If documents are missing it can cause a delay while replacements are obtained. If you are selling a property, you can instruct a solicitor early on and they will let you know what you need to provide so that you can start putting together everything you have available.

If documents are missing, and you do not have them, an experienced conveyancer will be able to suggest how to deal with the situation. This could be by requesting replacements or by putting indemnity insurance in place.

The need for extra legal paperwork, including relating to funding

In some situations, a range of extra paperwork may be needed. For example, if you are being gifted the deposit, the person giving the money will need to sign a range of documents to satisfy your lender and also to comply with anti-money laundering regulations.

Delays receiving search results

If local authorities or other search bodies, such as drainage companies, are busy, there could be a delay in receiving search results. If you are buying a property, your solicitor should apply for these promptly as soon as the contract package is received.  In some cases, another option such as search indemnity insurance, may be a better alternative.

Someone in the chain pulls out

If someone in the chain pulls out, then the exchange will not be possible until a new buyer is in place. This can often cause the whole chain to collapse and you may need to start again from scratch. However, in some cases, the other parties in the chain may be prepared to wait. Exchange of contracts is likely to be delayed for several weeks while the new party catches up with the transaction.

Avoiding delays

To give yourself the best possible chance of avoiding delays, you should use a conveyancing solicitor with the experience to manage issues quickly and efficiently. Most problems can be resolved and having an expert conveyancer on your side will ensure that difficulties are anticipated wherever possible and dealt with as soon as they arise.

Contact us

If you are thinking of buying or selling a home please contact Kelly Howe on or 01202 377800.

John Munro

Partner — Commercial and Residential Property

Direct dial: 01202 377839


John Munro, head of Property, Laceys Solicitors
  • “John Munro was friendly and very approachable, advising me with a clear depth of knowledge and experience. I have since recommended him and will do so if asked in the future.”

    N. Pitts-Crick

  • “Having dealt with Laceys on many a sale and purchase I’ve always found them to be efficient, knowledgeable and attentive. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending them to family, friends and clients.”

    Stuart Cockram - Frost and Co

  • “We have always been very happy with the service provided by Laceys Solicitors, in both our business legal requirements and domestic property conveyancing.”

    Mark Edney

  • “You are our solicitor Superhero! Very grateful. ”

    Maria - Tom Frowde Architects

  • “Changing solicitors is not to be undertaken lightly. However really impressed with the way that John Munro and his associates have dealt with us over the last couple of years in a variety of complex property related transactions and on the commercial and personal front as well. We look forward to working with them going forward.”

    Malcolm Tice, Director - Tice & Son Ltd

John joined Laceys in 2001 on a training contract, having completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Law in 2000, and qualified as a solicitor in 2003. He is now the Head of the Commercial and Residential Property Departments.

He is also the firm’s Senior Responsible Officer under the Law Society Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) with overall responsibility for the management of the property team and their delivery of the excellent service that our clients have come to expect.

John acts in his own capacity for a number of commercial property owners, developers and investors, but also allocates time to ensure his team are up to speed with changing law and professional regulations and clients are provided with members of the team who possess the right skills to deal with their individual requirements, delivering projects in the most time and cost-efficient manner.

Outside of work John seems to spend a great deal of time ferrying his children around but occasionally gets to put his feet up and listen to his eclectic collection of vinyl. He is also not averse to a good cheeseboard and a glass of IPA.

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