How do solicitors exchange contracts?

2 people checking a document

When you buy or sell a property you will usually sign a contract. The buyer and seller each sign identical contracts.

Exchange of Contracts is usually done by both solicitors reading out the contracts over the telephone (details of the conversation being recorded on the contract) to make sure the contracts are identical, and then immediately undertaking to send them to one another in the post. It is possible, though very unusual now, to carry out an attended exchange where the solicitors physically hand their client’s respective part of the contract to one another.

If you are in a chain, your solicitor will do the same thing, but will only release the contract if all the other people in the chain are happy to go ahead. This means if one person pulls out or delays, everything gets held up. The contract release then works its way up the chain until it reaches the top where contracts are formally exchanged and then works its way back down the chain finishing with the formal exchange at the start of the chain.

Once you have exchanged contracts you will be in a legally binding contract to buy or sell the property. If you do not complete as a buyer, you will lose your deposit and you can be sued. Equally though, the seller has to sell or you can apply for an order for specific performance where the court will require the seller to transfer the property to you.


If you require further information about conveyancing or are researching find a conveyancer why not contact Alexander JLO’s expert property lawyers for a no obligation quotation on 020 7537 7000 or quote@london-law.co.uk and see what we can do for you?

This blog was prepared by one of Alexander JLO’s property partners, Matt Johnson on the 21st May 2020 and is correct at the time of going to press. Matt is an expert in the field of conveyancing, with a specialism in new build and shared ownership work.

Matt’s profile on the independent Review Solicitor website can be viewed here.

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