What does 'Attended Exchange' mean when buying a property?

Find out what Attended Exchange means when you are buying a property. 'What does Attended Exchange mean?' plus over 150 other property related terms and jargon in plain English

Attended Exchange

You might have heard these words floated around by the estate agent or they may have been mentioned as a requirement by the seller. What do they mean??

OK - let's start off with the basics. 'Exchange' is when the property purchase becomes legally binding - the seller must sell to you and you must buy from the seller. This usually happens weeks after the sale has been agreed.

Why? Well there are all sorts of things to check up on first like does the seller actually have the right to sell? That means finding who has the Title Deeds and then them finding the Title Deeds and sending them over.

Are any of the neighbours planning to build something like a massive two storey extension that would make you not want the property? Is some company planning to build a high speed train line 20 feet below the living room? Are the local council considering a fracking application below your potential new pad?

That means writing to the local authority and asking them about recent planning applications for the area - both approved and pending. A process known as "local searches"

Then there might be delays at your end. If you need a mortgage to buy the property the bank is going to want to do lots of sniffing around. If you stop paying your mortgage they're going to need to sell the property so they'll want to make sure they're pretty likely to get their money back.

But perhaps over arching all of this, the biggest delay is because the solicitors sit in their offices and send bits of paper back and forward to each other ... that takes time and its often the biggest cause of delays.

There's even more but I can see you are starting to nod off and if you want to see every single step its all in my ebook How to Really Buy a Property!

Circumstances for attended exchange

But what if all the documents were ready and waiting because:

  • A recent buyer pulled out (known as the "Sale falling through") - perhaps because they couldn't get a mortgage ... or ...
  • The seller is super prepared and has collated everything before putting the property on the market ... or ...
  • It was agreed to use third parties that can provide documents fast (there are, for example, companies that hold recent planning applications for some areas and can dispatch them immediately).

Then all you need to do is get both your solicitor and the seller's solicitor into one room and do the deal. You need to get both solicitors to "attend" the same location.

In this way they can hammer out any small details fast and then exchange contracts (make the transaction legally binding on both you and the seller).

And so we have the term "attended exchange".

For an Attended Exchange its also a good idea to have you and the seller to "attend" so any extra documents can be created and signed there and then. You might, for example, want a signed statement from the seller that they are not in any legal disputes with their neighbours.

You request it, your solicitor prints it, the seller signs it - job done.

They don't even need to hammer out every detail. If there are some documents or answers your solicitor wants before giving it the absolute rubber stamp or your mortgage is not finalized these are added to the contract and it is known as a conditional exchange. You have exchanged but the final transaction (known as completion) won't happen until x, y and z are cleared up.

Why is attended exchange rare?

Usually because all the documents aren't ready. Sellers don't need to prepare anything before putting their property on the market.

But also because it is a little more expensive. You'll have to pay your solicitor, and possibly their assistant, travel time to get to the location they need to 'attend'

Personally I'd like to see a world where attended exchange is the norm by making sellers have to do more than just put a sign up outside their property saying 'For Sale'. It would be better if they had to prepare all the standard documents before going to market but this has been tried in the past and was not a vote winner for politicians!

As a seller I do prepare documents, including local searches, so the buyers solicitors has everything they need from day one. They may have a couple of extra questions but it means the only delay beyond this is if the buyer needs to get a mortgage. It makes selling a doddle!

If you want to know more about how to minimize the time between Sale Agreed and Exchange of Contracts its all in my ebook How to Really Buy a Property.

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