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What does ‘exchanging contracts’ on my house purchase mean?

Exchanging contracts is when the deal becomes binding for both you and the seller. Until that point you or the buyer could pull out of the transaction without penalty (although you wouldn’t get any of the money paid in searches etc, returned).

Once contracts are exchanged you as the buyer are required to pay a deposit (usually 10% of the agreed sale price) and it is at that point that the moving date is fixed.