What is a property chain?

If you’re house-hunting then you’ve more than likely come across the words “chain.” This will include “no chain” or “short chain” or even a “long chain”.

A property chain is the connection between three or more buyers and sellers of property. The start of the chain is a buyer with no house to sell, such as a first-time buyer, and the last person in the chain is a seller who doesn’t intend to buy another property (e.g. someone selling property they received in a Will).

However, the people in the middle of the chain are both selling their property and buying another one. Each of them will be working with their own conveyancers, surveyors and, if applicable, mortgage lenders.

The property chain is only as fast as the slowest “link” – so it’s even more important that everyone, including instructed professionals, is able to stick to the schedule.

What can I do to speed up the chain?

Managing a successful move in a property chain requires some forward-thinking on your part, as well as the other buyers and sellers! There are a couple of things you can do to help speed up the process:

  • Set up time limits from the start
  • Make sure you have your finances in order – such as your deposit
  • List your property for a realistic price
  • Be open about problems with your home – it can save time on surveys
  • Get your mortgage agreed in principle and be transparent about your financial position
  • Sell your home “Subject to Contract” (known as Sold STC): This means the homeowner has accepted your offer but the paperwork hasn’t been finalised
  • Make sure you have a solicitor ready in place
  • Sign all paperwork promptly
  • Have your important documents to hand
  • Always deliver documents by courier, special delivery or by hand where originals are required and send via email where this is accepted
  • Arrange surveys to be carried out
  • Finalise your mortgage

What happens if someone pulls out of the chain?

Unfortunately, the chain can break if someone changes their mind about a property. This can happen for a number of reasons such as a buyer or seller changing their mind, losing their job, going through a divorce, can’t get a mortgage. It could also be because the paperwork isn’t processed in time or a survey shows there are issues with the property.

However, there are a few actions you can take if your property chain breaks down. Talk to your solicitors and find out why the chain has broken down. If it turns out the potential buyer of your property couldn’t secure a high enough mortgage amount then consider reducing the price of your property.

If your vendor has pulled out then the best thing you can do is get straight back on the saddle, so to speak! Get in touch with the estate agents, tell them what has happened and ask them to keep you updated about any properties that might interest you so you can continue to sell your house.

If you have already exchanged contracts and your buyer hasn’t quite pulled out but it looks like they will because they have not completed on the agreed completion date, then send them a “Notice to Complete.” They will be set a deadline of 10 days and they could lose their deposit if there are any further delays.

Is there any way I can avoid being in a chain?

Yes – there are a few ways you can greatly minimise, or even completely get rid of, your chances of being involved in a chain when it comes to buying or selling your home. Some ideas include:

  • Tell your estate agents you’re only looking for chain-free properties
  • Seek to buy properties that have been repossessed or left to someone in a Will, as well as ‘second homes.’
  • Market your home to first-time buyers or investors – as they won’t have properties to sell
  • Sell your house and move into rented accommodation so you can make yourself chain-free
  • Buy a new-build home and take advantage of their Part Exchange offer, if applicable

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