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Property Chain: How to Manage One & What to Expect

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If you’re buying a home which isn’t your first, there’s a chance you’re in a chain.

For many would-be buyers, these can be unpredictable, difficult and complicated.

If you’re facing this, here’s how to manage a property chain like a pro. We’re here to clear up a few things and offer a helping hand.

What is a property chain?

A string of related sales and purchases. It’s when a line of buyers and sellers rely on one particular property sale going their way in order to secure another.

This makes sense, when you consider the amount of people buying and selling a home at the same time.

It starts with someone who is selling and ends with someone who is buying.

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How long is a chain?

This can differ widely, so there’s no easy way to find the average length of a property chain.

In theory, the smaller, the better, as there’s less people to rely on. However, this doesn’t mean things will go to plan. Property buying often goes wrong due to factors outside of your control.

Who do they affect?

Anyone buying or selling a house can find themselves in a chain.

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What does chain free mean?

So, what does no chain mean?

Someone who is chain free doesn’t need to sell their property in order to buy another one. Essentially, they’re only buying.

This is most often the case with first time buyers, who haven’t owned a home before. These types of buyers can be more attractive to sellers, as it can guarantee a quicker sale that doesn’t rely on multiple parties in order to be successful. After all, it only takes one person to break the chain.

A chain free property could also refer to a seller who is only selling, and doesn’t need to purchase another after. Or, it could be a new build home.

Purchasing a house off-market can also result in a chain-free transaction, allowing for a faster and smoother buying process, especially if you do not have a property to sell.

Why are house chains difficult?

Chains can be difficult because they involve many different parties.

A change in circumstances for someone else can have a large impact on you, even if you aren’t directly involved. This can be both long and short term.

If there’s a weak link in the chain (e.g. someone who is slow to respond or a poor communicator), this can cause some major delays. Or – it can result in a complete chain collapse and many disappointed buyers.

Tips for managing a property transaction

The first step to managing this process is to gather as much information as you can relating to your particular chain. This will help you to work out how probable it is your purchase (and sale) will be successful.

It’s important to build a good relationship with the seller and their agent. They’ll both be able to offer information on the number of people and properties involved in the chain (as well as pointing out any potential weak links).

When possible, try your best to find out the following:

  • How many other properties are involved in the chain?
  • What’s the status of all parties? Have they all found somewhere to buy?
  • What are the proposed times for moving?
  • Do they require a mortgage? If so, has borrowing been approved?
  • Are there any obvious issues to prevent sale progression? These can include:
    • Someone who can’t fit the proposed timings
    • A property survey revealing issues with the property
    • Someone having second thoughts
    • Someone waiting on confirmation of a new job or school place
    • Someone affected by upcoming events e.g. election result or change in economic policy

Having a strong relationship with all parties involved (including your solicitor) will help you gather vital information on their position and circumstances. A good estate agent will check each link in the chain on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Having said this, sometimes you need to proactively gather the information yourself in order to remain updated with progress.

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How to keep your part of the chain moving

There are some handy tips that could help keep your chain moving, including:

  • Ensuring your solicitor is proactive and keeps you in the loop – if they’re away or out the office for a period of time, find an alternative point of contact
  • Ensuring your agent is proactive in their approach
  • Getting a bridging loan to help complete the purchase
  • Keeping copies of all your documents to hand in case you need them
  • Being prompt with your responses
  • Hand delivering or send documents via registered post to ensure they arrive on time
  • Agreeing dates with your agent and solicitor, and ensuring you stick to them

If a deal in the chain falls through, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end to buying your property. Likewise, if someone’s slow or unresponsive, it may be worth considering your options. Are you in a position to impose a deadline to get a response? Could an alternative buyer be found for the problem property?

Is there a safety net?

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to stop a chain from falling apart at the last minute. Gazumping and gazundering is a common cause of this. No matter how much you do to mitigate against this, it’s not always possible to prevent.

Home Buyers’ Protection Insurance can allow you to claim back some of the money you’ve spent on survey and valuation costs.

Don’t let poor communication be a deal breaker

Avoid abortive transaction costs by ensuring you have a good, proactive solicitor who communicates regularly with you.

Not got one yet? We can help with that. Get conveyancing quotes below.

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Last Updated: March 28th, 2024