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How to Manage a Property Chain

Phi Spencer

By Phil Spencer

If you’re buying a property which isn’t your first, there’s a chance you’re in a chain. Chains can be unpredictable, difficult and complicated. If you’re facing this, here’s how to manage a property chain like a pro.

What is a property chain?

A property chain is a string of related sales and purchases linked to the sale and purchase of property.

If you’re a first-time buyer you’ll only have your purchase to think about. If you’re selling a home too, you’ll have to consider this at the same time as your purchase.

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. 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.

How to manage a property chain

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. Generally speaking, the shorter the chain, the better.

It’s important to build a good relationship with your 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? These can include:
    • Someone who can’t fit the proposed timings
    • A property that’s received a poor survey
    • 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 agent will check each link in the chain on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Having said this, sometimes you need to proactively gather this information yourself in order to remain updated with progress.

How to keep your part of the chain moving

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

  • Ensure 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
  • Ensure your agent is proactive in their approach
  • Keep copies of all your documents to hand in case you need them
  • Be prompt with your responses
  • Hand deliver or send documents via registered post to ensure they arrive on time
  • Agree dates with your agent and solicitor, and ensure 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?

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.

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? Find one here.

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