How to Manage a Property Chain


For anyone buying or selling property in Wandsworth, Tooting or Balham it’s likely that you might find yourself part of a property chain.

The good news is that most property chains are short and with everyone involved working hard to ensure all goes to plan – relatively hitch-free.

Unless you’re a first-time buyer purchasing somewhere with no onward chain, or you have the cash to buy before selling your own place, knowing about property chains and how to manage them could be the key to a smooth move.

Using our experience of buying and selling in south west London, we answer some frequently asked questions about the property chain.

What is a property chain?

A property chain is just that – a linked group of buyers and sellers, each dependent on the other to complete their transaction. Chains begin with a first-time buyer or someone without a property to sell, and end when a home is sold with no onward chain. The more links in the chain, the more complex it is,  but there are other factors too. Here’s an example:

– The chain starts with a first-time buyer purchasing a flat.

– They buy from a couple moving up to a house to start a family.

– The couple’s seller is an older person looking to downsize.

– The downsizer is buying a new-build with equity from their property – so there is no onward chain and the chain ends.

What does chain free mean?

As we’ve seen, some sales do not rely on other transactions to happen. These properties will be advertised as chain free, no onward chain or no upward chain by the estate agents. The buying process for chain free properties is likely to be simpler and quicker because only one transaction is involved. Properties are often chain free because:

– The owner has died, gone into a care home or to live with relatives.

– The owner has moved in with a partner or relocated and isn’t buying another place.

– The property is a new-build or has previously been rented out.

– The sellers have decided to go into rented accommodate while they look for the right home to buy.

Will a property chain slow down my house purchase?

It could do. With all the transactions so closely linked, a problem anywhere in the chain will impact on all the buyers and sellers – and the speed of all the sales will depend on the slowest link. The longer the chain, the more time it is likely to take. If you need to move quickly, you could restrict your property search to chain-free properties, but remember that most chains do work and this could mean compromising on your dream home.

Why do chains collapse?

Issues anywhere in the chain can affect your purchase. Examples include:

– Someone changing their mind.

– Problems with a survey that make the sale impossible or put the buyer off.

– A change of circumstances such as illness or redundancy.

– A mortgage offer being withdrawn or an application rejected.

– Conveyancing issues that slow down the process so much that things unravel.

How can I keep my chain intact?

You can’t influence what happens up or down your chain, but you can do everything in your power to make your sale and purchase go smoothly.

– Get your conveyancer on board as soon as possible and choose wisely.

– If you’re selling, pick an estate agent with good knowledge of the local area who will be proactive and committed to getting the sale through.

– Communicate with them both and be speedy in supplying information and signing paperwork.

– Submit your mortgage application early enough and be ready with your deposit.

– Organise your survey promptly – to keep things moving.

What if my property chain collapses?

– If your sale falls through, but you’re keen to go ahead with your purchase, put your property back on the market and get advice from your agent about securing a sale.

– If your purchase falls through, consider renting so your own sale can happen – also making you an attractive chain free buyer to sellers.

– If you’d struggle to cope with the costs of a failed chain, consider home buyer’s protection insurance. Some conveyancers also operate on a no sale, no fee basis which would save you some of the costs.

If you’re looking to sell in south west London, talk to us. We know the local market well and have plenty of experience of managing property chains in this area. Give us a call to discuss your move today.