What should you do if your buyer’s in a chain?

Aug 28, 2018

No one likes to feel like they’re waiting on someone else. That there’s nothing you can do about something, unless someone else – perhaps someone you don’t even know – decides to make a move.

Unfortunately, it’s a situation that many people selling their home (particularly on the traditional open market) find themselves in … being tied into a property chain.

What is a property chain?

A property chain is a line of buyers and sellers linked together because each part of the chain is buying a property from somebody else.

It means that instead of being dependent on your buyer, you’re actually relying on their buyer, and maybe their buyer’s buyer – not to mention all the estate agents, surveyors and mortgage lenders in between!

Although your buyer may be genuinely keen to progress the sale, their buyer or their buyer’s buyer may not be … and therein lies the problem.

It sounds complex, right? How can you handle it more effectively?

- Keep your options open. You should refuse to let your agent market your property as sold until you’ve exchanged contracts.  If you mark your home as “sold subject to contract” too early, you risk missing enquiries from other buyers who may, in fact, be in a better position.

- Do your research. You need to know the length of the chain, the situation of everyone involved, and where they are based. For example, if something goes wrong, it’s much quicker to find a buyer for a house in London than for a house in Aberdeen. This information will help you to assess how risky the chain is.

- Agree a reasonable timeframe with your buyer. You’ll feel better if you know that the chain won’t drag on forever and there’s an agreed break clause – especially if you’re building a list of back-up options in the meantime. Don’t be afraid to call your buyer’s agent and your solicitor for regular updates.

How can I avoid property chains altogether?

It’s simple – don't voluntarily expose yourself to unqualified, unproceedable buyers. This means asking your agent to properly vet potential buyers and only showing your home to people who aren't in a complex position.

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