How much should I know about 'the people in the chain' when moving?
According to Which? magazine, 1 in 5 house sales will fall through because of property chain problems.
The property chain is the process of buying and selling a sequence of homes, which are all linked together. For the chain not to fall apart, all the house sales need to be working together.
The beginning of a chain starts with someone who doesn’t have a property to sell - this is usually a first time buyer or a cash buyer. The end of the chain comes when the last link is a seller who isn’t dependent on buying another house, ie. there is no upward chain.
In between, there can be as many buyers as necessary. However, the more people in the chain, the more complex and fraught things can become. If one person forgets to fill in a document, misses a phone call or a mortgage survey throws up some issues about a property, the whole chain can be delayed.
There are various reasons why a property chain can break. The main factors are where the buyer or seller:
- is unable to get a mortgage approved;
- faces personal issues such as divorce, illness or bereavement;
- suffers financial issues such as a job loss or redundancy;
- worries about economic issues causing a party to back out;
- gets gazumped, meaning someone has made a higher offer for the house they want to buy
Unfortunately, many of these issues you simply cannot control. However, knowing as much about the people in your chain and their moving situation can help keep things on track.
Firstly, before accepting an offer on your property, do your research. Are your buyers in a chain? If so, how many people are in it and at what stage are they all. Have they had their mortgages approved? Are surveys done? If you are in a fortunate position to have a choice of buyers, pick the one who has the smallest chain or even better, is a cash buyer. If you are buying, look for a home where there is no upward chain, such as a new build.
Secondly, employ experienced professionals who are organised and ‘on it’. Sometimes it can be tricky to get contact details of other people further down the chain. But your solicitor or estate agent should be willing to do a bit of ‘chivving’ for you and call relevant parties, find out what the issues are if there are hold ups and keep you updated. If you decide to do some chasing or investigation yourself, remember that being polite and friendly will go a long way.
Finally, if you can, open up a conversation with your seller. Find out if they would agree to a date to move out, even if they have to move into rented accommodation to find a place of their own. It would put them in the enviable position of becoming a cash buyer.
However short or long your property chain, keeping the channels of communication open between the links, having everything on your side organised and financially ‘ready to go’ and remaining patient will all put you in a better and stronger position for a successful house move.