How can I manage my Property Chain?

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The dreaded property chain is every home-movers nightmare!

Property chains are perhaps THE most frustrating part of the conveyancing process for buyers and sellers here in the UK.  Whilst we can not control others in our chain, lets take a look at those things that can cause frustration, and what (if anything) we can do to at least minimise them.

What is a property Chain?

So, a property chain is where there are a series of buyers and sellers, all/each of which are ‘dependent’ on each other completing for the sales/purchases to happen.  This will almost always be where each party is buying/selling the home they live in (as opposed to for example an investment property).

Will everyone in a chain exchange on the same day?

Yes, the fact that all transactions are ‘dependent’ upon each other means that they will all exchange on the same day (and likely also set a completion date that is the same as each other too).

Will everyone in a chain complete on the same day?

Yes, almost certainly.  As with exchange of contracts, the ‘dependent’ aspect of a chain will invariably require completion on the same date.

What does a complete chain mean?

This means that all transactions from the bottom to the top are agreed in principle (albeit pre exchange of contracts).

What is the bottom of the chain?

Someone without a dependent sale of their own – often a first time buyer.

What is the top of the chain?

The top of the chain is the final sale – ie one where the seller does not have an ongoing dependent purchase of their own.  This may be someone going in to care, or perhaps a probate sale.

Can my solicitor manage the chain for me?

No!  All your solicitor can do is make sure your own legal work is done.  Then it is a waiting game.  Actually, worse still, your solicitor is bound by very strict professional rules that forbids them from talking to any other solicitor in the chain other than those directly related to your own transaction – ie your sale and your purchase.

Can my estate agent manage the chain for me?

There is some mileage here (hooray you cry!).  Firstly, a good agent will try to ensure that when they find you a buyer they (the buyer) is credible, like to go through with it all, and if they’re in a chain then that chain is already ‘complete’.   Once all transactions are agreed and the chain is complete, your estate agent (unlike your solicitor) can talk to other parties up and down the chain and at least keep you in the picture.

Your estate agent can keep you informed about the chain.

Do I get updates on the chain from my estate agent or solicitor?

Because of the professional conduct rules that forbid your solicitor from speaking to other parties in the chain, the only person you can talk to to get info on the chain is your estate agent.  If your solicitor says they can not help – it is because they really can not help!

Can I break the property chain?

Yes, you can break the chain.  This basically means pulling out of your sale and/or purchase.  Or, continuing with things as were, but somehow purchasing without needing to sell your current property – ie raising the money in some way other than selling your existing home.  This might be through a re-mortgage on that existing home, savings, or even bridging finance.

How do I avoid being in a chain in the first place?

You can avoid a chain below you by ensuring you are not needing to sell your current home to buy the next.  And/or, you buy somewhere where there is no ongoing dependent purchase – eg a probate sale.

Is there anything I can do to speed up the chain?

Not really, no.  The only thing you can be is ready with your own stuff.   And, obvious as it might be, its then really just a healthy dose of patience and keeping your fingers crossed!

Do chains slow down conveyancing?

Invariably yes, chains will slow down the conveyancing process.  A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and if one party wants a delay until completion then there will be a delay until completion!

What should I do if my property chain collapses?

Start all over unfortunately.  This is why people are reluctant to ditch slow buyers as getting a new buyer (and a whole new chain) in below you can be even less predictable than the buyer you already have!

Want to know more about property chains?

If you have more questions about property chains that this, or the other great content on our site does not cover then do please reach out!  Our team of expert conveyancing solicitors are here to help!

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