What is a chain when buying a house?

Everything you need to know about property chains.

Will @ Nested
Property market insight

A chain is a series of linked house purchases which are mutually dependent for a successful outcome. Your chain consists of the person you’re selling a home to, and the person you’re buying from. So if you’re a chain-free buyer, you’re in a strong position as your purchase doesn’t depend on you selling your place first.

In truth, there are lots of definitions of ‘chain’ knocking about — onward chains, upward chains and The Chain by Fleetwood Mac — so it’s about time we did some explaining. Read on!

What does chain free mean?

For home buyers, ‘chain free’ are two of the sweetest words in the English language. If you see a property advertised as chain free, it means the seller doesn’t need to buy a new property in order to sell the current one.

This is good news if you’re a buyer, as you’re not beholden to the seller successfully completing on their next property, meaning there’s less chance of the deal falling through. Given that moving house can take months, anything that speeds up the process is certifiably a Good Thing.

Here are a few reasons why a property might be chain free:

  • The seller has already bought a new home.
  • It’s an inherited or second home.
  • It’s a new-build property.
  • The property is repossessed or sold by a company.
  • The seller is moving to rented accommodation.
  • The seller is relocating abroad.
  • The seller is moving into retirement accommodation.

There are many reasons why a property might be chain free, so it’s always worth getting a handle on the seller’s situation so you can make informed decisions as a buyer.

What does no onward chain mean?

If you hear the term ‘no onward chain’, it’s essentially another way of saying ‘chain free’. It means the person selling a property doesn’t need to raise funds from the sale in order to move; ergo, there is no onward chain.

As with ‘chain free’ properties, the same rules apply: the seller might have already bought a new home, or they’re moving abroad, or the home could be repossessed, for example. Whatever your estate agent calls it, buying a home with no onward chain is an attractive proposition as it’s more likely to be a fast, stress-free transaction.

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What does no upward chain mean?

To make matters even more head head-scratching, the phrase ‘no upward chain’ is another way of saying chain free, or ‘no onward chain’. In semantic terms, it means the seller is at the top of the chain, with no sale ‘above’ them which could otherwise cause a delay.

Although this term is less common, it’s helpful to know that it’s not a mysterious new concept, just in case you were about to get your chains in a twist.

How quickly can you buy a house with no chain?

On paper, a chain free house is attractive to buyers because typically, the sale will proceed quicker. If your mortgage is approved, you may be able to buy a chain-free property in as little as 10 weeks from having your offer accepted to completion. Compare this to transactions when you’re in a chain, which may take months until you get the keys.

However, while chain-free buyers are usually in a better position, that doesn’t necessarily mean your sale will go seamlessly. Anything can hold up a transaction: surveys can highlight defects, deeds can throw up issues, and buyers can change their mind.

In reality, you could have a chain free sale that drags on forever or a scary-sounding chain where everything goes smoothly.

Until the completion funds have transferred, it’s all to play for. So while chain free buying is best according to the law of averages, it’s not always so simple.

If time is of the essence, you can read our guide on how to sell fast. But while a speedy move is better than a long, drawn-out affair, the most important thing is that you buy the right property for your needs.

How to fix a broken property chain

Unless you’re a first-time buyer or flush with cash, there’s every chance you’ll find yourself in a chain. Here are some tips for how to avoid getting stuck in property limbo:

  • Sell to a chain-free buyer — First-time buyers and those with cash in the bank are your friend. If you have lots of offers on the table, consider not just the highest bid, but the buyer who can move the quickest.
  • Agree on a completion date — If you can convince the seller that you need to move by a certain date, they may speed up their own house hunt rather than leave you hanging.
  • Rent for a while — Could you sell your home then take on a short-term rental or live with family? If you’re willing to shift your property first, becoming a cash buyer can increase your bargaining power.
  • Buy a new build — One advantage of buying a home straight off the production line is that you won’t be waiting on anyone to up sticks.
  • Choose Nested — We hate to say it, but there’s a certain moving agency that can give you an advance so that you become a chain-free buyer.

Life’s too short to sit around waiting for other people. Sure, no one ever said moving house is quick and simple, but play your cards right and there’s every chance you can break that chain.

Selling your home?

Book a valuation with Nested, the modern estate agent. We combine expert local agents with the smartest technology to give you the best result from your sale.

Nested puts homeowners in control of their sale. Our agents provide you with smarter insights so you achieve the best price for your home on your timeframe. When you’ve found your new home, you have the power to move chain free, while we take care of your sale. Our buying agent will even negotiate up to 5% saving on your new home, so you get more home for your money.

If you’re interested in selling smarter, get in touch today. Nested.com - The modern way to move.