What is a property chain? A comprehensive guide by Cobb Farr

If you’re thinking of buying or selling a property in Bath, Bradford on Avon or Somerset, you’ve likely come across the word ‘property chain’.

But do you know what a property chain is and how it can affect your property sale?

Read our comprehensive guide to property chains in the UK to learn everything you need to know and get our professional tips on how to help the process run more smoothly.

What is a Property Chain?

Put simply, a Property Chain is a sequence of property sales that need to happen at the same time. It starts with a first-time buyer or someone who does not have a property to sell and ends when a home is sold, and the owner is not looking to buy.

For example, let’s say you want to sell your home and have made an offer on a property in Bath. Before anything can move, your buyer needs to sell their home and then buy yours, and the current owner of your new home in Bath needs to buy a new home before you can move in. Additionally, the people purchasing your buyers’ home need to sell theirs and so on.

This can make the property chain complex with all buyers and sellers involved depending on each other before they can complete their sale or purchase of property.

What is the average length of a property chain?

In the UK, the average property chain length is four to six, although technically it can have as few as two or even more than ten.

The length of a property chain can vary widely, depending on how many people are in the chain and how complex the process is. The longer the chain, the more likely you are to experience delays, complications or even the chain breaking completely.

How can you speed up your property chain?

The good news is that you can take steps to speed up the property chain and help everything run more smoothly. Here are some of our best tips:

  • Stay in regular contact with your estate agent and solicitor.
  • Ensure you have your finances sorted as soon as possible.
  • Sign and return any paperwork immediately.
  • Keep copies of correspondence, following up with an email after a phone call to get it in writing.
  • Use courier services or recorded delivery to prevent delays.
  • Add date clauses with a deadline for completion in the contract.

When property chains go wrong

Despite the steps you take to prevent your property chain from delays or breaking completely, sometimes it can happen.

There may be a problem with the buyer’s mortgage, a property survey discovers issues, the buyer or seller changes their mind or there are unforeseen circumstances such as sickness or redundancy that can prevent the transactions from going ahead.

Bear in mind that there are lots of people involved in property chains from the buyers and sellers themselves to estate agents, mortgage lenders, solicitors, and surveyors. Any delays in communication between these multiple parties can also cause delays.

If this should happen, try not to panic or feel too disappointed. Usually, you’ll just need to look for another home to buy or put your home back on the market.

This can be more straightforward than it appears, especially if several potential buyers made an offer on your property. Ask your estate agent to get in touch with anyone else who did this and you could find a solution more quickly.

Otherwise, it’s a good idea to find out what caused the property chain to break and whether there is something you can do to resolve the problem or what your next steps should be.

How to reduce the risk of your property chain collapsing

There are also many steps you can take to prevent your property from collapsing. This includes:

  • Ensuring you have enough money ready to cover all costs. This includes deposit, stamp duty, solicitors and any property surveys.
  • Staying organised: Keep all your documents in order and sign and return paperwork immediately.
  • Communicating effectively: Stay in touch with everyone involved including your estate agent, conveyancer and mortgage lender.
  • Getting a watertight mortgage offer: This can help you avoid potential financial issues.
  • Buying a chain-free property or a new build property: You could avoid the chain completely by doing so and enjoy a faster, smoother buying process.
  • Selling your home and living in rented accommodation while you look. Doing this will help take the pressure off and also buy you extra time to look for your dream property.
  • Being patient and flexible: Problems with property chains are normal so try to be patient and flexible, speaking to your estate agent and conveyancer to help keep the translation moving forward smoothly.


When you’re buying or selling a property in the UK, you must understand what property chains are and how to navigate them quickly for a faster sale and minimise complications or the chain breaking completely.

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned property owner, follow the tips we’ve shared such as communicating effectively, having your finances organised and even considering chain-free properties and your dream home in Bath, Bradford on Avon or Somerset will soon be yours.

If you need any help navigating property chains, simply reach out to our friendly team at Cobb Farr. We’re always happy to help.

Looking for a chain-free property? Want to enjoy a faster, smoother property sale or purchase?

Contact our friendly team at Cobb Farr today.

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