If you’re new to buying a home, you may hear lots of familiar phrases that you don’t fully understand. One of these phrases commonly used is ‘the property chain’. If you’re unsure what this is and why it’s talked about so much, we explain here.
As a first-time buyer, purchasing a new home is relatively straightforward. Once you have your deposit and, perhaps, your government-funded Equity Loan, you just need a valuation for the mortgage and a mortgage offer and your lawyer will do most of the rest. The housebuilder finishes the home and then sells it to you. Simple.
But what about when you are buying a home from someone other than a housebuilder?
Well, in this instance things can get more complicated. In most cases, the person you are buying from is likely to be selling to move to another property and the person they are buying from might be doing the same – and so on. This can sometimes result in a long chain of transactions, each dependent on the completion of the one before.
Most experienced home owners will be wary of long chains, simply because if just one buyer pulls out of their transaction it can cause all the other transactions to stall or even fall through completely. For this reason, buying from a housebuilder or selling to a first-time buyer with no house to sell, can be a very attractive proposition. Cash buyers are also attractive for the same reason, as is selling at auction, although this brings with it its own drawbacks.
For a chain of transactions to work well, it’s important to have a good understanding of everybody else’s needs and desires. For example, one buyer in the chain might be moving conditional upon relocating for a new job, or another might be an investor that must sell before the end of the tax year. If you don’t understand these pinch points, chains can collapse and you may all be left with what is referred to as abortive costs for work undertaken by your conveyancer, solicitor, etc.
In a successful chain, all the people involved in the transaction will understand the needs of each other and will communicate difficulties honestly and promptly. An element of flexibility might also go a long way. Especially on timescale. When everyone is sure they can ‘perform’ as required (in other words, they know they will be in funds for the purchase, etc) they will exchange contracts for the sale or purchase. At this point all the terms are set, including move dates, etc.
It’s unwise to exchange on a contract unless you know you can fulfill its terms, although sometimes it’s necessary to exchange based on the exchange of contracts with another. If at some later stage you cannot fulfill the terms of your contract because of the breach of another contract made with you, there is a route by which you can pursue a claim for damages incurred as a result of these breaches. Hopefully, it never gets to that stage.