average house chain length uk

What is the Average Property Chain Length?

Updated November 2020

If your customers have questions about property chains or are experiencing problems, the information shared by our property experts in this blog will help you explain how chains work and how to fix a broken chain. For many customers, especially those new to homeownership, the first question is, “What is a property chain?” A property chain is a very common and unfortunately, frustrating aspect of buying and selling property. The next question is often, “But what is the average property chain length?”

You will have likely heard of property chains or if you have ever moved house, may have been a link in a chain of your own. Whether you’re buying or selling, property chains can impact how long it takes for the transaction to complete. In this post, our experts will discuss various aspects of property chains, if there is an average property chain length, how COVID has impacted property chains as well as what to do if your chain breaks.

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What Is a Property Chain?

The term “property chain” is used when buyers and sellers are linked together during housing sales. Each buyer or seller is reliant on the others in the chain for a successful transaction. Property chains usually occur when sellers want to move from their current home to a new property.

For example, if you want to move into your dream home, you are reliant on your current home being sold. If you have an offer accepted on a new home and have a buyer in place for your old property, you are now part of a chain that depends on others. The process can be frustratingly longer than expected.

Is There an Average Property Chain Length in the UK?

The time it takes to sell a house in the UK can differ significantly. Sometimes it can be a few months whereas, for others, it can take longer. However, if you are part of a property chain, this process tends to be even longer. Unfortunately, because of how unique every house sale is, the average length of a property chain is tricky to put a number on — how long is a piece of string?

What is clear is that being part of a property chain means your house move can take a while. Each property case is different; a lot of the time, there is only one other link (buyer/seller) in the chain. However, other chains can include as many as five, six or more sellers and buyers. So while the average property chain length may be one or two links, it’s worth noting that a longer chain could be a lot more complicated.

With that said, a lengthier property chain doesn’t always mean the property sale will take longer. Some chains can break, although this is an issue that can be resolved.

How Has COVID-19 Impacted Property Chains?

After the first lockdown ended in May, the housing market experienced a mini-boom with demand for property far outstripping supply. In October, Rightmove reported that, for the first time ever, estate agents have more properties marked as sold than they have available for sale and house prices hit a record high for the fourth month in a row in November. All of which is excellent news for sellers.

However, this surge in demand coupled with the three-month freeze on housing transactions imposed by the government during the first lockdown — March to May — has resulted in a backlog of house sales. As more people rush to sell and buy before the end of the stamp duty holiday on 31 March 2021, conveyancers, mortgage lenders,  surveyors and removals companies are struggling to keep up with the demand for their services. Vendors have been warned to allow an extra month for the house sale process if they want to complete before 31 March. Delays experienced by one seller or buyer will ripple down the chain, potentially causing problems that result in failed sales.

Lenders have become increasingly risk-averse as the pandemic has continued to wreak havoc on the UK economy and the vast majority of low-deposit mortgages — which first-time buyers (FTBs) relied on — have been withdrawn. With fewer FTBs entering the property market, sellers have less chance of finding a chain-free buyer so property chains could become longer. The only way to avoid a property chain and all its potential problems is to find a cash buyer

With unemployment levels rising and the country plunging further into recession, it seems likely that the number of property chains collapsing will increase as buyers are forced to withdraw from purchases they can no longer afford and sellers put plans to upgrade or upsize on hold.

Can I Fix a Broken Chain?

Being part of a property chain can often be frustrating, even more so if it breaks. However, there are a few ways to fix a broken chain. Firstly, instead of selling and then buying simultaneously, after selling your property, you could rent somewhere temporarily or stay with friends or family. Not the ideal solution if you’re eager to settle into your new home, but a solution nonetheless.

Setting a lower asking price is another way to lower the risk of having a chain break. If you price your home lower than others that are similar and in your area, prospective buyers are much more likely to purchase, therefore, fixing the chain from the start.

If you’re selling your house to buy a new-build property, ask the developer if they offer a part-exchange service — this provides a guaranteed, hassle-free sale. The developer of your new home will buy your current property from you and sell the new-build to you in one easy transaction. This is a fast, risk-free way to remove yourself from a problematic chain or avoid them altogether. 

If you’re selling to buy an older property and experiencing property chain problems, consider selling to a cash buyer. On the open market, finding a cash buyer is down to luck and it can take a long time. Using a quick property sale company will provide a guaranteed purchase of your home fast, leaving you to escape the property chain and buy your new home. 

Are you an estate agent, house builder or property developer looking for a quick, easy and cost-effective way to repair your customer’s chain break? At HBB Solutions, we offer a broken chain repair service that provides a swift and hassle-free property transition. We work with some of the biggest names across many sectors including new house building, estate agencies, retirement home building, park home providers and asset management companies. If your customers are struggling with property chain problems, we can help them complete a successful transaction as quickly as possible.

Do you want to know more about our property chain repair service and how we can help your customers? Get in touch today to discuss your needs with our team of helpful property experts.