Most houses on the market are part of a chain of other property sales and purchases. Chain-free indicates a home with no such sequence.
Chain-free or no onward chain can happen for a number of reasons:
- The seller may have already bought a new home and vacated the property
- The seller is not buying a new home
- The property is a new build
- The property has been repossessed
The benefits of buying chain-free
A chain can add a great deal of time, expense and risk to the buying process, as there are far more people involved. All the properties in the chain are linked, and if one part of the chain fails it can impact on every stage.
Estate agents Your Move explain: "Basically the chain links houses that are being purchased where each are dependant on the sale of the next one in the chain. If one of those house sales falls through, then the whole chain of purchases can fail and affect numerous buyers and sellers as a result - usually the bigger the chain, the bigger the impact.
"A break in the chain can therefore be heartbreaking because it can not only add to the expense of the selling and buying process but means delays are almost inevitable. A chain-free property, however, can present much greater peace of mind for the purchaser.
"They are often new homes or vacant properties where the seller has already bought a new home or is not buying another property. Usually there is only one property, one buyer and one seller and so it's much easier in terms of dealing with valuations, survey reports and even legal titles. Buying chain-free is often particularly beneficial to first time buyers, or those without an existing house to sell, who could find themselves the owners of a new home within just weeks of searching."
What the agents say
Douglas Sleaper, group sales director at Townends estate agents, explains: "Whenever you are involved in a move you are reliant on other people and their behaviour. Each person involved in a chain has the capacity to change their mind and there is the potential for problems to occur relating to particular links in the chain.
"There could be problems on a personal level. A buyer or seller might lose their job or they might split from a partner and their buying situation might change. Or it could be technically related to the property in regards to problems revealed in a survey for example.
"The smaller the number of links within a chain, the less possibilities there are for things to go wrong and affect your house move. If a property is chain-free you can make an assumption that you will experience fewer problems than if you are buying from someone who is also moving or, even worse, if there are several people above you in the chain."
Steve Jones, sales manager at Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward's Chiswick office, says: "Being chain-free is a very big plus for a property. In the current market there's a lack of properties and high demand, so a lot of vendors are not being able to find properties themselves, which of course will drag the process out and makes it risky.
"We're finding many vendors are moving into rented accommodation, just so they can put themselves in a stronger position by removing the onward chain.
"On the other hand, chain-free is a very good situation for buyers to be in too. If you're in a chain, you're a risk to the vendor, whereas no chain equals confidence in their minds. The other day we saw 13 offers on one property, which was crazy. In the end, the vendor's decision all went down to the position of the buyers. No one wants the risk beneath them in the chain."
What the buyers say
Judy Gordon and her partner recently bought a chain-free property in Guildford. She says: "Everyone says buying a house is the most stressful thing you can do, but we really didn't have that experience. The house we bought was on the market because the seller was relocating to Italy. She had already set up home over there and was keen to get her Guildford house shifted so she could get on with her new life.
"We couldn't believe the speed and ease of the whole process. We went from offer to completion in six weeks. I know we got an easy ride and it could have been very different, especially if it had been in a chain."