Skip to the content

What does ‘chain free’ mean in the property market?

No end of the anxiety involved in buying or selling properties comes from being part of a chain. So ‘chain free’ can also roughly translate as ‘stress free’, because you will hopefully avoid the potential pitfalls of a chain. But seriously, what does ‘chain free’ really mean in the property market?

What is a property chain?

Buying a property usually means that you are just one of a number of people buying and selling property from each other. This is called being part of a ‘property chain’. If you are at the bottom of the chain, you are buying but have no property to sell – all first time buyers are at the bottom of the chain. The chain ends when someone selling a property does not require funds from their sale to purchase a property, or are not buying at the same time.

Each property transaction relies on the one below it in the chain proceeding. If it does not, the chain ‘collapses’ and all the prospective purchases fall through. This can be costly if people have paid conveyancing and survey fees.

What does chain free actually mean?

Chain free can describe a type of buyer or seller, or a type of property.

A chain free buyer could be a first time buyer, or cash buyer. A property might be marketed as a chain free property if it is sold at auction, or sold after probate. There is less that can go wrong if you are lucky enough to be buying chain free, or where there is no onward chain.

Is chain free the same as no onward chain?

So what does no onward chain mean?

When an estate agent describes a property as having ‘no onward chain’, it means that it is being sold without the vendor relying on its sale to purchase another property. These are often but not exclusively probate sales. It does not necessarily mean the same as ‘chain free’, however. It will only be chain free if the buyer of the no onward chain property has no property themselves to sell.

How long does it take to buy a chain free property?

A chain free purchase or sale usually happens much quicker than if you are part of a property chain with multiple buyers and sellers, simply because there are less parties involved, fewer exchange and completion dates to juggle and less paperwork to be done.

A chain free buyer can expect to complete in 8-10 weeks, but it could be quicker or take longer depending on the particular circumstances of the transaction or property. Anything could hold up a purchase or sale, from the survey to the searches to the mortgage application.

Do chain free properties cost more?

It is often the case that properties with no onward chain will have a higher asking price. A chain free property will be in greater demand because it offers the prospect of a quicker, less complicated purchase, and one less likely to fall through. Buyers will pay a premium for that privilege. 

How to avoid chains

Avoiding chains when buying

The only real way to avoid being part of a property chain when buying is to be a first-time or cash buyer. Even if you are buying a chain free property, you need to have no property to sell too.

Avoid chains when selling

Many properties will have no onward chain through circumstance, rather than the choice of the seller. Houses that are being sold because their owners have passed away will fall into this category.

There could be happier reasons why you can sell chain free. You may not need to buy because you have got married and moved into your spouse’s property, and so just want to sell your property. Some vendors might even make special arrangements so that their property has a chain-free premium – for example, by moving into rented accommodation for a period so that they can achieve a higher price for their sale.

Sign-up for property alerts to find your perfect home

We can’t guarantee you’ll be chain free, but we can make sure you know about the best properties for sale as soon as they hit the market.