Home / Insights / What is a Property Chain?

What is a Property Chain?

Metta Stockman


What is a property chain?

A property chain describes the group of buyers and sellers linked by their property transactions.

Each person in the chain is connected to the next by the property they are either selling or buying. Usually, the chain starts with a first-time buyer or someone who doesn’t have a property to sell and ends with someone who is only selling their property, not buying another home. Everyone in between relies on those above and below them in the chain to ensure all transactions proceed smoothly.


How many people can form a chain?

There are no strict rules on the number of buyers and sellers in a property chain.

It can be as few as two parties, such as a first-time buyer purchasing a property from a buy-to-let investor who isn’t buying another property. Sometimes, a chain can include six or eight parties, each linked to another until reaching the ‘top’ of the chain, where someone is only selling and not buying.


How does it work?

In a property chain, each party’s solicitors work on their respective sale or purchase transactions. Several people coordinate to ensure each transaction aligns. All parties must agree on a completion date, when all transactions become final and legally binding, allowing everyone to move house.


What does chain-free mean?

‘Chain-free’ or ‘no upward chain’ in a property listing means no other parties are involved in the chain – it’s just you and the seller, and your buyer if you are selling a property.

This typically happens if the seller is purchasing a new-build property from the developer or selling a former buy-to-let property. A chain-free purchase is generally the quickest and easiest type of transaction, with fewer parties involved and fewer potential hurdles for solicitors to navigate.


How long does a sale take in a chain?

There are no set rules for how long a property sale in a chain can take.

It depends on how many links are in the chain and how efficient each party’s solicitor estate agent is. In Scotland, property sales usually take six to eight weeks to complete. However, if there are multiple links in the chain, it could take longer. Keeping communication open with your solicitor estate agent helps establish a timeline that suits all parties.


Why do chains collapse?

With missives concluded early in Scotland, property chains rarely fall apart completely. However, with multiple parties and many details involved, things can sometimes go wrong, causing chains to collapse.

If a chain collapses, it can delay your sale, as one link may need to find a new property or pull out altogether. While this cannot always be avoided, the risks are reduced by using a reputable, experienced solicitor estate agent and being prompt, organised, and efficient. Sign and send all paperwork as requested, follow your solicitor estate agent’s advice, and get your finances in place early.


Key takeaways

  • A property chain links buyers and sellers through their transactions.
  • Chains can vary in size, from two parties to several.
  • Each party’s solicitors coordinate to align transactions.
  • Chain-free purchases involve fewer parties and are quicker.
  • Property sales in chains usually take six to eight weeks but can take longer.
  • Chains can collapse due to complications, though this is rare in Scotland.

For more advice and assistance on buying or selling a property in Scotland, contact a TSPC solicitor estate agent.