In a chain? Lucky you!


When we were looking for our house, we proudly declared to estate agents that we were “Chain Free!” and accordingly expected to be shown the best properties in light of our beneficial buying position. We were wrong!

We knew there was lots of competition for buying nice houses in the Greater London property market but after weeks of being shown one unappealing property after another, we just could not understand why we were not seeing anything attractive.

Were we being just too picky? We didn’t think so but after so many disappointing viewings, we seriously began to wonder whether we were the ones at fault. We privately discussed the issue between us. We questioned whether our expectations within the budget we were working with were unrealistic and started to prepare ourselves to compromise quite significantly. But something kept niggling at me.

Our budget was not huge, but neither was it small. Admittedly, in the areas we were searching in, premium properties often sold for several times our maximum budget. However, our budget was still around 20% above the average for the types of property we were looking for. Why then did it seem we were only being shown properties that looked like they were from the reject pile? It was because we were.

I approached Jeremy. We had been chipping away at his professional estate agent wrapper for a while and recently had noticed small chinks of humanity emerging from time to time. Maybe he would give us a better idea. I think he took pity on Kasia’s growing belly more than my growing frustration and opened up.

Jeremy explained that our problem was that we were not in a chain. We were completely confused. We had always heard that not being in a chain was supposed to be an advantage when it came to making an offer on a property?

We then learned that not being in a chain did of course make us a more attractive buyer for the vendor when making an offer on a property versus other buyers who were stuck in a property chain. Most vendors would lean towards the buyer who did not carry a chain as a risk. But that is a somewhat simplistic view of the murky world of property sales.

With Jeremy’s hints, we understood the true situation a little better. From an estate agent’s view, we were a great buyer: confirmed mortgage in place, hugely keen to buy with the pending arrival of a new baby strictly governing a tight timetable and no chain. Yes, the agents were very keen to work with us and find us a property to buy.

But we had not considered that there were more important people and the attraction of that old idiom…

Two Birds With One Stone

I should state clearly that I have no evidence for the following, and if such practices are carried out it would seem they would (or should!) be strictly against what is allowed. What we do know is that we repeatedly suffered low quality viewings but from time to time would see properties which had been sold without ever being offered the chance to view them, even though they were exactly within our specified criteria and we had been regularly badgering the agent for updates. The practice that Jeremy alluded to is probably best explained by way of the following hypothetical example:


Estate Agent, Donald, is lucky enough to have lots of clients on his books. Two of his clients are chain-free Daisy who is looking to move out of rented accommodation into her first owned house and Pete who has just got a new job with a very early start so needs to sell his existing house and move to another part of town closer to his new work.

Donald is lucky enough to be selling Pete’s current house as well as looking for a new house for him. Obviously Pete is also asking other agents to search for a new house for him. But only Donald is selling Pete’s current house (as is often the case).

Donald already has the mortgage in place to fund the difference between the expected sale price of his current house and the purchase price of his new house.

Daisy has her mortgage in place and is all ready to go ahead with a purchase as soon as she finds the right house.

Both Pete and Daisy are looking for a 2-bedroom semi detached house in the same area of town.

Somebody has made an offer on Pete’s house, which Pete would like to accept. However, before he can accept that offer, he of course has to find a new house and have his offer accepted on that.

A new client, Sally, walks in to Donald’s office and asks him to sell her lovely 2-bedroom semi detached house. It is a really lovely house, priced very well and in exactly the area of town that Daisy and Pete are both looking to buy.

If Donald shows the house to Daisy, he is confident Daisy would offer to buy it at full asking price and be able to complete as quickly as possible. That would mean Donald would get a lovely commission from Sally for selling her house.

If Donald shows the house to Pete, he is confident Pete would offer to buy it at full asking price and be able to complete as quickly as possible (as there is a good offer outstanding on Pete’s own house). That would mean Donald would get a lovely commission from Sally for selling her house and another lovely commission from Pete from selling his current house.

Two birds with one stone, as the old saying goes.

As I mentioned above, I had no evidence of such practices being carried out and the example above is completely hypothetical. It was however strongly hinted at by one of the agents who appeared willing to help us understand some of the reasoning behind our ongoing frustration.

We would love to hear if you have suffered similar issues whilst searching hard, only being shown less than ideal properties and then seeing other properties suddenly appear as already Sold or Under Offer without ever having been offered a viewing?


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