Top Reasons a Property Sale Fails to Complete

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The second half of 2010 saw a gradual increase in the number of property transactions terminated before final acceptance of the contract by vendor and buyer. All signs point to this trend of uncompleted transactions continuing in 2011. 

There are many diverse causes for these abandoned sales. We will examine the more common reasons and help you understand the steps to take in order to make your sale proceed successfully to completion.

Property chains

House sales stall for a number of reasons. One reason is that most house sales in the UK depend on a series of other property transactions proceeding successfully. If one transaction in the chain of property sales breaks, every subsequent home sale in the chain may fail as a result. When the property sale of your potential buyer falls through, the sale of your own home stands to fall through as well.

Market conditions are unlikely to improve in the second half of 2011, making it likely that even more sellers and buyers will face the chain break scenario for at least the next six months. For this reason, estate agents and sellers prefer to enter transactions with potential buyers who are working outside a property chain.


An independent survey serves to ascertain that the agreed value of the home is fair, to inspect the property’s construction and to point out any existing or possible future problems.

The three survey types include a full structural survey, a house/flat buyers report and a valuation. The latter report provides only a valuation only but may recommend that an intermediate or full structural survey is carried out.

Regardless of which survey the buyer selects, any report of existing or potential problems will prompt consideration of whether to proceed with the sale as is, withdraw the offer or negotiate the price.


Occasionally, potential buyers make offers without establishing their ability to obtain the mortgage necessary to buy the property in question. Lenders are still reluctant to offer mortgages to any but the most reliable potential buyers, so availability of the mortgage money is anything but guaranteed. 

If you do receive an offer, make certain that your potential buyer has a secure mortgage offer in hand. 

An additional potential problem lies in the valuation of the property. The lending bank will want to have the property valued. The process could stall if the valuation should prove unsatisfactory, though this is not likely in the existing buyer’s market.

Job security concerns

Recent HSBC figures reveal that one-third of all workers worry about losing employment in the next year due to government spending cuts and the poor economic outlook. If you should receive more than one offer, consider the employment of the potential buyers and the state of their job security.

Some buyers reportedly back out of property transactions due to fears over declining house prices. If market statistics continue to indicate downward movement of property prices, you may have to negotiate further down the road to save the sale of your property.

This article was written by Andrew Potter who works for My Online Estate Agent. My Online Estate Agent is one of the UK’s fastest growing online estate agents.

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