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Conveyancing Chains: The Ties That Bind

Charlie Davidson's picture
Published: 07/12/17 - Country: United Kingdom

One of the more stressful aspects of the conveyancing process is what is known as ‘the chain’. A conveyancing chain is simply where there is more than one buyer and seller involved – e.g. you are selling to someone who in turn is selling to someone else and so on.

The chain

A chain of conveyancing transactions usually does make things more complicated, because everybody has to get their own transaction ready, and they all have to wait for the slowest person to come up to speed. Finally, even when all the parties are ready, things are made slower because the mere act of trying to agree a date to move on can be a source of disagreement – the various people up and down the chain all have their own agendas to follow, and a date has to be agreed upon that can please (or at the very least not aggravate) everyone. It is for this reason, among many others, that a savvy estate agent and an experienced solicitor are worth their weight in gold.


In order to complete your purchase you will need the funds which you are receiving on your sale. If your buyer or seller or their solicitors and agents are strict, unhelpful or inefficient, there may well be an uncomfortably long interval between your leaving the property you are selling and receiving the keys to the property you are buying. The chain will only come together and work on the day of completion if some of the people concerned are flexible and take a measure of risk. Our experience is that sufficient trust and goodwill is generally shown on completion for the system to work in practice, despite the inadequacies of the banking system and all kinds of things going wrong unexpectedly and unforeseeably.

Broadly speaking, what happens on the day of completion is as follows.

  1. You will empty the property you are selling and pass the keys to your estate agents.
  2. Once your solicitor has received the funds from your sale, your solicitor will speak to your buyer and complete your sale. Your estate agents will then be contacted and they will hand the keys over.
  3. It is best practice that you do not to allow your buyer to move in to your property or to hand over the keys to your buyer until you have been informed that the purchase funds have been received and that your buyer is ready to complete and release the keys to you on your new property.
  4. Once you have completed your sale and your solicitor has any funds needed from you or your mortgage provider, your purchase monies are then transferred to the seller’s solicitor.
  5. You and your movers may well reach the property you are buying and be ready to move in before your seller has moved out or before your purchase monies have arrived. It can be a frustrating wait before you can persuade your sellers to let you in or allow the seller’s agents to hand over the keys to you, put patience is key.
  6. When the seller’s solicitors inform your solicitor that they have your purchase monies and it looks as if that your seller is out, then you can complete your purchase. Your seller’s solicitors should then telephone the seller’s agents and authorise them to hand over the keys to you.

Should something go wrong on the day of completion, you will need an experienced and communicative solicitor to assist. The one way to avoid the risks of a chain is to sell and move somewhere temporarily before you buy, but that has disadvantages of its own. The best advice that can be given is that a lot of patience and a bit of good will go a long way to easing the stressful completion process.

At Bishop & Sewell, we have more than 30 plus years’ experience in conveyancing and have an expert team familiar with all forms of property purchase. We always treat our clients as individuals with their own particular needs and concerns. We provide you with a dedicated conveyancing lawyer to ensure the best level of service and communication from start to finish.

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Charlie Davidson's picture

Charlie joined Bishop & Sewell following the merger with Fisher Meredith in August 2017. He is currently a solicitor in the property department at Bishop and Sewell, dealing with both residential and commercial properties.

He graduated from the University of London with a degree in philosophy before completing his law conversion and the Legal Practice Course at the University of Law in Guildford. Charlie has a proven track record of providing a “bespoke service” and in offering both practical and tactical advice to our clients.