Why property sales fall through

Some common issues and how to deal with them

It's a wonderful feeling when you find a property you love and your offer is accepted. But it's important not to get too emotionally attached just yet because there's a long way to go before it's legally your home. With over a quarter of sales failing to complete*1, there are a number of things that can go wrong between now and completion.

Here we take a look at some of the issues that can occur, and offer some tips to help you increase your purchase prospects.


This is when a seller agrees to accept an offer from one buyer, but then goes on to accept a higher offer from someone else. The first buyer is now put in the difficult position of deciding whether to increase their offer further or pull out of the sale and lose the property.

How buyers can reduce the risk of being gazumped:

  • Ask the seller to take the property off the market
  • Push the sale through as quickly as possible
  • Consider a pre-contract deposit arrangement


This is the opposite of gazumping when the buyer reduces their offer at the last minute, often just before contracts are exchanged.

How sellers can reduce the risk of being gazundered:

  • Set a realistic asking price
  • Renegotiate with a counter offer


This is when a seller gets cold feet after accepting an offer by remaining in their property and leaving the buyer hanging.

How buyers can reduce the risk of being gazanged:

  • Find out if the seller has put in an offer on another property first
  • Push the sale through as quickly as possible
  • Keep in regular contact to pre-empt any issues

Change of heart

This is when a buyer suddenly changes their mind and pulls out of the sale. There are many emotional reasons why people change their minds, including; a fear of commitment, worries about over-extending themselves or feeling the property isn't the one.

How sellers can reduce this risk:

  • Find out as much as you can from your estate agent to help you work out if the buyer is serious before accepting an offer

Change of circumstances

This can happen on either side when an unexpected personal or financial situation means it no longer a good time to buy or sell. This can be anything from being made redundant to losing a loved one.

How buyers and sellers can reduce this risk:

  • Push through the sale as quickly as possible

Finance falls through

Even if you've saved a deposit and you're confident you can afford monthly mortgage payments, there's no guarantee that your mortgage application will be approved.

How buyers can reduce this risk:

Survey results

This is when the survey highlights major structural problems with the property that no one may have been aware of before. The surveyor may reduce the value of the property or the buyer may not be happy to pay their original offer price. Your mortgage lender may also not be willing to offer the original loan amount requested.

How buyers and sellers can resolve this situation:

  • Negotiate on the price and reach a compromise

Property chains

The more buyers and sellers there are in a chain, the higher the chance that one of these issues will occur.

How buyers and sellers can reduce their risk:

  • Keep the chain as short as possible or avoid one altogether
  • Consider moving in with family, friends or renting
  • Keep in regular contact to pre-empt any issues

Find out more in Your guide to property chains

*1 http://www.independent.co.uk/property/property-news-roundup-why-do-so-many-home-sales-fall-through-9263957.html

The content of this article is believed to be correct at the time of publication and is provided for general information purposes. When buying or selling a property you should obtain appropriate professional advice and this article is not intended as any substitute for or supplement to that advice and must not be relied upon as such