18 August 2015

What to do if your property purchase falls through

You’ve paid for your survey, packed a few boxes and started visualising how your furniture will look in the new living room, when you receive a call from the estate agent saying that the sale is no longer going through.

In England and Wales, both the seller and the purchaser are completely free to pull out of a house purchase, without penalty, until the day that contracts are exchanged, and while around 60% of sales do go through to completion, unfortunately for some buyers sales can fall through for a variety of reasons.

We take a closer look at why property purchases fall through and what steps you can take if it happens to you.

  1. Find out what happened
    Has the chain collapsed? Have you been gazumped (the seller has accepted a higher bid from another buyer)? Or has the seller simply decided to take their property off the market? Depending on why the sale has fallen through, you may be able to take action to rectify the situation by putting in a higher offer or being flexible about when you move. The estate agent will be the best person to fill you in on all the details.
  2. Think about whether you are willing to compromise
    If there is a chance you can get the sale back on track, now is the time to think about how much you want the property and whether you are willing to be flexible on things like move dates.
  3. Consider the pros and cons
    If there’s no chance of continuing with the sale then it’s time to restart your property hunt. It can be easy to romanticise the property you have lost and worry that you’ll never find anything else as nice, so stay objective – make a list of all its pros and cons to help inform your new search. Remember, there are thousands more properties out there and the chances are you’ll find one you love even more than the first.
  4. Talk to the estate agent
    Keep in contact with the estate agent you have been dealing with. They’ll be able to point you in the direction of other, similar properties on the market and alert you to any new listings. Remember, if you’ve already got your mortgage in place and are ready to move, then you’ll be an attractive prospect for anyone looking to make a quick sale, so you might still be in a new home quicker than you think.

Warning signs

Worried your seller might be getting cold feet? Keep an eye out for these warning signs:

  • not responding to communications via your solicitor or the estate agent
  • they keep moving the completion date back
  • they haven’t taken the property listing down.

These signs aren’t a guarantee that your purchase won’t go through, but if you are worried it’s worth getting in contact with the estate agent.

How to help the purchasing process run smoothly

There are some things that you, as the buyer, can do to try and make the purchasing process run smoothly and quickly, minimising the risk of your seller pulling out.

  • Get your mortgage offer in place: You also need to have your deposit funds ready to transfer on completion.
  • Keep the conveyancing process moving: Contact your solicitor regularly to ensure there aren’t any hold-ups in processing paperwork and make sure you respond to any requests for information promptly.
  • Ask for the property to be taken off the market. You are perfectly within your rights to ask this and it can help prevent additional offers being made.
  • Keep in contact with the estate agent. Regular updates will reassure the seller that you are not going to back out of the sale.

Do you need to take any action with your mortgage provider?

If you’re hoping to borrow more money now that your house purchase has fallen through, you’ll need to get in contact with your mortgage provider. If you have a Nationwide mortgage offer, the best thing to do is to speak to one of our mortgage advisors by calling 0800 30 20 11, or by popping into a branch to make an appointment.

Mortgage advisors are available over the phone Monday to Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday 8am-5pm.

New to the house buying process?

Get all the information you need to guide you through the various stages, from getting a mortgage to completing the sale, in our buying and owning a property guides.

Most popular

Alfred’s story


We're taking a look back at our first ever mortgage customer in 1884, Mr Alfred Idle.

You may also be interested in...

Our helpful guides

We've created a range of helpful guides to help you make better financial decisions regardless of your circumstances. Find out more about owning property, growing wealth and planning for life events.

Our products

Whether you are after a current account, a savings account or even looking for a mortgage, Nationwide has a range of great products that could help you, no matter the situation.