At what stages can a house sale fall through?

In England and Wales, your home’s sale is usually not a certainty until you exchange contracts with your buyer, which is right at the end of the home-buying process.

Before everything is done and dusted, your buyer needs to pass these important milestones.

Mortgage approval

Even if your buyer has an agreement in principle in place before they set eyes on your property, they will still need to apply for a mortgage. It should not take more than a few weeks for your buyer to know if they have been approved.

Access no-obligation mortgage advice

What should you do if your buyer fails to secure a mortgage?

It’s always a good idea to keep your home on the market until your sale is complete. This means if anything goes wrong, your agent will connect you with another buyer quickly.

Consult with your agent regularly, because they will give you important updates on how your buyer is progressing. If your buyer can’t get a mortgage, it’s best to move on, perhaps by reconsidering previous offers.


A survey is usually carried out in the middle of the conveyancing stage. If your buyer’s lender finds an issue with your home that alters its value, then your home may be down valued.

This could mean your buyer may not be able to get a mortgage for your original asking price. If there are costly or serious issues found, your sale could fall through.

What should you do if a survey of your home uncovers an issue?

Before you put your home up for sale, it’s best to be honest about any issues that may need addressing. This will reduce any lower offers being made as your sale progresses.

If an issue is discovered, you could offer to have it rectified or simply accept a lower price. Your agent will be able to guide you through this renegotiating process.

Top tip: Get an expert to price up the cost of the work needed to be undertaken.


When it comes to the legal aspect of changing the names on the deeds to your property, you and your buyer need to make sure you have the right paperwork in place.

If you, the seller or your buyer, cannot provide this, then your home’s sale is put on hold until all paperwork is in place, or worse, it could fall through.

What can you do to prevent your sale from being slowed at the conveyancing stage?

Regular communication with your conveyancer to see where you and the buyer is in their conveyancing process is essential.

You should also be organised and have your property’s title deeds, Energy Performance Certificate, and building regulation certificates to hand as soon as you decide to sell.


If your buyer is selling their home to buy yours, then you are involved in a property chain. Your buyers are essentially in the same position you are, which means their buyers also must pass the same milestones.

The chain can be broken at any time. If one link in the chain breaks, then this could delay your sale. Longer chains increase the risk of this happening and can cause your sale to fall through from problems down the chain.

Related: Property chains explained

How can you minimise the risk of a break in the chain?

If you receive an offer from a cash buyer, consider it carefully, as it will often lead to a speedier sale. The same goes for first-time buyers because they are chain-free.

Good agents and conveyancers, provided they have all the correct information from you and your home’s buyer, will keep the chain moving. If there’s a break in the chain, your agent will have many options, so you can make an informed choice about how to move forward.


If your buyer has their mortgage approved and your home sails through its survey and any other potential hurdles, watch out for gazundering. This occurs when a buyer lowers their offer just before you exchange contracts.

Related: What is gazundering and how can I avoid it?

How can you prevent gazundering?

It’s likely that you may receive more than one offer for your home. So, if your buyer drops out because you do not lower your asking price, don’t panic; the ability of your agent to connect your home with another buyer is strong.

Getting a good, skilled valuation is key to achieving the price you want for your home. Following the steps outlined above will also reduce the risk of gazundering. You may also consider a slightly lower offer if there is a good reason to do so. Your experienced agent at Martin & Co is best placed to advise you.

Begin a smoother and happier home move with Martin & Co by booking a free at home valuation

Stay in the loop

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive regular property updates.

Do you have a property to Sell or Let?

Book a free sales or lettings valuation with your local agent

May also interest you...

Are you ready to sell or let your property?

Book a free sales or lettings valuation with your local agent, and they will use their local knowledge and expertise to give you the most accurate sales or lettings valuation.