Why do sales fall through?

08 Jan 2023

How to prevent a sale falling through

Moving to a new house can be stressful, particularly if a sale falls through. Don’t worry if this happens, as there are often ways to get the sale back on track. Our team of expert negotiators discusses potential pitfalls to avoid during negotiations and shares their top tips to help your sale move forward.


If something unexpected comes up in a survey, it may be a big enough problem to make the sale fall through.

Simon Kerley from our Ringwood office explains, “In our experience, most house sales fall through due to survey reports. Unexpected work picked up on a survey may cause some purchasers to walk away from a sale. We recommend that sellers sort out any paperwork for work carried out and organise certificates to provide to your surveyor and purchaser.

“If there is work that needs to be carried out, it can be more beneficial to rectify it before going on the market, because if your sale falls through, you will still have to pay solicitor fees and may still end up paying for the work. Purchasers should fully read their survey report and ask their surveyor to explain anything they don’t understand. If surveyors have not seen any paperwork or evidence of work, they must assume it hasn’t been done and it can therefore seem like a larger problem than it is,” he warns.

Richard Irwin from our Salisbury office has some advice. “Some of the more common reasons for losing a sale can be avoided if you ask the seller if they are aware of any major works having been done on the property,” he said. “Or, if alterations have been made, do they have any documentation which signs it off, either from The Council or Building Regulations?”


A chain can fall apart for many reasons, and sometimes, people can get bored of waiting and find a house elsewhere.

The results of a single break can be tremendous, too. “A sale falling through at the bottom of a chain of sales can potentially jeopardise all of the others, so one break can mean three, four or more sales falling through,” says James Giles, Fordingbridge office.

How can you try to stop a chain from falling through? 

Dougal Trentham, Head of Residential Sales, has some advice:

“Our biggest advice to purchasers and vendors is that you may have to compromise during your sale. Also, picking the right estate agent can literally keep your sale together; our contract chaser is invaluable, and, on many occasions, sales would have not gone through without her.”

Dougal continues:

“The challenge that we have is that most of our vendors often ideally want to remain fairly local, but just downsize or upsize… and therefore will only move for the right house. We will always go above and beyond prioritising finding a home for our vendors, whether it be through ourselves or another estate agent. Completing your own chains is the safest way of assuring that your own sale goes ahead, thus avoiding disappointed purchasers and disillusioned vendors,”

During a negotiation

Negotiations can be tricky, and you can find yourself dealing with surprising demands. It is worth being flexible and remembering that small details should not be a make-or-break on your deal.

Agents from our Marlborough office say that good communication is the key. “Fixtures and fittings can also cause some fraught negotiations with sellers wanting to take fitted wardrobes, etc., out of the property,” they explain. “Keeping calm is often the key.”

People changing their minds and pulling out.

Situations change constantly. Someone might lose their job, a family member could become ill, or people can have second thoughts.

Daniel Hill, of the Shaftesbury office says: “In recent times, there have been just as many sales falling through, owing to a vendor’s difficulty finding an onward purchase as buyers getting cold feet or having issues with financing.”

As much as buyers may want to move ahead, they may be unable to. “Despite buyers having sorted out their finance, there is a changing mortgage market and tougher underwriting depending on the loan to value once an actual application is completed. This can lead to upset unless the buyer has regularly reviewed the arrangements they have made,” points out Dan.

What should you do next?

If a sale falls through, Tom Fuller, Partner, Fordingbridge, says: “Get the property back onto the market without delay and commence a new marketing campaign. In the event of the cause having been a result of the survey, the seller should deal with any faults.”

How can you prevent a sale from falling through?

Don’t forget to check your mortgage status before making an offer to ensure you will be accepted to buy the home.

You should always be patient, especially when waiting for sales. The negotiation stage can be the most frustrating as you want the deal to move quickly, but it is worth taking a step back and letting the negotiations take their course.

The most important thing is to choose an agent who can constantly chase your sale through, whether it is in a chain or not. A highly-regarded independent estate agent, like Woolley & Wallis, members of The Guild of Property Professionals, will be experts in sale chasing and can ensure that everything possible is done to stop a sale from falling through.

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