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What to do when a house sale falls through before exchange


No matter the market conditions, house sales fall through all the time. In fact, 24.42% of house sales fell through in 2019. If you’re a buyer or a seller who’s had their house sale fall through at any stage of the process, it can cause a great deal of frustration, stress and anxiety, especially if you’re already part of a property chain. 

But, if your buyer or seller is pulling out of a house purchase before exchange, it’s not the end of the world and there are strategies you can use to keep the process going to avoid being out of a place to live or additional costs that you might not be able to afford.


Buyer Pulls Out Before Exchange

  1. Pulling out of a house sale after survey
  2. Gazundering
  3. Are there any solicitor fees when a buyer pulls out?
  4. Can I withdraw an offer on a house?
  5. What to do when a buyer pulls out of a house sale

Seller Pulls Out Before Exchange

  1. Gazumping
  2. Can a seller pull out after accepting an offer?

Buyer Pulls Out Before Exchange

Sellers and buyers can pull out of the house sale process at any point before the exchange of contracts, but if you’re selling your house you will likely have a prospective house lined up already. Because of this, your buyer pulling out of the house sale could throw all your plans into disarray. 

An important place to start getting a new plan together is to understand why the buyer has pulled out so you can avoid the same problem happening with any future prospective buyers. Some of the most common reasons include problems identified in the survey, down valuations and problems earlier in the chain.

Pulling out of a house sale after survey

One of the most common reasons for buyers pulling out of a house sale before exchange is to do with the survey carried out after an offer is accepted. The survey can sometimes identify structural problems that you may not have even been aware of. 

If any costly problems are revealed by the survey, your buyer’s lender may decide that the property isn’t worth the amount it’s being purchased for or that the buyers will need more money than they’ve applied for to fix the issues.

If you feel the property might need structural improvements or there’s something else you think the survey will uncover, it might be worth carrying out a survey of your own before marketing the property. This way, buyers will know the exact condition of the house before placing an offer and won’t be pulling out of the house sale before exchange.

Alternatively, if you’ve lost an offer at the survey, you might want to complete a survey yourself before searching for a new buyer so they can ensure they’ve factored this requirement in when applying for their mortgage.


Though it won’t strictly result in a sale falling through, gazundering, in which a buyer drops their offer at the last minute to pressure the seller to accept, can result in the sale collapsing. Buyers who attempt to gazunder will need to know the gamble they’re getting themselves in for but there are a number of things sellers can do to avoid this happening.

  1. Set a realistic price – shooting too high on the value of your property could mean your chosen buyer realises this later down the line and decides they would rather chance lowering their offer at the last minute.
  2. Don’t try to hide anything – concealing issues with the property that could be costly is also a way to quickly jeopardise your exchange. If your buyer likes the property enough, required work won’t always be enough to put them off but hiding it from them during the initial offer stage is more likely to result in gazundering.
  3. Know your own limits – Gazundering can sometimes come out of the blue and leave you in a difficult position. When planning your house sale, make sure you have a strong grasp on the limitations of your finances and the absolute lowest limit you can go to before the sale has to be terminated.

Are there any solicitor fees when a buyer pulls out?

Buyers and sellers are liable for solicitor fees if either party pulls out before the exchange of contracts. Depending on the progress of the sale and the individual solicitor, this cost will vary but you will be required to pay for all the work done so far.

This can include paying for the surveyor’s report and any conveyancing done so far. For sellers who still want to continue selling their house right away, you won’t need to pay this straight away and may be able to keep your solicitor on until you’ve found another buyer. 

Overall, having a sale fall through is likely to add to the cost of selling your home so you should make sure you budget for this eventuality before you start the sale process.

Can I withdraw an offer on a house?

If you’ve had an offer accepted on a house but changed your mind, you can still walk away from the agreement as long as no contracts have been exchanged. You may incur charges from your solicitor for any conveyancing work done so far but you aren’t bound to the house until those contracts have changed hands.

Both buyers and sellers can pull out of a house sale any time before contracts exchange but whatever side you’re on, it’s important to remain open with the other parties involved. Navigating a property chain can be difficult and stressful so the sooner the other party can rearrange and make back-up plans, the easier it makes the process.

What to do when a buyer pulls out of a house sale

  1. Don’t rush – Feeling increased time pressure could result in unnecessary monetary losses. It’s much more beneficial to hold out for a buyer a little longer before dropping the price below the value.
  2. Ask for proof of finances early – Before accepting an offer, make sure to ask for proof of finances like bank statements or an agreement in principle to avoid sales falling off.
  3. Ensure regular communication – Keeping in touch with buyers and their solicitors will help you spot the signs of a fall-through early and will help you plan your onward move.
  4. Communicate with your chain – As well as regular updates with your buyer, keeping in close contact with the other parties in your onward chain will help to manage their expectations and keep the process as stable as possible while you find a new buyer.
  5. Ask for a non-refundable deposit from future buyers – This could be a small deposit of a couple of hundred pounds to act as a holding fee, giving you added security and ensuring your buyer is serious about completing the purchase.
  6. Review pricing – While it’s not always necessary to reduce your asking price immediately, rising house prices could lead to over-valuing your property which could cause issues with your buyer’s lender.
  7. Search for more than one potential buyer – If another buyer isn’t willing to commit to a holding fee or you spot another sign of the sale falling through, continuing viewings will help keep interest in the property high should your plan A fall apart.
  8. Complete your own survey – Many property sales fall through because of something revealed in the survey. Carrying out your own survey can help you resolve issues and give prospective buyers a better understanding of the quality of the property.

Seller Pulls Out of House Sale

If you’re buying and the seller has pulled out before the exchange, this can leave you in trouble, especially if you’ve already found a buyer for your previous property. In this case, you will need to either pull out of your own sale or put a plan in place to find a new property to move into before the sale of your previous house can be completed.

A seller pulling out of a house sale can sometimes cause even more disruption than a buyer pulling out as the buyer will need to find a new property they want to live in. Sellers can pull out for a variety of reasons, including changes to their personal circumstances, gazumping or other market conditions.


Alternative to gazundering, gazumping is where a seller decides to accept another offer despite already accepting and starting the process with you, the buyer. When this happens, you may be able to increase your offer again to secure the house but this can lead to a significant increase in the value that could then result in problems securing the mortgage. 

If you’re part of a chain and you’re gazumped on a property you’ve put in an offer for, it can put you right back to square one and leave you in a difficult position with your own house. To insure against this, you might want to have some back-up properties in mind or an idea of what drew you to your chosen property that you can use to inform your search after the seller pulls out.

Can a seller pull out after accepting an offer?

Much like buyers, sellers have every right to pull out of the house sale process before contracts are exchanged. Whether this is for personal or economic reasons, this is often inescapable and will mean you’ll have to start looking for a new house to purchase. 

Some ways you can protect yourself against a buyer pulling out of a house sale:

  1. Have a conveyancing solicitor lined up already – knowing which solicitor you’ll work with after the offer has been made will help speed up the process and reduce the time it takes before contracts are exchanged.
  2. Ask to have the property taken off the market – Asking to stop the property from being advertised in addition to your offer will help the seller see that you are serious about the sale and will protect you from being gazumped.
  3. Consider a lock-in agreement – also known as a lock-out agreement, both parties put down a small, non-refundable deposit to confirm that the contracts will be exchanged. However, this agreement should include areas for flexibility, including in the case of problems identified during the survey.
  4. Get insurance – your finances may not be able to cover a collapsed sale, in which case it might be more cost-effective to insure yourself against the seller pulling out. 

Buyers and sellers face a range of challenges in securing the sales they’re looking for that can add up to a great deal more on their expected bills. 

If a buyer has pulled out of buying your house and you need a bridging loan for the short-term, or you need to sell your house fast to move on in the chain, get in touch with TIC Finance today.