Skip to Content

Jump in chain-free homes as owners sell up and rent in short-term

  • One in five (21%) available properties on Rightmove are now chain-free, a jump from around one in six (15%) this time last year as sellers look to take advantage of record buyer demand
  • The percentage of chain-free homes available is up in all regions and the biggest shift is in London, jumping from 12% of homes this time last year to 21% now
  • The shift is a sign of more people moving into renting so they are in prime position when they  find a suitable home to buy or to try out a new location, along with some landlords selling up
  • Nationally, rental demand is 41% higher in February than in the same month last year
  • In February the number of buyers searching for ‘no chain’ in Rightmove’s keyword sort tool was 72% higher than in February 2020 as they rush to make use of the stamp duty savings

There are signs more home-owners are selling up and moving into rental properties so they are in a stronger buying position when their dream home comes up for sale. Compared to last year there has been an increase from 15% to 21% in the proportion of available properties up for sale on Rightmove that are chain-free.

The shift is most marked in London where the percentage of chain-free homes has jumped from 12% this time last year to 21% now. There is corresponding strong growth in rental demand of over 40% in the neighbouring regions of the South East and South West as some people choose to sell up and rent outside of the capital for now. There are also some landlords selling up in the capital due to falling rents.

Those who are selling up may also be taking advantage of securing the best price for their home while the stamp duty holiday is in place as an incentive for their buyers, and others who have chosen to move out of a city may be planning to rent first to make sure country life is definitely for them. Those staying in London may also be looking to make use of the double digit declines in rents in some areas until they find somewhere to buy.

The strongest sellers’ market in a decade means that currently almost two out of three properties on an agents’ books are sold subject to contract. There are signs however that new listings have been starting to improve over the past few weeks.

Rightmove’s Director of Property Data Tim Bannister says: “We know that one of the reasons sellers are often hesitant to come to market is because they can’t find somewhere that they want to buy, but with record buyer demand and the stamp duty holiday being an added incentive for prospective buyers there seems to be a group of people who are choosing to sell up now and rent temporarily. The flexibility of renting gives people the chance to ‘try before you buy’ in a new area and so those who have chosen to move to the countryside may be selling their house chain-free to then rent and take time to decide if the good life is definitely for them. Selling chain-free is perhaps something some owners hadn’t considered as a possibility before now, but with the competitive market and stock shortage we currently have they’re trying to put themselves in a more attractive position when their dream home comes along. In the capital there are also some landlords who are selling up now, which could open up an opportunity for some first-time buyers looking for their first home.”

Agents’ views

Guy Gittins, CEO of Chestertons, said: “Over the past year there has certainly been a marked increase in the number of people that are selling without an onward purchase through our London offices. One of the most common reasons is that the family house market is incredibly competitive in London and many sellers are willing to break the chain in order to become chain-free buyers and place themselves in the best position to secure a property when the right one comes up. With many people now working from home, these sorts of buyers have more flexibility in where they live in the short-term, and many are choosing to move back with family temporarily, or even moving further out of London for the short-term. There are a number of other reasons as well, including a number of landlords selling their buy-to-let investments due to falling rents, second home owners deciding to cash in on some of the additional value that has built up in their property, and sellers making their property more attractive to buyers who want to meet the stamp duty holiday deadline.”

Oliver Custance Baker, Strutt & Parker Exeter, said: “This is definitely something that we’ve seen particularly as current stock levels aren’t quite meeting levels of buyer demand. In the Tiverton area we have numerous buyers who are sitting in rented accommodation, not only so they can try out the area and the lifestyle on offer, but to make sure that they’re first in the door when something that ticks their required boxes comes onto the market.”


Region % of chain-free homes 2021 % of chain-free homes 2020 Annual change in rental demand
East Midlands 24% 19% +60%
East of England 23% 18% +50%
London 21% 12% +22%
North East 20% 15% +47%
North West 23% 18% +45%
Scotland 2% 1% +21%
South East 22% 14% +41%
South West 20% 15% +40%
Wales 21% 16% +56%
West Midlands 24% 18% +61%
Yorkshire & The Humber 21% 17% +48%
Great Britain 21% 15% +41%

The time period measuring chain-free properties was 18th March 2021 versus 18th March 2020.