More than one in five homes on the market are available chain-free, according to a property website.
Rightmove’s analysis of its own website data found the percentage of chain-free homes available had jumped from 15% in mid-March 2020 to 21% in mid-March 2021.
The proportion of chain-free homes available had increased across Britain generally, but a particularly big shift was recorded in London, where there had been a jump from 12% a year ago to 21% now.
Rightmove said the chain-free trend was partly a sign of more people moving into rental homes to “try before they buy”, perhaps by testing out life in a more rural area without making a longer-term commitment.
Some landlords had also been selling up, pushing up the percentage of chain-free properties.
Rightmove suggested those who were selling up may also be trying to secure the best price for their home while the stamp duty holiday was in place.
Currently, nearly two out of three properties on an agent’s books were sold subject to contract, Rightmove said. But there were signs that the flow of new property listings had been starting to improve over the past few weeks.
Rightmove’s director of property data Tim Bannister said: “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.”
Guy Gittins, chief executive of estate agent 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, from Strutt & Parker in Exeter, said: “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.”
Here are the percentages of chain-free homes now compared with a year ago, according to Rightmove:
– East Midlands, 24%, 19%
– East of England, 23%, 18%
– London, 21%, 12%
– North East, 20%, 15%
– North West, 23%, 18%
– Scotland, 2%, 1%
– South East, 22%, 14%
– South West, 20%, 15%
– Wales, 21%, 16%
– West Midlands, 24%, 18%
– Yorkshire and the Humber, 21%, 17%