An easy way to beat the chain

For a fast and hassle-free way to sell a property, increasing numbers of owners are turning to a chain-break service
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The Independent Online

Are you still waiting for a buyer to snap up your family home after months of delays, dithering and indecision, or does relocation to another part of the UK or overseas beckon? Whatever the situation, most of us would like a swift, and hopefully painless, sale. Sometimes, as we all know, it just doesn't happen like that. You may be part of a property chain where a key link has broken. Or you could live in an area where all the buyers opt for the glossy, neo-Georgian houses at the other end of town instead of yours. But all is not lost. A company called PXS can now step in and sort it all out.

When her husband died, Irene Foxley from Flint in north Wales wanted to move to an apartment to be near her only son. Though she planned a quick sale, she didn't want the usual hassle of agents, viewings and long, drawn-out exchanges. So she contacted PXS, which handles property part-exchanges and chain-breaks, to help her out.

The company, which is owned by the residential property group Asset Trust, arranged for two valuations of Mrs Foxley's home, a two-bedroom bungalow, and then bought it from her for slightly more than £130,000. Suddenly Mrs Foxley had the freedom to find the apartment she wanted. It took her only two weeks, she made an offer, and it was accepted. Now she faced a two-to three-week wait while the sale went through and contracts were exchanged and completed.

And, as anyone who has bought a new home before selling their old one knows, this usually involves a spell in a hotel, B&B or with friends. But the beauty of PXS is it allows you to stay in your home until you move. So a happy Mrs Foxley did just that.

"As my husband had just died, I didn't want to get too involved in all the paperwork and decision-making of selling, so getting a company to do it for me made it much easier and saved me a lot of stress," she says. PXS, meanwhile, put Mrs Foxley's bungalow on the market and agreed a sale a month later. As the price was higher than it paid for the bungalow, the company will give much of the profit back to Mrs Foxley, which she can spend on her modern, one-bedroom flat in Upton, near Chester.

Far from being a group of high-flying property speculators who buy and sell properties with ever-widening margins, however, PXS does not technically buy the properties it is offered. It holds them in trust until they are sold. It means the company does not have to pay stamp duty, either.

Chief operating officer John Parker says: "We are facilitators and problem-solvers. People often come to us because they are desperate, need to sell very quickly or find the 'For Sale' signs have been up for two or three months and they have little prospect of selling. Though owners sell their properties to us at around 10 to 15 per cent below market value, they do not have to pay estate agent's fees and, if we sell at a good profit, recoup much of their loss as well."

PXS has handled 250 homes in the past 12 months. It does not charge a fee, but takes about 13 per cent of any profit it makes when it sells a house or flat. Its clients, meanwhile, get a 60 to 70 per cent share of the profits while the rest goes on costs. "Because we are dealing with narrow margins we sometimes make mistakes and end up selling at a loss, but we like to think we are getting it right and have an 80 per cent success rate," says Parker.

The company's fastest sale took little more than 24 hours. A Portsmouth owner had bought a new house and wanted to sell his old one as soon as possible. He contacted PXS soon after lunch-time one day. To his surprise and pleasure, it was sold by tea-time the next.

One antique dealer even managed to do a double-whammy after speaking to PXS. He got the company to take over and sell his three-storey townhouse on the south coast and then bought a house it was holding in trust.

Richard Donnell, head of residential research at FPD Savills, says: "Getting a company to sell your home is a very good idea, particularly for owners at the bottom of the property ladder, many of whom are finding it very difficult to get a deal with the shrinking number of young or first-time buyers over the past six months.

"It's also invaluable for 'need' buyers in long property chains who have to move for family reasons or to be near good schools - even if it means accepting a lower price for your former home- or chains with one or two 'aspirational' buyers [owners striving to improve their lot] that sometimes suffer a broken link or two. It won't be long before several more companies like PXS start up."