Step 1

Drive past the house, if possible, and check the sign in the front yard. Look for a “sale pending” rider attached to the sign. You might also see “under contract” or “contract pending.” These riders all mean that the seller has received an offer that’s pending on the house.


Just how often are homes in a “pending” stage?

Like anything in real estate, pending sales are variable based on a number of factors. Competitive market conditions can influence the likelihood of a pending sale – as can time of year, or region. According to data collected by the National Association of Realtors, pending sales are most common in the American South, and least common in the American Northeast. 

Have your eye on a specific home that’s pending? Reach out to our team of qualified local agents and they can answer your questions, put together a backup offer (if they’re being accepted), or find another home that’s an even better fit for you.

Can you make an offer on a house that is pending?

In short, yes. But it may not be worthwhile. A pending deal is not set in stone, but it’s not exactly open for discussion either. Unless the pending deal falls through, you can’t simply win over the seller by offering more money or waiving certain contingencies. In fact, most sellers are contractually obligated to honor the current offer, even if a higher bid comes in.

Still, if you’re really interested in the home and counting on the current deal to fall through, you do have the option to submit a backup offer. Be sure to consult with your real estate agent for advice on the best way to move forward in this situation.

Find out the propertys status

Has the buyer had the inspections? Did they go well? Were there any issues? Have your agent ask the listing agent these questions to understand the current deal on the table.

Doing so will help you understand whether there’s a potential opportunity here. It will also give the seller some leverage.

Don’t get your hopes up when the home of your dreams shows “sale pending.” Instead, put the home on the back burner and follow the sale. In changing markets, buyers get cold feet, or banks’ lending standards get more rigid, causing deals to fall apart.

A smart agent will make his or her customer’s interest known, so that if a deal falls apart, the buyer is right there, ready to step in.

Other Lien Issues 

It might be discovered at the penultimate moment that the seller can't legally transfer the property to the buyer—at least not without satisfying liens against it ahead of time or at closing.

A seller might not be willing to do this. The lien in question might be astronomical so he would have little money left to establish himself in a new home if it's paid from the sale proceeds. 

Typical liens include those for unpaid property taxes and other debts, but they might involve something else entirely. Perhaps there's another party on the deed—maybe an ex-spouse—who isn't willing to sign off on a title. The sale can't go through unless and until that lien or encumbrance is removed.  

What’s The Difference Between Contingent And Pending Offers?

One of the things you’ll occasionally come across is that a property is listed as contingent. There is a difference between contingent and pending offers in real estate.

A property that’s listed as contingent means that the seller has accepted the offer but is choosing to keep the property listed in case certain conditions aren’t met. For instance, the home inspection or appraisal could cause the sale to fall through.

Whereas if the property is listed as pending, that means those contingencies have already been met, and the buyer is preparing to close on the property. So, you have a better chance of purchasing a property that’s listed as contingent than a pending home sale. 

Low Appraisals

Lenders almost always ask buyers to pay for appraisals to protect their position when and if they ultimately end up financing the home. Sometimes appraisals come in at less than the sales price.

Buyers have a few options when this occurs. The buyer can pay the difference in cash or order another appraisal from a new professional. He can supply the underwriter with comparable sales that support the sales price. He may also give the seller a second mortgage for the difference.

A buyer might ask the seller to reduce the price so it’s more in line with the appraisal. But the pending sale will fall apart if the parties can’t agree to work out one of these solutions.

Always ask a real estate agent to provide you with comparable sales before you write a purchase contract. This will allow you to keep your offer in line with recent sales. You might also want to hire a strong negotiator to get your offer accepted at this lower price.

The Bottom Line: Pending Purchases Aren’t Final

When you find a home you love only to see it’s listed as pending, this can be very disappointing. But a pending sale is not the same thing as a final sale. The pending offer could still fall through, and there’s a chance you could buy that home.

If you’re just starting the home buying process, the best thing you can do is to start the mortgage process today. Get your financial affairs in order and get preapproved for a mortgage. That way, when you reach the pending process on your dream home, you’ll ensure the process goes smoothly.

Pending Sale FAQs

Real estate transactions involve numerous steps, and at times it can feel excruciating waiting on each part of the process. Read through the the following questions and answers to learn more about the process of a pending sale.

What Is The Difference Between Sale Pending And Contingent?

The difference between a sale pending and contingent sale is that a sale pending is in the process of closing, while a contingent sale has to meet a few conditions before closing. To fully understand the difference, you must first exhibit at least some familiarity with the concept of a contingency. Essentially, a contingency is the best way to back out of a deal if unforeseen circumstances arise. In other words, contingencies are a safety net for those that know how to use them properly.

However, in their simplest form, contingencies are predetermined criteria that must be met for a sale to proceed. If, for example, a sale is contingent on the home passing inspection, the escrow will note as much. The only way to move forward will be for the home to pass the impending inspection. And therein lies the meaning of a sale pending with contingencies: the only way for things to move forward is for all the criteria of each contingency to be met and signed off on by each party involved in the transaction. It’s not hard to understand how a contingency could delay a closing or keep a sale pending.

As I already alluded to, a pending sale is nothing more than a home in the selling process. That said, there are several reasons the pending process can be extended, not the least of which may be contingencies. You see, it’s entirely possible for the contingencies laid out in escrow to maintain the pending status of a home sale. To be clear, a sale pending with a contingency is essentially stuck in a holding pattern until the contingency criteria have been met.

Can You Put An Offer On A House That Is Pending?

You can make an offer on a home that is a pending sale. As I said before, pending sales are in no way final. While they are essentially in the closing process’s final stages, there is still plenty of room for things to go wrong. Financing can fall through, contingencies can go unmet, and many things can impede a home’s sale. That said, some sellers will welcome additional offers, even while their property is currently pending a sale. It is quite common for listing agents to “label a home with some contingency as ‘active with conditions’ or ‘active continue to show,’ letting other buyers and agents know that the seller will still entertain other offers,” according to Zillow.

If a seller is entertaining subsequent offers during a pending sale, there is no reason an interested buyer can’t submit an offer. Just know one thing: sale pending vs. under contract mean two different things. Getting a property under contract means the seller has accepted an offer; pending sales are a few steps ahead. If a seller is under contract, they won’t be able to enter into another; however, they may be interested in hearing other offers if the first plan falls through.

You may submit an offer on a home that is already pending a sale, but you won’t be able to go into contract with the seller while they are already in contract with another buyer. All your offer will do is place you next in line in the event the original deal falls through.

How Long Does A Pending Sale Take?

A pending sale may take anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks. The window for a home pending is not set in stone but rather contingent, well, contingencies. That means there is no universal timeline, only a window. For the most part, however, real estate pending sales will last somewhere in the neighborhood of a week or so.

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Can A Pending Sale Fall Through? (And Why)

Pending sales can and do fall through. For any number of reasons, a pending sale may not be seen to completion. Here are a few situations that may cause a sale to fall through:

  • Contingencies: As we have already discussed, contingencies may prevent a sale from transpiring. For example, savvy buyers may remove themselves from a deal if the home doesn’t pass inspection — that is, if there was an inspection contingency included at escrow. Each contingency in the final contract represents an opportunity for a pending sale to fall through.

  • Buyer’s Remorse: In rare cases, pending sales may fall through because the buyer decided to walk away. Buyers can remove themselves from a pending sale for many reasons; it’s not common, but it happens. At this point, buyers typically have some skin in the game in the form of an earnest money deposit. They can exit the pending sale, but they will have to forfeit this initial payment.

  • Mortgage Trouble: The most common reason buyers will leave a pending sale is if there is a problem with their mortgage application. If a buyer obtains a pre-approval letter and makes an offer on a house, they can still be denied when it comes time to granting the loan. This does not happen randomly and is usually the result of a job loss or an increase in debt.

  • Short Sale Failure: A short sale is typically utilized by homeowners attempting to avoid foreclosure. Homeowners can sell the property and transfer the funds to the lender to remove their outstanding debt. In some cases, the lender may intervene by rejecting the final selling price. This usually happens if the lender believes the price to be too low, and would end the pending sale by placing the property back on the market.

Again, a pending sale represents a home in the process of selling; it’s by no means final. A home appraisal could be lower than expected, or a buyer could get caught in a deal selling their existing property. Several things can go wrong on either end of a deal. Get familiar with the transaction process to make sure pending sales don’t go astray for you.

Why Would A Pending Sale Go Back On Market?

A pending sale can go back on the market if the buyer backs out or the contingencies are not met in time. While this does not necessarily mean anything is wrong with the property, many potential buyers approach “back on market” properties with caution. In some cases, properties are re-listed if they fail the home inspection, causing buyers to be hesitant about back on market properties as a whole. In competitive markets, however, a back on market property will often have no trouble garnering attention. If you are a seller hoping to avoid re-listing your property, pay attention to the details when you receive an offer on a property. Why is the buyer looking to move? What clauses are included in the offer? Weigh your options carefully, and you can hopefully avoid the hassle of a pending sale going back on the market.

Can A Realtor Show A House That Is Pending?

Can A Realtor Show A House That Is Pending?

Realtors can continue to show a house that is pending. As I mentioned above, a pending sale is not final, and therefore sellers may be interested in courting backup offers. If this is the case, sellers will allow the Realtor or real estate agent to show the property during closing. Due to the many reasons a pending sale can fall through, it is not uncommon for sellers to continue to show the property. This can help attract alternative offers in the event of a problem, though the seller will not act if they are under contract.

How To Secure A “Sale Pending Home”

If you are a home buyer looking to secure a sale pending home, there are several things you can do. First, by researching the ins and outs of a pending sale, you have already completed step one in the process. Familiarizing yourself with the overall process will help make sure you are equipped to deal with any competition or obstacles that might be in your way. Here are a few tips as you aim to secure a pending sale home:

  • Organize Your Finances: A strong offer means nothing if you are unable to back it up at the time of closing. Be sure to get pre-approved for a loan and gather your down payment before going into a pending sale. This will make sure the funds are available when you need them.

  • Sell Your Existing Property: If your current residence is going to stop you from purchasing a new property, be proactive and get it on the market. Many buyers will back out if they are unable to sell their previous homes. Make sure this does not happen to you by working with an experienced real estate agent and listing your property at the right time.

  • Consider Negotiating: Sellers who are operating in an existing market may be on the receiving end of more than one offer. You need to make sure your offer is competitive to ensure you are the one they stick with. Consider being flexible about move-in dates, closing costs, and more to make your offer stand out.

  • Add A Personal Note: A personal touch can make an offer stand out in the mind of any seller. Write a quick letter to the seller outlining why you want to purchase that specific property. More often than not, they will be moved by the thought of your gesture. If everything goes to plan, you will stand out in the seller’s mind when it comes time to make a decision.

  • Be Communicative: Always respond to communications from your real estate agent and seller to ensure everything is on track. This means regularly checking your email and being responsive to phone calls or texts. Being available will demonstrate your interest and create a positive impression in the mind of the seller.

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