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What Does ‘Pending’ Mean In Real Estate?

Miranda Crace8-minute read
November 04, 2021

Seeing your dream home listed as “pending” can be crushing. But don’t give up hope yet – “pending” doesn’t mean the same thing as “sold.” Real estate websites display listings as pending as soon as a seller accepts an offer on a home. However, there are a few ways that you can swoop in and claim the property.

In this article, we’ll reveal what pending means in real estate. We’ll also give you a few tips to increase your chances of getting a pending home.

What Does Pending Mean On A House?

In real estate, sale pending (or “offer pending”) means that a buyer submitted an offer on a house and the seller has accepted. You should always double check with the seller’s agent, however, as a home could be marked pending for a variety of reasons or contingencies.

For example, even if the home is basically sold, it could remain under a pending status if the deed and title haven’t passed on yet.

Can You Still Buy A Home If It’s Pending?

Buying a home with a pending sale is difficult – but not impossible. Most offer letters include clauses stating that the home seller can’t cancel the sale if a higher offer comes in. This means that you can’t simply bump the current buyer out by offering more money. The buyer will need to cancel the sale first before the seller can consider your offer.

If you do have serious interest in a pending home, you can submit a backup offer for consideration in case the pending offer falls through. However, most real estate agents will not recommend this course of action as it’s unlikely to pan out in your favor.

Can An Agent Still Show A Home If It’s Pending?

Until all the paperwork closes, a pending home is technically still on the market. Many real estate agents will still allow you to see a home, even if it has a pending offer, but this depends largely on the wishes of the seller.

If the seller is confident in the pending offer, they may not want to allow any more showings. Your agent can get in contact with the seller’s agent and see if you can still schedule a showing.

What Is The Difference Between Pending And Under Contract?

A home under contract means that the seller has accepted a formal offer on a home, but the sale isn’t close to completion due to unmet contingency requirements. It simply means that the seller has communicated that they are willing to accept the buyer’s offer.

The deal may be in the early stages but will continue to the pending stage if all contingencies go through. A pending property is closer to closing than a property under contract. Because the house has yet to pass through contingencies, you’re more likely to be able to buy a home listed under contract than one that’s pending.

Can A Pending Home Sale Fall Through?

There are a few reasons why a buyer might cancel a home sale.

An Unsatisfactory Inspection

An unsatisfactory home inspection can cause a pending sale to fall through. But what is an inspection and why is it such a big deal? During a home inspection, a real estate expert takes a tour of the home and records everything that needs a repair or a replacement. At the end of the inspection, the inspector gives the results to both the buyer and the seller.

Most offer letters include a clause that allows the buyer to cancel the sale if the inspection reveals something seriously wrong with the home. However, before the buyer backs out of the sale, they might give the homeowner a chance to rectify the issue.

For example, the buyer might ask the seller to fix a broken heating system or offer an extra discount. If the seller and the buyer can’t reach an agreement, the buyer can cancel the sale. In this instance, the home’s pending status will go away and the home will show up on real estate databases – such as the Multiple Listing Service – as “for sale” once again.

Failure To Find A Mortgage

The majority of buyers use a mortgage to purchase a home. If a buyer can’t get a mortgage, they will need to cancel the sale, unless they’re buying in cash.

There are plenty of reasons why a buyer might not be able to get a mortgage. Any of these circumstances can lead to sale cancellation:

  • The buyer might run into a financial emergency and may need to drain their down payment fund.
  • In verifying the buyer’s income and assets, the mortgage lender could discover inaccuracies that could change the amount a buyer is approved for.
  • Finally, if the lender believes that the buyer is trying to use a loan for his or her down payment, they will pull their funding offer.

Short Sale Failure

A short sale is a special circumstance in which the seller agrees to sell their home to avoid falling into foreclosure. The bank agrees to accept less money than the homeowner owes under the condition that they sell the property.

After the homeowner sells the property, they transfer the entirety of the sale price to the lender. In exchange, the lender wipes away the seller’s debt.

The lender must approve the home’s final selling price. However, the home will usually show up as pending as soon as the seller accepts an offer. If the lender vetoes the sale and demands the seller put it back on the market, you can swoop in and buy it.

Buyer’s Remorse

Buyers sometimes simply have a change of heart and decide that they don’t want a particular home anymore. The buyer might have experienced a change in his or her life that forces them to cancel the sale.

For example, let’s say a buyer gets relocated for a job. They may need to cancel the sale and find a home in their new city. This is a rare circumstance, but it can happen.

Do Your Research

Buying a home that’s pending isn’t an easy task. You need to be 100% sure that the home you’re bidding on is the home you want before you make an offer.

Remember that if a home’s status is pending, it means that it already has at least one serious offer. You’ll need to be active and aggressive if you want a chance to buy the home.

One great way to learn more about a pending property is to contact the listing agent. A listing agent represents the homeowner during a sale. The listing agent’s job is to sell the homeowner’s property for as much money as possible and to make sure that an offer goes through. If a pending sale doesn’t work out, it’s important that the listing agent knows who you are.

Ask your real estate agent or REALTOR® to get in touch with the home’s listing agent. Your real estate agent can gain a little more insight on the condition of the home and whether it’s likely to go back on the market.

Try to gain more information about how many offers the home had on the table and how eager the seller is to close the deal. This information will come in handy if the buyer decides to cancel the sale.

How To Put In An Offer On A Pending Home

Putting in an offer on a pending home is a bit different from putting in an offer on a home that has no offers. Here are the steps you can take:

1. Be Sure This Is The Home You Want

Remember that if a pending sale falls through, there could be something wrong with the home. Depending on the wishes of the seller, you might not be able to see the home before you make an offer. Explore other housing options in your area and be sure that this is the home you want before you make an offer.

2. Get On The Listing Agent’s Radar

Ask your real estate agent to get in contact with the seller’s listing agent. Your agent may be able to learn more about parts of the contract that the seller disagrees with and any problems with the sale. Your agent can also express your interest to the listing agent, which is crucial if you want to be next in line to buy the home.

3. Get Preapproved

Before you submit an offer on any home, you should get a mortgage preapproval. A preapproval is different from a prequalification. To get preapproved, you need to submit information on your finances and assets.

This usually isn’t required for a prequalification. Preapproval letters are much stronger than prequalification letters, so be sure you’re getting a full preapproval.

4. Submit A Backup Offer

Your agent can help you submit a backup offer for the seller to consider if the current pending sale falls through. Remember that the home already has at least one serious offer on the table, so you’ll need to be aggressive.

Consider offering more money or including fewer contingencies in your offer for the best chance of acceptance. Your real estate agent can use the information they learned from the listing agent to help you create the strongest offer possible.

Your backup offer needs to be particularly strong if you want a chance to buy your dream home. Here are a couple tips you can use to make your offer as appealing as possible:

  • Include strong financial backing: If a home’s sale falls through due to a lack of funding, the seller will want to know that the next buyer has the necessary funds. Include a copy of your mortgage preapproval and an earnest money deposit to improve your chances.
  • Stay visible: Have your agent stay in touch with the listing agent. If the pending sale falls through, the listing agent needs to know that you’re still interested.

The Seller And Buyer’s Role In A Pending Sale

The Seller’s Role

What if you’re the seller and your home is pending on the market? All you need to do is wait. Only the buyer can legally cancel the sale with no cause – you’re locked into the sale as soon as you accept the offer. Most pending sales do proceed to closing without issue but there’s always the possibility that a problem will arise. You may want to continue showing your home and accepting backup offers on the off-chance that something does happen.

The Buyer’s Role

The pending stage is your last chance to cancel the home sale as the buyer. You need to use this period to make sure that the home you’ve made an offer on is the one you want to commit to.

Schedule an inspection, clear the home’s title and look for outstanding issues that might be cause for concern. Your real estate agent and mortgage company can help you complete your sale and funding and move you toward closing.

The Bottom Line: A Pending Home Sale Doesn’t Mean The Home Is Off The Market

When a home is pending, it means that the seller has accepted an offer from a buyer. Though most pending home sales go to closing, a deal can still fall through if the seller can’t get funding, changes their mind about the sale or finds a problem with the home. “Pending” doesn’t mean the same thing as “sold,” so there’s still a chance that you can swoop in and take the home.

You can usually still submit a backup offer on a home that’s pending, but you may not be able to view the property. If you decide to submit an offer, make sure that your finances are in order and stay in touch with the home’s listing agent before applying for a mortgage.

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Miranda Crace

The Rocket Homes blog is here to bring you all you need to know about buying, selling and making the most of your home. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a homeowner, selling your current home or looking to keep your place in tip-top shape, our writers and freelancers bring their experience and expertise to meet you right where you are.