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What does sale pending mean?

Real estate agent hanging sign outside house
Sollina Images/Getty Images
Real estate agent hanging sign outside house
Sollina Images/Getty Images

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You’ve spent months searching for the perfect home, and you think you may have finally found it. But when you hop online to do some additional research, the home’s status is listed as “sale pending.” Are you entirely out of luck? It doesn’t say “sold,” after all. Find out more about what “pending” means on a house for sale, and what your options are if you’re interested in it.

What does sale pending mean in real estate?

A pending sale in real estate simply means that the seller has received and accepted an offer on their home. However, the deal is not yet finalized — hence “pending” and not simply “sold.” If you’re interested in a pending property, your agent should consult with the seller’s agent to learn more about the status. You may still have a chance, though it is likely slim.

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.

Reasons a pending sale may come back on the market

It is possible, if not likely, for a pending sale to come back on the market. There are many reasons why this could happen: Below are some common reasons why real estate purchase transactions sometimes fall through.

Financing issues

It’s not unheard of for a buyer’s financing to fall through before closing on the loan. Many buyers will be preapproved for a mortgage when they make an offer on a home. However, the loan is not official until it goes through underwriting and the buyer’s assets, income and any other applicable information are verified. If issues arise during this process, the loan could be denied. Financing issues that prohibit the buyer from securing financing could also surface if there have been significant changes in a buyer’s credit rating, assets or income.

Many sale contracts include a mortgage contingency, specifying the day by which financing must be secured by the buyer. Failure to secure financing by that date would be a breach of the contract. Under these circumstances, the seller could choose to put the home back on the market.

Unfavorable home inspection

A buyer might choose to back out of a real estate deal if significant issues are uncovered during the home inspection. This is particularly true if an inspection contingency was included with the offer. For this to result in the home being relisted, a professionally licensed inspector would have to communicate that it needs significant repairs or upgrades, and the buyer would have to turn down the seller’s offer to remedy the problems (if applicable).

Short sale

This arrangement allows financially distressed homeowners to sell their homes for less than the amount they owe to their lender, to steer clear of foreclosure. But here’s the catch: A short sale can only happen with the lender’s permission. If the bank doesn’t agree to the offer price, the deal will fall through and the home will return to the market.

Buyer cancellation

Life happens, and deals sometimes just fall through. A buyer may be forced to relocate for work, for example, or may simply decide the home is no longer the best fit. While they may lose their earnest money deposit by walking away, it’s not impossible for a buyer to simply back out. In the rare instance that this does happen, the sale will no longer be pending and the home will likely return to the market.

What is the difference between pending and contingent?

A pending sale and a contingent sale are similar, but not the same thing. Both indicate that the seller has accepted an offer. But when a property is in contingent status, the seller is opting to keep the listing active, as there are contingencies the prospective buyer has yet to meet. When a home is in pending status, that indicates that the buyer has satisfied all contingencies and the sale should close shortly, assuming no other issues arise.

Bottom line

If your dream home is pending sale, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have no chance at making it yours. Chances aren’t good, but still, any number of things could go wrong that might send the home back on the market. Consult with your real estate agent if you have your heart set on a pending home — they can work with you to submit a backup offer or swoop in should the pending deal fall through.

Written by
Allison Martin
Allison Martin's work began over 10 years ago as a digital content strategist, and she’s since been published in several leading financial outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSN Money, MoneyTalksNews, Investopedia, Experian and Credit.com.
Edited by
Senior real estate editor