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What Does Pending Mean In Real Estate?

April 18, 2024 6-minute read

Author: Jamie Johnson

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If you’re looking to buy a new home and have your eye on your dream house, it can be a huge disappointment to see the property listed as “pending.” When a house is listed as pending for sale, it can mean it’s no longer available for purchase.

We'll explain what pending means in real estate and why it doesn’t necessarily mean the sale is a done deal.

What Does It Mean When A House Is Pending?

A pending sale means a seller has accepted a buyer’s offer. Compare this to a contingent sale, which means the seller has accepted an offer with contingencies to resolve before finalizing the purchase. When a property is pending, it usually means the contingencies are satisfied, the contract is signed and both parties are ready to move to the final stages of the escrow process.

Even though the sale is almost complete, the house hasn’t been sold yet. A motivated buyer who’s interested in a real estate listing with a pending status can put in a bid on the home. But it’s unlikely that the seller will be able to consider your offer unless the other sale falls through.

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Why Are Homes Listed As Pending?

Once a property is on the market, a listing agent will add a property listing to the multiple listing service (MLS), a database of all the properties currently for sale in a geographical area. When a house is for sale, it has an “active” status. As it moves through the home buying process, the status can update to “contingent,” “pending,” “canceled” or “sold.”

When a property is marked “pending,” that usually indicates a successful resolution of the conditions on the contingent property. The “contingent” listing status will transition to “pending,” and the sale will move toward closing.

Homes listed as “pending” are under contract – but haven’t sold yet. There’s always a slight chance the sale could fall apart if, for example, a buyer’s financing gets denied.

Why Might A Pending Sale Fall Through?

A pending sale can fall through for many reasons, including:

  • Can’t secure financing: The sale can’t proceed if the buyer’s loan application is denied, and they can’t secure financing.

  • Home inspection issues: If an inspection reveals unexpected structural problems, the buyer and seller will likely renegotiate the home price. If they can’t agree on a new price, the sale may fall apart if the buyer exercises their home inspection contingency.

  • Short sale issues: With a short sale, a homeowner lists their property for sale to avoid foreclosure. The lender gets to approve who can buy the home. The seller will need to relist the property if the buyer doesn’t meet the lender’s requirements.

  • Buyer’s remorse: It’s not uncommon for a buyer in fast-paced real estate markets to make an offer quickly, only to regret it later. And sometimes, a buyer’s priorities can change after an unexpected event or crisis, changing their minds on the purchase.

  • Low appraisal: If the home appraisal comes in lower than the purchase price, the buyer may need to pay more upfront for the home to make up the difference and close the cost gap.

  • Title issues: If a home has competing ownership claims or creditor liens on the property, it may become a financial and legal headache. That’s why buyers should strongly consider ordering a title search and getting title insurance before buying.

New buyers should ask why a pending offer fell apart. If the reason is that the buyer couldn’t secure financing or they decided to move to another state – their “loss” could become your gain.

If the issue was that the appraisal came in low or the seller needs to sell their home for less than they owe on their mortgage to settle with a lender, it may motivate the seller to lower the price – which could be to your advantage.

If the deal falls apart over major structural issues in the home, it can be a sign that your dream house could become a financial nightmare.

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What’s The Difference Between Contingent Vs. Pending Offers?

You’ll likely come across properties listed as contingent. And there is a difference between contingent and pending in real estate.

When a property is listed as contingent, it means a seller has accepted a contingent offer, but the sale depends on certain conditions being met before it’s finalized. The seller can keep the property listed in case the conditions aren’t satisfied, and the sale falls through.

For example, the home inspection contingency may be triggered if the seller refuses to make the necessary repairs identified in the inspection report. In another scenario, the buyer may need to exercise the appraisal contingency because the property received a lower appraisal. Either scenario can cause a sale to fall through.

When a property is listed as pending, that means all contingencies have been satisfied, and the buyer is preparing to close on the property.

Motivated buyers have a better chance of purchasing a property listed as contingent than a pending home sale.

Can You Make An Offer On A Pending House?

While it doesn’t hurt to ask the seller’s real estate agent or REALTOR® if you can submit a backup offer, in most situations, you can’t submit an offer once a home is pending because many buyers’ contracts don’t include a kick-out clause. So most sellers can’t continue to show the home or accept offers.

If the seller can accept a backup offer, you can use it to hold your place as a possible buyer for the home. If the initial deal falls through, the seller can sign a contract with you, and the house will be yours to buy. Backup offers can be beneficial in bidding wars and pending sales, but they don’t guarantee a chance to buy the home.

If the original buyer was serious enough to submit an offer and sign a contract, it’s unlikely the deal won’t make it to the closing table. But if you don’t want to miss even the slightest chance at buying the home, there are steps you can take to put an offer on a pending house.

How To Make An Offer On A Pending House

Here are three steps you can take to make an offer on a pending real estate transaction:

1. Contact The Listing Agent

First, have your real estate agent find out whether the seller is taking offers while the sale is pending and whether there is a kick-out clause in the buyer’s sales contract.

2. Draft Your Offer

Once the listing agent confirms the seller is taking offers, you can draft an offer on the house. You likely won’t hear anything back if the deal goes through with the initial buyer. If the deal falls through, the listing agent will likely contact you.

3. Prepare Your Financing

It’s important to get initial approval for a mortgage before putting in an offer on a pending house. Initial approval shows the seller you’re a serious buyer and have conditional backing from a lender to purchase the home. Including an approval letter may help set your offer apart from other offers the seller receives.

You can go a step beyond initial approval and get a Verified Approval Letter (VAL)1, which can be a sign to sellers that your finances and credit have been extensively vetted and examined. An offer from a buyer who has undergone a higher level of financial scrutiny can be attractive to a seller who just watched their home sale fall apart.

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Pending Real Estate FAQs

Read through the following questions and answers to dive deeper into everything that goes along with a pending status.

Can a real estate agent show a pending home?

A pending status means a home sale isn’t complete. So, in theory, you could still visit the property. But if the seller signed a contract without a kick-out clause, they won’t be able to show the house or accept offers. Most agents discourage buyers from viewing a pending house since it can be a waste of time.

How long is a home sale pending?

How long a home is listed as pending depends on the buyer and the seller. There are no hard and fast rules. Homes are usually listed as pending for 30 – 60 days. A cash buyer may close on the house much sooner.

When should I put in an offer on a pending home?

The sooner you can get your offer in, the better. It’s more likely that a purchase offer will fall through earlier on in the process when a buyer or seller is most likely to take advantage of an existing contingency to back out of the contract.

The Bottom Line

It can be disappointing to finally find a home you love and discover that it’s “pending.” But a pending sale isn’t a final sale. There’s a slim chance the pending offer could fall through, and you could buy the home.

If you’re just starting out in your home buying journey, it’s a good idea to start the approval process today. To help ensure a smooth closing process, get your financial affairs in order and secure a mortgage that fits your budget well beforehand. This way, when your dream home is “pending,” you’ll be ready.

 

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Jamie Johnson

Jamie Johnson is a Kansas City-based freelance writer who writes about a variety of personal finance topics, including loans, building credit, and paying down debt. She currently writes for clients like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Insider, and Bankrate.