Pending sale sign in front of a house.

What Does 'Pending' Mean In Real Estate?

May 22, 2023 6-minute read

Author: Jamie Johnson


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

In this article, we’ll explain what pending means in real estate and why it doesn’t necessarily mean the sale is final.

What Does ‘Pending’ Mean On A House?

A pending sale means that a seller has accepted a buyer’s offer. Unlike a contingent status, which means the seller has accepted an offer but must still meet some requirements, pending usually signifies that the contingencies have been worked out, the contract has been signed, and all that is left is to move through the final stages of escrow.

However, even though the sale is almost complete, the house hasn’t officially sold yet. If the real estate listing has a pending status, it’s still possible for you to put in a bid on the home yourself. But keep in mind: It’s unlikely that the seller will be able to seriously consider your offer unless the other sale falls through.

Typically, when a seller accepts an offer from a potential buyer, they sign a contract stating that they can’t cancel the purchase agreement if a better offer comes through. While you can submit an offer in some cases, it could be a waste of time and energy.

On the other hand, you never know when this gamble could pay off. If you're considering making an offer on a pending house, chances are that you're looking at a competitive market or that you’ve found your dream house. Either way, you'll want to make sure your offer is attractive on the off-chance the pending sale falls through and the seller must turn to their backup offers.

Before making any offer, ensure you’ve started the mortgage approval process. By going a step beyond initial approval and getting Verified Approval, you’ll be able to show you’ve already undergone above-average vetting. This higher level of financial scrutiny could be very appealing to a seller who has just had their home sale fall through.

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Why Are Homes Listed As Pending?

Once a property is put on the market, the listing agent will create an entry on the multiple listing service (MLS), which is a database that contains all the properties currently for sale in a geographical area. When the current homeowner lists the house, it will have an “active” status, and as it moves through the home buying process, it may be updated to “contingent,” “pending,” “canceled” or “sold.”

If a property is marked pending, the provisions on a contingent property were successfully met, and the sale is being processed. Eventually, a “contingent” listing status will move to “pending,” which means the issues have been resolved, and the deal is almost done.

Homes are listed as pending because even though they are under contract, they haven’t sold yet. There’s always a chance the sale could fall through – for instance, if the buyer’s financing was declined.

Can You Make An Offer On A Pending House?

In most situations, you won’t be able to submit an offer once the home is pending. That’s because many buyers’ contracts don’t include a kick-out clause, which means the seller can’t continue to show the home or accept offers. Though, it doesn’t hurt to ask the buyer’s real estate agent or REALTOR® if you can submit a backup offer.

If the seller can accept a backup offer, you can use it to hold your place as a secondary 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 for pending sales, but they don’t ensure that you’ll have a chance to buy the home if the primary deal is finalized.

Unfortunately, if the previous buyer was serious enough to put in an offer and the seller accepts it and signs a contract, it’s unlikely the deal will be canceled. But if you’re really hoping to buy the home, there’s a way you can put in 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 if the seller is still accepting offers while the sale is pending and if they included a kick-out clause in the sales contract.
  2. Draft up your offer: Assuming the listing agent is still accepting offers, you can draft up your offer on the house. If the deal goes through, you likely won’t hear anything back. But if the deal falls through, the listing agent will 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. If you’re already approved, this shows the seller you’re serious and have the ability to purchase the home. Including an approval letter from your lender may also set you apart from additional offers the seller may receive.

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Pending Real Estate FAQs

Understanding everything that goes along with a pending status can be challenging. Learn more about this type of listing by reading the following questions and answers.

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 as we mentioned above, if the seller signed a contract without a kick-out clause, they won’t be able to accept showing requests or offers for their home. Most buyer’s agents will also discourage you from viewing a pending house since it can be a waste of time.

What’s the difference between contingent and pending offers?

One of the things you’ll occasionally come across is a property that 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 a contingent offer but is choosing to keep the property listed in case certain conditions aren’t met. For example, maybe the home inspection contingency was triggered when the seller refused to make repairs, or an appraisal contingency wasn’t satisfied when the property received a lower than expected value. Either scenario could cause the sale to fall through.

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

How long is a home sale pending?

How long a home is listed as pending depends on the buyer and the seller, and there are no hard and fast rules. But on average, homes are listed as pending for 30 ­­– 60 days. If the buyer is paying in cash, they may close on the house much sooner.

Why might a pending sale fall through?

There are many reasons why a pending sale could fall through. One of the most common reasons is that financing issues suddenly come up. For instance, if the buyer’s loan application is denied and they’re unable to secure financing, the sale cannot proceed.

In addition, major issues can come up during the home inspection. If the inspection reveals structural problems with the property, the buyer and seller will need to renegotiate the home price. If they’re unable to agree on a new price, the sale might fall through.

A lender may also cancel a purchase agreement if the house is a short sale, meaning the homeowner listed the property to avoid foreclosure. For this type of transaction, the lender gets to approve who can buy the home. If the buyer doesn’t meet the lender’s requirements, the property will be relisted.

Furthermore, the buyers may back out of the deal due to cold feet. Buyer’s remorse can happen more often in a fast-paced real estate market. That’s because buyers may not feel comfortable slowing down the purchase to fully evaluate if they actually want to buy the property or not.

And finally, the home could be appraised lower than the listing price, meaning the buyer would have to pay an additional sum of money to account for the difference.

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 the home.

If you’re just starting out in your home buying journey, the best thing you can do is to start the approval process today. Get your financial affairs in order and find a mortgage that fits your budget. That way, when you reach the pending process on your dream home, you’ll ensure the rest of the deal goes smoothly.

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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.