When you’re buying and selling property, there are a lot of terms used by estate agents that mean different things. One of these terms is ‘under offer’. But what does under offer mean exactly? Why are homes left on the market if they’re under offer, and what does it mean for other potential buyers? Our guide explains all.
(The below applies to England and Wales – Scotland has a separate process where ‘under offer’ means something different.)
What does under offer mean on a house?
‘Under offer’ means that a reasonable offer has been presented to the seller. It differs to Sold Subject to Contract, or SSTC, in that the conveyancing process will not yet have begun. The seller will still be considering the offer and has not yet made a final decision.
Does ‘under offer’ mean accepted?
No – when a house is under offer, it means that the seller is still considering the offer and has not yet accepted it. The sale has not yet been finalised and will not be legally binding.
Sales can fall through at any point in the process until contracts are exchanged. Labelling a property as ‘under offer’ is often used by estate agents for marketing purposes, to create a sense of urgency and increase demand. It means there will be likely other buyers waiting if the original offer isn’t accepted or if something goes wrong in the conveyancing process and the sale doesn’t complete. This is why the property remains on the market, as the seller will not want to miss out on other potential buyers.
Do all properties go under offer?
Sometimes the seller may not need to spend time considering an offer. They may accept it quickly; in which case, it will be unlikely that the property will ever be labelled as ‘under offer’. However, it may still stay on the property market labelled as ‘SSTC’ until the contracts are exchanged.
Can I put in an offer on a house that is under offer?
Yes, anyone can put an offer in on a property that is already under offer. The seller is able to accept other offers until contracts are exchanged, in which case the sale will have been finalised. Until then, anyone else is free to make an offer and possibly buy the house.
There can be many reasons why a seller takes their time to consider an offer, rather than accepting it quickly. It could be that the potential buyer has made an offer below asking price, or they could be part of a long property chain. Whatever the reason, the seller will likely be open to receiving other offers.
Can I view a house that is under offer?
This will be dependent on the seller and the estate agent. Some sellers may wish to continue to hold viewings to secure a backup offer or a higher alternative offer. Some sellers would prefer not to hold viewing whilst they consider the original offer, as it can be seen to damage their relationship with the original buyer and could risk losing the sale.
If you’re interested in viewing a house that is under offer, you should speak to the estate agent that is marketing the property. Even if the seller is not open to viewings at that point in time, registering your interest could mean that you’ll be the next contact if the original sale falls through.
How long does a house stay under offer?
A property could technically stay under offer indefinitely, but usually, it will not stay like that for long. Both the buyer and seller will usually be keen to get things moving as quickly as possible. Even if the original offer was not exactly what the seller wanted, often people would rather accept a lower offer than letting the sale fail completely. So, it usually won’t be long until the offer is accepted, and the conveyancing process begins.
Then, the house may be marketed as SSTC. In this case, it is still possible to make an offer on the house. This is known as ‘gazumping’, where an offer is made and accepted on a property that has already had an offer accepted. Whilst not illegal, it is usually seen as unfair to the original buyer. However, it is still worth registering your interest in a property that has been SSTC, as sales can still fall through right up to the point where contracts are exchanged. So, there can still be an opportunity to make a fair offer.
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