Can You Buy a House That is Pending or Contingent

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Executive Realty 91362

When setting your sights on buying a home, it can be exciting. The chance to enter the ranks of homeownership can be very appealing. If you have read anything about the real estate market over the last couple of years, you know that inventory has been low.

Finding that perfect house has been challenging because many want the same thing. One of the common questions that comes up all the time with real estate agents is whether you can buy a house that is under contract.

The short answer is no, unless the sale happens to fall through. Home buyers often see many listing statuses in the Multiple Listing Service and popular home search sites. Undoubtedly, this causes them to ask these kinds of questions.

Another standard status is pending sale. Buyers will ask what does pending mean in real estate. Sale pending refers to a property that is under contract but has not yet been finalized. It means that the seller and buyer have both agreed to the terms of the sale, but there is still some work that needs to be done before the sale can be completed. Maximum Real Estate Exposure has a comprehensive article about everything to know about the pending status that is worth a look.

Unfortunately, it is not a situation where you can step in and outbid the current buyer. When a home is under agreement, a second buyer cannot step in without the sale being terminated.

Can You Submit an Offer on a Home That is Pending?

Yes, you can submit a bid on a home if the seller is accepting backup offers. However, the offer cannot be accepted even if the terms are better for the sale unless the original buyer backs out of their contract. It makes sense. If a home seller could cancel a contract on a whim, there would be no point in having a contract.

A real estate agent often discourages a home buyer from submitting a backup offer on a pending sale. Typically, pending sales are far along in the process. The chances the sale will fall through are slim.

Can a Real Estate Agent Show a House That is Pending?

Realtors can show a pending sale home with a seller's permission since it is still technically not sold until the closing occurs and the deed is recorded.

Real estate agents often refuse to show homes that are not being actively marketed. Many agents do not want to waste their time showing homes to clients where a contract has been executed, and contingencies have been satisfied.

It is more sensible to focus on homes that are actually available to purchase.

What's The Difference Between Pending vs. Contingent?

With so many MLS listing statuses, it is easy for buyers and sellers to become confused. Two typical listing statuses where this happens are pending vs. contingent. The contingent status is different than pending in most circumstances.

When a home is in contingent status, there are contingencies in the contract that need to be satisfied. For example, some of the most common contingencies in real estate sales are a home inspection, real estate appraisal, mortgage financing, and possibly a home sale.

Home buyers will go through the purchase process and, one by one, will eliminate each of these contingencies. If there is a stumbling block and one of these contingencies is unsatisfactory, a buyer could get out of the contract with their earnest money. In order for the earnest monies to be returned, they need to follow the contract terms.

Many real estate agents will not change a listing status until they know that each contract's contingencies have been satisfied. However, nothing stops a real estate agent from changing the status to pending sooner.

In some Multiple Listings Services, the days on the market increase while in contingent status but not in pending. Since rising days on market are not a good thing for sellers, some agents may opt to mark a sale as pending in the event the transaction falls through.

What Causes Home Sales to Fall Apart?

Not every home sale makes it to the closing. There are some common reasons why home sales will fall through. Let's have a look at what causes home sale failure.

Buyer's Remorse

Homebuying is an emotionally charged process. Homebuyers may have second thoughts about the home, moving, or the home's condition. Some even have the feeling that they overpaid. Anyone of these feelings can cause a buyer to pull out of a sale.

Home Inspection Problems

Home inspections are notorious for causing home sales to fall through. Sometimes significant issues cause a buyer to lose interest in the property altogether. Other times a buyer and seller cannot work out agreeable concessions to remedy the problems.

Appraisal Issues

In real estate markets that favor home buyers, it is not uncommon to see an appraisal contingency in a real estate contract. The contingency language will state that the home needs to appraise for at least the home's purchase price. A buyer can walk from the sale when an appraisal is lower than the sales price.

If the seller is unwilling to drop the price, the transaction will fall apart, and the home will return to the market.

Mortgage Financing Problems

While most home buyers are preapproved for a mortgage, that does not mean they are 100 percent guaranteed to get the mortgage. Some things can happen that change a lender's mind before the closing. For example, the buyer's credit score could drop if they had too many late payments.

Some buyers have made awful decisions, like going out and buying a car. Their debt-to-income ratio gets thrown off, causing the lender to terminate the financing.

Home Sale Contingency

Home sale contingencies are not that commonplace, but a seller will accept one from time to time. Sometimes a buyer cannot get their property sold in the agreed-upon time frame, and the sale falls apart.

How Long Does a Home Stay Pending For?

If you're interested in purchasing a home that's currently on the market, it typically takes a few weeks to sixty days for the sale to be finalized.

The time it takes for the seller and buyer to meet the requirements of a sale can vary depending on what needs to be done. Some of these requirements may include securing a loan, having a title check, completing a home inspection, fixing repair issues, or the buyer selling their existing home.

Final Thoughts on Under Contract Homes

If you have found a home that you would really like to purchase that is pending, ask your real estate agent to stay in touch with the listing agent. Have your agent express your interest in the property and that you would like to be notified if the sale looks to be falling through.

You never know - it is possible to end up with the property you would really like to purchase. Nothing is ever over until the fat lady sings!


Posted by

With three decades of experience, Bill Gassett is an authority in the real estate sector. Bill writes informative articles for numerous prestigious real estate sites to help buyers, sellers, and fellow real estate agents. His work has been featured on RIS Media, the National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Placester, Realty Biz News, Credit Sesame, and his own authority resource, Maximum Real Estate Exposure. Reach out to Bill Gassett for his real estate, mortgage, and financial expertise.

Comments (5)

Leanne Smith
Dirt Road Real Estate - Golden Valley, AZ
Relocation to NW AZ with elbow room & more freedom

In working with listing clients, I explain it is better to have back up offers in the wings and to continue to show the property even though it is under contract.  One never knows what the "pending" buyer may do until the day of closing.

Oct 01, 2022 08:12 AM
Bill Gassett

Exactly having a backup offer on a pending or contingent property that a buyer loves is wise.

Oct 03, 2022 08:33 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Bill - how many times can it be said "it ain't over until it's over" or something similar?   It's definitely true in real estate.  But with that said, there are methods that can help people move forward in the decision-making process.  Considering the circumstances of each situation is advised.   

Oct 01, 2022 08:48 AM
Bill Gassett

Very true - we all know about that fat lady singing:)

Oct 03, 2022 08:33 AM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello Bill and Thank You for sharing this great information with us here in the Rain and to others.  Make it a great October!

Oct 01, 2022 09:16 AM
Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker

Great information, thanks for sharing.  I hope you have a great day.

Oct 02, 2022 04:47 AM
Charles Ross - eXp Realty LLC
eXp Realty LLC Salina Group - Salina, KS
Love To Help People

Excellent Information. Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful day and a blessed week.

Mar 15, 2023 07:11 PM