When you find your dream home online or have your eye on a house in your neighborhood, you might also see a “sale pending” sign on it. But what does pending mean on a house? Does it mean that the sale is a done deal — that you might as well walk away? Or do you have a decent shot at getting a pending home?

In this situation, you can still hold onto hope because the sale hasn’t yet gone through. However, it’s also true that you can lose out on the sale. 

We’ll walk through the exact definition of pending and whether you can put an offer on the property. Finally, we’ll also discuss whether it’s worth going after homes that bear a “sale pending” sign.

What Does the “Pending” Status Mean in Real Estate?

“Pending” means that potential buyers have submitted an offer on a home and the seller has accepted the buyer’s offer. The deal hasn’t closed — pending doesn’t mean “sold.” It merely means that a contract has been signed between both parties and the deal is progressing towards completion.

A pending home sale means the home is no longer an active listing on the local multiple listing service (MLS), where agents provide information on available properties. Public sites like Zillow, Trulia and Redfin also pull listing information from the MLS. 

However, an issue could still crop up in the real estate transaction. For example, the buyer may not get financing and the deal could still fall through. 

How Long Can a Pending Sale Take?

There’s no hard-and-fast guideline to knowing how long a pending sale will take. A pending sale could take anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks. For example, if the buyer plans to get a mortgage loan, the pending sale can take more time compared to if the buyer pays cash for the home. In that case, it can take just a matter of days to go from “sale pending” to “sold.”

How Long Do Homes Stay Pending?

The typical timeline for a pending sale can last anywhere from a week to 60 days. 

The seller and buyer must meet the requirements of the sale, which could include:

  • Securing a loan
  • Getting a title check
  • Completing a home inspection
  • Fixing needed repairs 

The status would continue as pending until a resolution occurs or the contract becomes terminated.

How Often Are Homes in a “Pending” Stage?

There’s no absolute guarantee that a home will work its way through the following statuses:

  • Pending-Taking Backups: In this case, the seller will accept backup offers just in case the first one falls through. 
  • Pending Release-Continuing to Show: In this case, all contingencies have been met but a kick-out clause can occur. A kick-out clause refers to a provision in a sales contract that means the seller will accept an offer with a contingency but will continue to show the property in hopes of receiving a non-contingent offer.  
  • Pending-Do Not Show: In this pending type, the seller will no longer show the house or accept other bids.
  • Pending-Over 4 Months: When the listing’s pending status has remained unchanged for four months or longer, it will have this status.

Can You Put an Offer on a House That is Pending?

Yes, you can put an offer on a house that is still pending. However, the process won’t look the same as when the house is for sale on the open market. You can’t just offer the seller more money than the current prospective buyers and expect the sale to go through. 

Can You Still Look at a House if it is Pending?

You can consider a pending home — it’s technically still on the market. Real estate agents may still allow you to see a home (even in the case of a pending offer) but this often depends on the seller’s wishes.

For example, a seller may not allow any showings because they believe that a buyer will most likely buy the home. You may work with the seller’s agent or have your real estate agent coordinate to schedule a showing.

Can a Pending Sale Fall Through? 

A pending sale can fall through. Let’s take a look at how and what can cause a pending sale to collapse.

Examples of How a Pending Sale Can Fail

A pending sale can fall through due to financing issues, a buyer backing out, home inspection issues, property title issues and low appraisals. Let’s take a look:

  • The financing might fall through. A pending sale often falls through because the buyer doesn’t qualify for financing. 
  • The buyer could back out. Homebuyers may choose to use a contingency to get out of a contract. A contingency refers to a clause in a real estate purchase agreement that specifies that a home must meet a particular requirement in order to enter into a legally binding contract.
  • Home inspection issues could crop up. A home inspection could turn up major issues in the home, such as foundation issues or roof damage. A home inspection contingency may allow buyers to back out of buying the home. 
  • Property title issues could occur. Lenders will ask a title company to research the property to check for outstanding liens or judgments. In other words, other entities can use the home as collateral to satisfy a debt, such as in the case of a contractor who puts a lien on the property.
  • An appraisal could come in low. Lenders have homes appraised to ensure that appraisals and purchase prices align. If a home appraises for lower than the purchase price, a mortgage lender may decline the mortgage or require a buyer to come up with a larger down payment to make up the difference. In this case, buyers may be able to walk away from the deal. 

Is it Worth Looking at Pending Homes? 

First, it’s important to understand what is pending and why. The listing agent and seller and you and your realtor can sort this out.

Does it always work in your favor? 

No. But it’s worth a try to find out, and you still have some options if you want to buy a pending home. 

Tips if You’re Trying to Buy a Pending House

What can you do if you’ve found the perfect home but it has a “pending” sign in the front lawn?

  • Be ready with your finances: You cannot proceed with key components of the purchase process until you are in contract with a seller. However, you can make sure you have your financial ducks in a row. Make sure you know how much you can put up for a down payment and get pre-approved for a mortgage.
  • Show your interest to a listing agent: Let the listing agent (the agent helping the buyer with the home sale) know that you’re interested in the home. 
  • Develop a sense of urgency: You’ll need to let the agent know your interest — and fast. The sale could go through quickly.
  • Try being a little aggressive with your offer: You may want to offer to pay with cash, waive all contingencies or offer to put down a robust earnest deposit (a deposit that shows that you’re a serious buyer), for example. 

Difference Between Pending and Contingent Homes 

While “pending” means that the provisions on a property were met and the sale is being processed, “contingent” means something different. 

When the seller accepts an offer but has chosen to keep the listing active in case certain contingencies aren’t met by the prospective buyer, it’s considered a contingent sale. 

Let’s go over a few types of contingencies you might run into: 

  • Inspection contingency: An inspection contingency clause is a provision that means that the buyer has the right to have the home inspected within a specific time period. It also protects the buyer, who can cancel the contract or negotiate repairs based on the professional home inspection.
  • Buyer’s old home sale contingency: Buying a home with a sale contingency means a buyer needs to sell the existing home before officially completing the deal.
  • Title contingency: A title contingency clause is a provision that makes sure that the home doesn’t have any liens except for the current owner’s mortgage.
  • Buyer’s financing contingency: A financing contingency clause is a provision that allows time for the buyer to secure financing for the property purchase. 
  • Appraisal contingency: An appraisal contingency clause is a provision that allows a buyer to back out of the contract if an appraiser finds that the home is worth less than the purchase price.

What if a contingency is not met? The contract becomes null and void and the party involved can back out without facing legal consequences. 

If the contingencies are met and the contract is valid, one of the parties could breach the contract by backing out, which could have repercussions.

Frequently Asked Questions About “Pending” on a House

Can a seller back out of a pending sale?

Yes, a home seller can back out of a pending sale in certain circumstances. They might do so due to unexpected events, an inability to find another home or a low appraisal could occur. However, backing out might incur added expenses and even legal consequences. 

Why would a house be pending for so long?

It might take time for a home to finish up specific items in order for the contract to close. For example, funding or repair issues often take a while to become resolved. 

Does pending mean sold?

“Offer pending” means that a buyer has submitted an offer and the seller has accepted it. You cannot put your offer in to try to outbid a mass of other buyers in this situation because the buyer and seller in question have already gone past this point.

What is “pending” or “contingent”?

“Pending” means that the provisions on a contingent property were met and the sale is being processed. 

“Contingent” means the seller accepts an offer but has chosen to keep the listing active in case certain contingencies aren’t met by the buyer. 

Ready to dive into homebuying with a great partner? Morty can help you explore how to make an offer on a pending home, and has licensed experts who can help you through the process.