What does pending mean in real estate?

Picture this. You’re scrolling through home listings online when one catches your eye. But it’s labeled pending. Does that mean it’s still available or not? 

In the real estate world, pending means a property offer has been accepted and the contingencies met, but the sale hasn’t been finalized yet. 

Whether you’re buying or selling a house, it’s worth learning what pending really means, how long a home could be pending and how a pending sale could fall through. 

Key takeaways

  • A house that’s listed as pending is in the final steps of the home sale process. 
  • Homes are usually in the pending stage for one to two months before the sale is final. 
  • A real estate sale that’s pending can still fall through, but it may not make sense to submit offers on pending property listings.  

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What does pending mean on a house?

When a property is pending, it means the seller accepted a buyer’s offer, and both parties agreed to a contract and met their shared requirements. 

A pending home is in the final stages of escrow and the closing process, which involves transferring property ownership, completing the purchase and signing final documents. 

Contingent vs. pending

What separates a pending home from a contingent home is whether the buyer and seller have met certain conditions called contingencies. 

For example, a contingent home may have an inspection contingency that allows the buyer to back out of the sale if the inspection reveals issues the seller won’t repair. Once all the contingencies have been met, the status of the property sale will switch from contingent to pending.

How long can a home be pending?

A home can be pending for as long as it takes the buyer and seller to close. According to the National Association of Realtors®, homes are usually listed as pending for 30-60 days. 

Each pending home’s timeline is different, but the timing could be affected by issues with things like mortgage approvals and home inspections. 

Reasons why a pending home sale could fall through

Even though a pending home may be getting closer to officially selling, the sales contract could still fall through because of issues with things like financing, appraisals or home inspections.  

Financing troubles

Just like with other loans, financing for a mortgage isn’t guaranteed. So when a home buyer can’t get approved for a mortgage, they’ll likely need to cancel the purchase.  

Appraisal issues

An appraisal is a step in the mortgage approval process that shows an appraiser’s assessment of how much a home is worth

Mortgage lenders may not approve a mortgage for more than the property’s appraised value. And the Consumer Financial Protection bureau says it’s risky to buy a home for more than its appraised value. So if the appraisal is lower than expected and the buyer can’t negotiate a new price or come up with the difference, the buyer may decide to cancel the sale.

Buyer’s remorse

Sometimes buyers experience buyer’s remorse, where they have second thoughts after making a large purchase. For example, they might feel guilt, regret, anxiety or like they made the wrong decision. So if the buyer is able to exit the deal in a case like this, the home may go back on the market.

But home buyers beware: If you do choose to cancel the deal after signing a contract, you could lose your earnest money deposit, and in some cases, face legal challenges.

Can you make an offer on pending real estate?

Though rare, you can sometimes still make an offer on a house that’s pending. But unless you know the seller is able to accept backup offers, it might not be worth your time. 

It’s common for sellers to sign a contract that bars them from showing the home or accepting other offers—even if another buyer submits a better offer. Plus, backing out of a signed purchase agreement as a seller can have legal consequences. 

Pending real estate FAQ

Check out these frequently asked questions about pending real estate transactions. 

The biggest difference between pending homes and homes under contract is whether contracts have been signed. Pending homes are typically properties where the contingencies have already been met and the contracts signed. Whereas properties under contract are typically properties where the sellers and buyers are still working out their purchase agreement and have not signed any contracts.

Generally, no. A real estate agent usually won’t be able to show a pending home. That’s because there is often a contractual clause barring them from doing so.  

Pending real estate in a nutshell

A pending home is just a few steps away from becoming a final sale. Instead of pursuing  a home that’s pending, it might be best to keep your eye out for similar properties. The listing you’re looking for may be a scroll away. 

Navigating the housing market as a buyer? Help prepare yourself by learning a few questions to ask when buying a house.

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