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What is the Difference Between Under Offer and Sold STC?

Adele MacGregor

Written by

8th Nov 2021 (Last updated on 8th Nov 2021) 5 minute read

“Sold Subject to Contract” (STC) means an offer has been agreed between a buyer and a seller, however, it is not legally binding until contracts have been signed and exchanged. “Under Offer” is when a seller is considering a buyer’s offer. Again, this is not legally binding until contracts are exchanged.

For the most part, these terms essentially mean the same thing - that the property is not yet sold, but that interested parties have made an offer. In both cases, other buyers may also make an offer before it is officially sold.

Compare My Move work with property and legal experts to bring you the most relevant and up to date information on buying and selling a home. In this article we look at the difference between a property being Under Offer and Sold Subject to Contract, to prepare you for either scenario whether you are the buyer or the seller.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What is Sold STC?
  2. What is Under Offer?
  3. How Under Offer and Sold STC Differ
  4. Can You Make an Offer on a Property Under Offer or Sold STC?
  5. How Does it Differ in Scotland?
  6. Next Steps of Buying a House

What is Sold STC?

STC stands for “Sold Subject to Contract”. This means an offer has been agreed between a buyer and a seller but it is not legally binding until contracts have been signed and exchanged.

This is a term that is used by estate agents when an offer is accepted by the seller. Technically the property is still available to those who present an offer of their own. That said,“Sold STC” on a listing could potentially put other buyers off, not wanting to risk being disappointed or face the prospect of making a higher offer to secure the purchase.

For more information on Sold STC see: What does Sold STC mean?

What is Under Offer?

“Under Offer” is where the buyer has made an offer which the seller is considering. Other buyers may make offers which the seller can choose to accept over the initial offer or opt for the offer from the initial prospective buyer.

Typically Under Offer is a marketing and advertising term used by estate agents. As with Sold STC, when a property is listed as Under Offer it is not legally binding until contracts are exchanged.

For more information on Under Offer read: What does Under Offer mean?

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How Under Offer and Sold STC Differ

The main difference between these two terms is that Under Offer means a seller is considering an offer from a buyer. On the other hand, Sold STC means the seller has accepted an offer from a buyer. The property will be sold to this person once contracts are signed and exchanged.

Neither of these phrases means that the property has sold, per se. The home will remain in the seller’s name until the exchange of contracts - or in Scotland, until the conclusion of missives.

A home is first put up for sale, can then be under offer then Sold STC once the offer has been accepted and then eventually sold and legally transferred to the new owners.

Estate agents will revise the listing of the property to label the property as “Under Offer” or “Sold STC”.

Can You Make an Offer on a Property Under Offer or Sold STC?

In both situations, the property is still technically available to whoever wishes to make an offer. If you offer more than the initial offer, it is then up to the seller if they want to accept your offer or stick with the current buyer.

When a house is “under offer”, other buyers may make an offer for the seller to consider. If a property is sold STC, again buyers may submit an offer that can be accepted by the seller. However, accepting an offer when your property is Sold STC may impact the conveyancing process, as this will have begun once the initial offer was accepted.

Nevertheless, a seller may be tempted by a higher offer from another buyer, which is commonly known as “gazumping”.

In certain circumstances, you may also be able to make an offer on the property without gazumping, for example, if the sale with the initial buyer falls through. According to Rightmove, 15% of properties which were listed as Under Offer or Sold STC in the UK come back on the market.

What is Gazumping?

Gazumping happens when a seller has accepted an initial offer, but another prospective buyer makes an offer, usually higher, which is accepted. The second buyer, therefore “gazumps” the first offer.

Although often considered unfair, across the UK this is legal and can happen at any point up until exchange on contracts. However, regulations are in place in Scotland to avoid it happening.

For more information on Gazumping see: What is Gazumping and is it Legal?

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How Does it Differ in Scotland?

In Scotland, the buying and selling process differs from the rest of the UK. This is especially the case when it comes to sellers accepting offers.

A prospective buyer must first instruct their solicitor to provide a “note of interest” to the seller. This formally indicates interest in the property and means the buyer will be made aware of important aspects of the sale. This includes when the seller is accepting offers and the closing date for offers.

Many conveyancers in Scotland are “Solicitor Estate Agents” who are bound by the Law Society of Scotland’s guidelines, designed to discourage gazumping. Once a conveyancer has accepted an offer on the property on behalf of the seller, they cannot accept a subsequent offer from another potential buyer.

If the seller wishes to accept a second offer, the solicitor must withdraw from acting on their behalf and the seller must hire another conveyancer for their sale.

What is “Sold Subject to Conclusion of Missives”?

Rather than Sold Subject to Contract, a property in Scotland would be sold “Subject to Conclusion of Missives”. Missives are a series of letters between the buyers’ and sellers’ solicitors which include the terms of the sale.

Once this is completed it is known as the “conclusion of missives” and from this point the sale is legally binding.

Next Steps of Buying a House

This guide has been part of our home buying guide. Our aim is to prepare and guide you through the buying process. When a property is considered as 'under offer', it doesn't mean the sale has been finalised. The next step for other potential buyers might be sealed bidding at an auction. To find out more read what are sealed bids.

Adele MacGregor

Having written for PerformanceIN, WalesOnline, Grazia Magazine and The Olive Press, Adele now writes advice articles for home movers, first-time buyers and house sellers alike.