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What Does Under Offer Mean?

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by Reviewed by Gareth Brooks

14th Jan 2021 (Last updated on 29th Sep 2021) 6 minute read

Under offer is when a buyer has presented an offer which the seller is still considering. It does not mean the property in question has been sold or that the transaction has become legally binding.

There are a number of legal terms thrown around and it may make the process seem more disconcerting. Under offer, for example, is typically a marketing and advertising term used by estate agents to imply that an offer has been put forward.

Compare My Move work alongside an array of property and finance experts to ensure you’re provided with the most informative and helpful articles. In this guide, we will explain the terms such as of ‘under offer’, what it means for you as a buyer and how it differs from ‘Sold STC’.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What Does it Mean When a House is Under Offer?
  2. What is the Difference Between Under Offer and Sold STC?
  3. What Does Under Offer Mean in Scotland?
  4. Can You Make an Offer on a House That is Already Under Offer?
  5. How Long Does a House Stay Labelled as Under Offer?
  6. When Should You Make an Offer on a House?
  7. Can You Put an Offer on a House Before Selling Yours?
  8. Next Steps of Buying a House

What Does it Mean When a House is Under Offer?

When a property is described as being ‘under offer’, it does not mean the sale has been finalised or is legally binding. Under offer means a buyer has put forward an offer and the seller is currently considering it. It is a term often used by estate agents when marketing or advertising a property.

The transaction is not yet legally binding so another buyer can still make an offer for the seller to consider..

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What is the Difference Between Under Offer and Sold STC?

Sold subject to contract, or Sold STC both mean that the seller has accepted an offer but the sale is still not legal binding. The seller and the buyer will be commencing the conveyancing and working towards ‘exchange of contracts’, which is the stage the deal becomes legally binding.

You can still make an offer on a house that is labelled as ‘Sold STC’ but some estate agents will be reluctant to allow offers at this time, as the ‘Sold STC’ means that the deal has been agreed and the parties need an opportunity to follow the conveyancing process. Submitting offers on properties labelled as ‘Sold STC’ can derail the earlier transaction.

What Does Under Offer Mean in Scotland?

The conveyancing process in Scotland differs slightly compared to England and Wales. An example of this is the use of the term ‘under offer’.

When a property is labelled as ‘under offer’ in Scotland, it means that the buyer’s solicitor has made an offer on behalf of their client. However, unlike in England and Wales, this means that the seller has accepted the offer in writing.

Scotland does not have a Sold STC stage, they instead use the term ‘STCM’ which means Sold Subject to Conclusion of Missives. Missives are the legal paperwork required to purchase and sell a property in Scotland. This term is used less than ‘under offer’ but it’s still seen throughout the Scottish property market. Once missives have concluded, the sale is legally binding - ‘under offer’ means that both solicitors are working towards concluding missives.

As in most locations across the UK, under offer is a fairly vague term that can represent different stages of the buying process depending on the circumstances. However, in Scotland, it is an important term amongst conveyancers and estate agents as it’s mainly designed to help prevent gazumping. It does not typically mean that the sale has been finalised, but rather it’s in the process of being finalised.

Can You Make an Offer on a House That is Already Under Offer?

When a house is under offer, another buyer can still make an offer. As the contracts have not yet been exchanged, the sale is not legally binding and so other prospective buyers are able to present the seller with new offers. When you reach the stage where you exchange contracts, that is when you are legally committed to the sale. Some estate agents may limit the number of viewings on a property that is under offer or Sold STC, but it will still be on the market.

According to data by Quick Move Now, 24.42% of house sales fell through in 2019 and in 2020, it increased to 43%. A number of these would have been listed as ‘Under Offer’ or ‘Sold STC’, further proving that these labels do not mean the sale has been finalised.

Gazumping isn’t as prevalent in the UK as it once was, but it still occurs and will have a higher chance of occurring during this stage of the house buying process. Gazumping is the process of new buyers presenting a better offer when a previous buyer’s offer has already been accepted. The seller will again have to decide whether to accept the offer on the house or continue negotiations.

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How Long Does a House Stay Labelled as Under Offer?

A house that has been marketed as under offer typically won’t stay that way for long. As it means that an offer has been accepted, both parties will likely want the transaction to conclude quickly.

There will be an opportunity for other prospective buyers to make an offer, but as soon as the contracts are signed and exchanged, the transaction will become legally binding. This is a stage that both parties will be in a hurry to get to and so some properties labelled as under offer won’t be on the market for long.

The length of time the house stays on the market will depend on how quickly or efficiently the transaction progresses. The buyer will still have to complete certain tasks such as organising a property survey and arranging a mortgage in principle, thus lengthening the time it takes to get to the exchange of contracts. On average, it takes around 8-12 weeks for a property to go from Sold STC to legally sold.

When Should You Make an Offer on a House?

There isn’t a specific time when you should make an offer on a property. However, it will be much more beneficial to make an offer when you’re serious about the purchase and are fully prepared for the resulting process. Proving you’re ready to continue with the sale will also present you as a serious and more attractive buyer.

To ensure you’re prepared for the buying process, you should:

  1. Calculate your budget.
  2. Research the property and local area.
  3. Compare conveyancing quotes.
  4. Apply for a mortgage in principle.
  5. Explore the market for other options.
  6. Research the price of sold properties in the same area.

Can You Put an Offer on a House Before Selling Yours?

You can make an offer on a property before selling yours but it may delay the transaction. It’s possible to buy and sell a house at the same time, but this would lengthen the property chain greatly and thus delay the process.

Some sellers will not accept offers made by buyers who also need to sell a property as the greater the property chain, the longer the process could take. Data from Quick Move Now states that 13% of failed property sales were due to a break in the chain, whilst 15% were due to the seller losing patience because of slow progress. If you sell your home first then present yourself as a buyer without a chain, you will likely have a higher chance of being accepted.

If this isn’t possible, it’s advised that you make an offer either when you’re already far into the selling process or after you’ve received an offer on your current home. This will also help with your negotiations when purchasing a new home.

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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.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.

Gareth Brooks

Reviewed by Gareth Brooks

Solicitor and Partner at RMNJ Solicitors, RMNJ Solicitors

With 19 years of experience in the residential conveyancing industry, Gareth Brooks is a partner and head of management for the conveyancing department at RMNJ Solicitors.