What Does Under Offer Mean?

3rd December, 2021

Under offer are two words that appear frequently in the property industry. Their meaning isn’t always quite clear. You may have found yourself thinking ‘what does under offer actually mean?’ and what implications go along with the term? Under offer is a marketing term used by estate agents and property sellers to describe a stage of the selling process.

The term draws to mind a whole host of questions beyond its meaning. You may wonder if you can view a house that’s under offer, if you can buy a house that’s under offer, how long a house can be under offer for, and what the difference is between under offer and SSTC. We’ve written this guide to answer all of these questions and more. So, if you’re ready to find out more about what under offer means and what the implications of this term are, read on! You can also use the menu below to navigate more easily to specific questions. 


What does it mean when a house is under offer? 

In simple terms, if a house is marked as under offer it means that a prospective buyer has made an offer on the property and the owner is considering the offer. The seller could be considering the offer for a number of reasons. The most common are that the offer is under the asking price, or that the would-be buyer’s position is undesirable. I.e. they could be in a long property chain, or they may need to remortgage their home to get the cash to buy the property. Leaving the property as under offer allows the seller to keep that offer on the table whilst they entertain other options. 

Estate agents might also use the term to give a sense of urgency about the property. It may prompt interested buyers to act more quickly and place higher offers. So, marking a property as under offer can act as a catalyst to boost demand (and therefore price) for a property. 


Can you view a house that is under offer? 

When a house is marked as under offer it doesn’t need to be removed from the market. This is true even if the seller has accepted the offer. They may just be waiting for all of the paperwork to be finalised and contracts to be drawn up. Selling a house has many stages and can take a long time. For more information on that, you can always check out our guide on how long it takes to sell a house in the UK

So, while a property is under offer the seller can still hold viewings. They may wish to do this if the offer being considered is below the asking price. Holding more viewings could increase the possibility that they get a higher offer, or it could put pressure on the buyer that has made the offer to increase it. 

As a seller there’s a risk that holding viewings whilst the property is under offer could damage the relationship with the would-be buyer. So if your property is under offer it’s important to consider which stage you’re at with your sale and whether it’s worth offending your potential buyer and perhaps losing the sale. 


Can you buy a house that is under offer? 

We’ve all been there. You see your dream house on Rightmove or Zoopla but it’s already under offer! You’re probably left wondering if it’s still possible to buy a house that’s under offer. The good news (for you, not the other buyer) is that yes, you can buy a house that’s under offer. Technically until the two parties are exchanged on the property, the seller can accept other offers. If you make an offer that is higher than the other buyer and it’s accepted, you will have ‘gazumped’ them. 

We’ve alluded to this before but as a seller you are well within your rights to accept another on your property even if it is currently under offer. There’s nothing illegal about doing this but it’s important to bear in mind that it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to go back to your first buyer. You should only accept a ‘gazumping’ offer if you’re very certain about the new buyer. Otherwise you’ll have to go back to square one with marketing the property. This can be much harder the second time around!


What is the difference between SSTC and under offer? 

You’ll notice that sometimes properties are marked ‘SSTC’ on property portals. This stands for ‘Sold Subject to Contract’. This means that the seller has accepted the offer but they are waiting for contracts to be issued and paperwork to be completed. The differences here are mainly semantic and in fact the two terms can mean exactly the same thing. 

Estate agents will typically use SSTC when an offer has been accepted by the seller. However, under offer can be used when the buyer has made a reasonable offer but it has not yet been accepted. SSTC tends to mean that the sale is further down the line, so if you’re interested in a property that is SSTC it’s worth calling the estate agent and checking if they’re still accepting new offers on the property. 

How long can a house be under offer? 

The short answer is a house can stay under offer indefinitely. In practise this is very rarely the case. All interested parties usually want to progress as quickly as possible. Particularly if the seller is interested in selling their house fast. Once the property goes under offer and is accepted then contracts will be issued and steps will begin to progress the sale. 

There are still a number of steps that will need to be completed by the buyer before the contract can be signed. They’ll need to agree on the offer with the seller, get a mortgage valuation and make sure their mortgage in principle stacks up. This obviously moves more quickly if you’re selling your house to a cash buyer. They’ll also need to order a survey and the relevant searches that are required to purchase the property. Then there’s the process of arranging the deposit funding and actually agreeing a completion date that suits the sellers onward plans. 

How long from offer to completion? 

We’ve briefly described the process above, but we go into more detail on exactly what steps need to be taken to sell a house and the costs involved in our other guides. You can take a look at how much it costs to sell a house if you want more information. In general the time taken to sell a house in the UK is around 50 days to agree a sale, and then another 3 or 4 months for searches, surveys and paperwork to be finalised. 

In short, the speed of the sale will depend to a large extent on the speed and efficiency of the solicitors on each side of the sale. As a buyer or a seller you can help to keep the process moving quickly by providing information promptly, requesting updates at regular intervals, and responding to any requests for information as quickly as possible. 


Does your house need to be under offer to sell? 

The above sounds like a long-winded and complicated process, but that’s selling a house for you! Sometimes properties can go under offer, and often the sale will fall through or the buyer will pull out. The truth is that until you’re exchanged on your property, nothing is guaranteed. 

If you’d prefer selling your house fast for cash then SmoothSale can help. There are no fees to pay, we’ll cover your legal fees and we can buy your house for cash in as little as seven days or to a timeline that suits your onward plans. Sellers love us because we don’t discriminate, we buy any house in any condition and location in the UK. Simply get in touch on 0800 368 8952 or get a cash offer today!

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