What Does Under Contract Mean? | Redy

Zak BrethertonOctober 16, 2023

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What Does Under Contract Mean in Real Estate?

Finding the perfect home is one of the most exhilarating yet daunting experiences in real estate. It's a journey filled with anticipation and excitement, but can also be fraught with uncertainty. One particular aspect that often piques the curiosity of homebuyers is the phrase "under contract." What does it mean, and how does it affect the buying process? In this guide, we'll unravel what it means to have a property under contract, its implications, and why you should understand this real estate concept.

What Does Under Contract Mean in Real Estate?

Definition of Under Contract

To begin, let's demystify the term "under contract." When a property is listed as "under contract" in the real estate market, it signifies that a buyer and a seller have agreed on the terms and conditions of the sale. This is the stage where both parties have signed a legally binding contract outlining the specifics of the property transaction. The property is essentially off the market during this period.

The Timeline: 4-8 Weeks

The process of a property being under contract typically takes around four to eight weeks. Various factors can affect this timeline, such as inspections, appraisals, and securing financing. It's a period of careful scrutiny and negotiation, both by the buyer and the seller.

Financing Contingencies

Financing contingencies are one of the primary aspects of an under-contract property. These clauses stipulate that the purchase depends on the buyer securing financing to complete the transaction. It's a safety net for the buyer, ensuring they can back out of the deal without penalties if they can't secure a mortgage.

Appraisal Contingencies

Appraisal contingencies are another vital component of an under-contract property. In this scenario, the buyer can back out of the sale if the property's appraised value falls short of the agreed-upon purchase price. This safeguards the buyer from overpaying for a property and offers room for renegotiation.

Home Sale Contingencies

Sometimes, a buyer may have to sell their current home before purchasing a new one. A home sale contingency clause accounts for such cases. This contract clause allows the buyer to back out of the deal if they can't sell their existing property within a specified timeframe. It's a crucial clause for buyers involved in a chain of real estate transactions.

Home Inspection Contingencies

Home inspections are a fundamental part of the under-contract phase. Buyers typically have a specified period to conduct inspections and negotiate repairs or credits based on the findings. The buyer can withdraw from the contract if the seller doesn't agree to the renegotiated terms.

Learn more about common contingencies here.

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Under Contract vs. Pending: Understanding the Distinction

Real estate terminology can feel bewildering, and two terms that often cause confusion are "under contract" and "pending." It's important to differentiate between the two.

  • Under Contract: This status denotes that the seller has accepted an offer and is working with the buyer to finalize the transaction. The property is effectively off the market, but it's not yet a done deal. 

  • Pending: This status signifies that all contingencies have been met, and the deal will close shortly. In simpler terms, a "pending" property is closer to being sold than one "under contract."

Market Practices and Regional Nuances

The choice between "under contract" and "pending" terminology often depends on regional practices and market customs. Some regions primarily use "pending," while others favor "under contract." Regardless of the language used, the core message remains the same: the property is in the process of being sold.

Should You Consider a Backup Offer on a House Under Contract?

The decision to submit a backup offer on a property already under contract is strategic, and it carries its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros and Cons of Backup Offers

  • The Value of Venturing: Putting in a backup offer can be a smart move, especially if you're deeply interested in the property. If the primary contract encounters hurdles, you have a golden opportunity to secure the property. It's a way to stay in the game and increase your chances of getting your dream home.

  • The Risk of Backup Offers: When you submit a backup offer, you might need to commit financially, such as providing earnest money. You may lose this investment if the primary deal proceeds as planned. 

Making Your Offer Stand Out

If you decide to explore the backup offer route, it's essential to collaborate with a seasoned real estate agent. A well-crafted backup offer should be competitive and appealing to the seller. A strong backup offer increases your chances of stepping into the limelight if the primary contract encounters difficulties.

Navigating the complexities of real estate, especially when dealing with terms like "under contract," can be challenging. That's where Redy steps in. We help you tap into our network of experienced local real estate agents and find the right fit to help you navigate your real estate journey. 

Redy agents equip you with the insights, tools, and knowledge needed to increase your chances of success. Get started today to discover a smoother, more empowering way to kickstart your next transaction. 

How Often Does a House Under Contract Fall Through?

Contracts in the real estate world can and do fall through. Here are some of the most common reasons that under-contract properties fail to convert: 

Common Reasons for Contract Failures

  • Mortgage Qualification: One of the leading causes of contracts falling through is the buyer's inability to secure financing. Even if a buyer is pre-approved, there are instances where final mortgage approval doesn't materialize, leading to a contract collapse.

  • Appraisal and Inspection Challenges: The appraisal or inspection process can also pose challenges. If significant issues arise during inspections or the appraised value doesn't meet the purchase price, it can result in renegotiations or contract cancellations.

  • Contingent on a Previous Home Sale: If a buyer's purchase is contingent on the sale of their own property, the contract can unravel if their property doesn't sell as anticipated. This chain reaction can result in multiple contracts falling through.

What Happens if the Contract Is Canceled?

Canceling a contract has significant financial and legal implications for both parties involved.

Investigating the Previous Contract

Before making any decisions, it's essential to investigate the reasons behind a proposed contract cancellation. Sometimes, the issues might be resolvable, and the deal can be revived.

Informed Decision-Making

Both the buyer and the seller must make informed decisions about next steps when canceling a contract. This might involve renegotiation, re-listing the property, or searching for new options in the market.

Bottom Line: An "Under Contract" Property Isn't Always a Done Deal

"Under contract" is a pivotal phase in the home-buying process, but it's not without its uncertainties. Buyers should be aware of all possibilities, including the potential for backup offers. By staying informed and strategic, you can increase your chances of turning your real estate dreams into reality.

Real estate transactions are intricate and influenced by many variables. Start planning your journey with expert guidance today by finding an agent on Redy!

To learn more about selling your home, visit our Home Seller Resources >

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