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We explore under offer, how it's different to sale agreed, the difference between under offer and ‘sold subject to contract’ and what to do if the offer to completion process is taking too long...

Under offer. Two words you will come across in buying and selling a house but there’s often a lot of confusion around what it is they actually mean.

All good questions, all questions which you’re about to find out the answers to.

We’re also going to talk you through what the next steps are in the process after under offer AND what to do if it’s taking too long…

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Don't wait for your house to go under offer?

What does under offer mean?

Under offer generally means a buyer has made an offer on a property and the seller is considering the offer but hasn’t yet accepted or declined. Some estate agents, however, use it in place of 'sold stc', meaning the seller has accepted an offer on the property but the paperwork is yet to be completed.

Using ‘under offer’ makes the property look more available than using ‘sold stc’ and so some estate agents will use it as a tactic to prompt other interested parties to act fast, whether that’s arranging to look at the property or making an offer ASAP.

What happens when a house is under offer?

For the seller, under offer means you’ve got an offer on your house and you’ve either accepted or declined it or you’re still considering it. When your house is under offer, you don’t need to take it off the market just yet and you can actually still allow others to view and offer on your property.

At the point of under offer, the responsibility is on the buyer to push the process along, whether that’s pushing to get their offer accepted, pushing to get the house labelled as ‘sold stc’ or pushing to get through the conveyancing process so you can exchange and complete.

As we said, as the buyer the responsibility falls on your shoulders to push the process through to exchange as fast as you can, to avoid being gazumped by a better offer.

For both parties, under offer doesn’t mean there’s any legal binding on the deal. Under offer could be described as a bit of a ‘grey area’ for this reason, as it’s when things start to happen (house repayments and surveys we’re looking at you) but can also be the part of the process where things go wrong and minds can change, causing someone to pull out of the sale and a possible chain break.

Can you still view a property under offer?

If you’re a buyer, look away now!

Whilst a property is under offer, the seller can still allow people to view the property. You can actually still allow people to view the property up until the point of exchange, as until this point there’s no legal obligation for either party.

However, it could be said this gets slightly unfair as you get further down the line with a buyer and may damage your relationship with them.

As a buyer, to try stop any other parties looking, you can ask the seller to take the property off the market, but the seller has no obligation to do this. It’s actually more beneficial for the seller to leave the property on the market whilst it’s just under offer, as another buyer may come along with a better offer or other interested parties can be on ‘standby’, just in case things go wrong with the current buyer.

Gazumped your buyer and now that's fallen through?

Can you make an offer on a house that is under offer?

Yes, whilst the property is still just under offer then you can make an offer on a property and, should your offer be accepted, this will mean you have ‘gazumped’ the offer from a buyer.

By using the term under offer, the impression given to other buyers is that the property is still open, unlike using the term ‘sold stc’ as this looks a more definite done deal. We know this sounds quite picky, but it’s worth bearing in mind – estate agents most likely haven’t done it by accident!

Can seller accept another offer after accepting?

We did give a little spoiler on this earlier but just in case you missed it, as a seller you can accept any offer you get up until the point of exchange, as there’s nothing legally binding, so there’s nothing to stop you accepting a better offer that comes along.

If you do accept another offer after having already accepted one, then this will mean you have gazumped your buyer. There’s nothing illegal about this but you should bear in mind whereabouts in the process you are.

If you’re quite far down the line with your buyer, then it may be a better idea not to accept another offer as this will slow the process down, with the new buyer having to complete surveys, get a house repayments, find a solicitor and more.

If things go wrong with the new buyer, it’s important to keep in mind you won’t be able to go back to the first buyer as this will have damaged any relationship with them and so you will have to go back onto the market and ‘start fresh’.

What is the difference between under offer and sale agreed?

In a lot of cases, estate agents use them in place of each other and so they can often mean the same thing.

Theoretically, sale agreed or sold stc (sold subject to contract), should be used when a buyer has made an offer which has been accepted by the seller. This would make it clearer to potential buyers what stage the house is at and how easy it may be to potentially gazump.

Sale agreed also looks more definite and so is more likely to put off any potential buyers compared to an ‘under offer’ property.

Sick of your house being stuck under offer?

I have accepted an offer on my house, what next?

Okay, your house has gone under offer and you’ve decided to go ahead and accept it… so what happens next? What do you need to do now? We have the answers to these questions right here:

  1. Mark property as sold - As a seller, try to hold off doing this for as long as possible. We say this because if you mark your property as sold straight away but further down the line something goes wrong, then any other interested parties will have likely moved on, leaving you stuck trying to find someone new. The buyer, however, will push for you to mark the house as sold ASAP, as they want to minimise their chances of being gazumped

  2. Sort out your solicitor - Now you’ve accepted your offer and you’re happy, then it’s time to get your solicitor on board. We recommend informing your solicitor that your house is on the market and you’re getting close to accepting an offer. This way the solicitor is aware, and they’re sort of ‘on standby’ so will be ready to go as soon as you say

  3. Mortgage application (if you need one) - If after selling you’re buying on, you will likely need to get a mortgage for this. It’s important to get your mortgage applications in early, as they’re currently taking a prolonged period and you don’t want this to be the reason that the whole process falls through

  4. Surveyor (if you need one) - If you’re buying another house and your offer has been accepted, then you will need to make sure you’ve appointed a surveyor and got on with the surveys. The next stage in the process will be determined by the result of the surveys, as it may lead to some re-negotiation, or can sometimes lead to the sale falling through

  5. Book your removals in - If you’re going to need the extra help of a removals company when it comes to the moving day, it’s best to get that booked in as soon as you’ve got an idea of the moving date. Although it may seem a while off, these companies get very booked up and you want to make sure your moving experience is as smooth as possible

  6. Exchange those contracts - As soon as you can, exchange the contracts! This makes the deal legally binding, meaning no one can back out (without BIG consequences) and you can see you’re on the home straight. If you’re buying on, exchange is when you need to put down your deposit, so make sure you have this in place

  7. COMPLETION - Last but definitely not least, completion time! Arguably the most important part of the process as this is the stage where the money comes into your bank, you move out and get the keys to your new home.

How long from offer to completion?

According to The Advisory, it SHOULD take an average of 11 weeks from under offer to completion of the sale. However, this is a SHOULD and not a ‘will take’.

The house moving process is currently taking longer, with thanks to the Stamp Duty Holiday, as an increased demand saw solicitors, house repayments advisors, surveyors all becoming inundated with jobs, causing them to become overworked, leading to a backlog.

According to Zoopla, only a quarter of transactions based on sale agreed in January would complete by March, even with those properties which had no chain. Further to this, recent research from comparison site ‘GetAgent’ has revealed that it currently takes an average of 295 days to sell a house – yes you read that right, almost a year!

No one wants to wait almost a full year to sell their property, so it leaves you wondering, ‘can I speed up the under offer to completion process?’ which, lucky for you, we have the answer coming up next…

Not wanting to wait almost a YEAR to sell?

Can I speed up the under offer to completion process?

Try not to be phased by the thought of a long period on the open market, desperately trying to find a buyer then push your sale through ASAP, as we have some tips on how to make the ‘under offer to completion’ process go as fast as possible…

Appoint a fast solicitor - To help speed up the process after under offer, you could look at appointing a solicitor who specialises in a fast sale, as they will be experienced in what gets the process moving along and will likely have certain surveyors who they know won’t leave you waiting weeks or months for results. This may be a difficult step at the moment as all solicitors are overworked, even the ones specialising in a fast sale will find it challenging to meet short deadlines.

Auction -Going through auction means you can avoid the open market and is generally a faster way to get a sale. Instead of an asking price you have a minimum reserve price which must be met in order to sell. Through auction you won’t have any ‘under offer’ stage, as contracts are exchanged on the day (if you get a deal) and the buyer then has 28 days to complete. On average, going through auction has your house sold in between 6-10 weeks but at the moment, there’s still a big back log of houses, meaning you could be waiting months to even get your house booked in.

Be open and available - Whether this is to answer questions, sign contracts or make your house available for the buyer to arrange a survey, just by being open and quick to respond you are making sure the under offer to completion process is as fast as possible.

Make use of your estate agent - By this we mean asking them to push things along, either chasing things up with the buyer, the buyer’s solicitor or even your solicitor if you don’t feel comfortable to. Although this will help apply pressure, your estate agent can only push so much and so this won’t always solve your slow under offer to completion process.

Avoid a chain - A final good way to speed up the under offer to completion process is by making sure your buyer is a cash buyer. This way you’re avoiding a chain, minimising the chances of anything going wrong and reducing the number of people you need to wait for before you can go from under offer to completed.

We know you may be wondering how you ensure you have a cash buyer on the open market – the answer actually lies elsewhere…

Sell to us!

Here at The Property Buying Company, we’re a cash buyer of houses specialising in fast sales – no long under offer to completion process here! We’re a guaranteed buyer, with the ability to buy your house in as little as 7 days, cover all your legal fees and leave you with the full sum in cash in your bank.

We will only require one quick viewing to make sure that our cash offer is accurate and as we are a genuine cash buyer, once you have accepted the offer, that is the amount that will be in your bank in FULL!

Sounds good? Ready to avoid a long under offer to completion process? Fill in our online form or give us a call to receive a no-obligation cash offer, which we could have in your bank by next week...

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Alexandra Ventress

Alexandra is a Content Producer who enjoys writing articles, finding out about the property market, keeping you up to date with the latest trends.