Making an Offer on a Property that’s Already Under Offer

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Added on July 3rd 2020

Lots of house-hunters wonder what the difference is between ‘sold, subject to contract’ and ‘under offer’.

They’re both terms that you’ll see in estate agents’ windows and on websites and because they’re different, you might think they mean something different. They actually mean the same thing; it just depends on which phrase your estate agent prefers to use. A property could be described as being under offer if a potential buyer has put an offer in but had it rejected, but agents are unlikely to do so as it could put off others.

Under offer usually means an offer’s been accepted

Estate agents tend to use the phrase ‘under offer’ when the vendor has accepted an offer on their property, whether it’s at their asking price or not.

It’s not unusual, however, to see ‘STC’ or ‘SSTC’ used, which means either ‘subject to contract’ or ‘sold, subject to contract’. This means that an offer’s been accepted, but the contracts haven’t been exchanged yet.

The STC or under offer period is a bit of a grey area because it’s the time during which surveys are done on the property, mortgages are sorted out and other ducks are lined up. It’s also the time during which mortgages fall through, minds are changed and structural problems are found, so contracts might end up not being exchanged after all.

Can you make an offer when there’s already an existing offer?

In a word, yes. Well, usually. ‘Under offer’ is slightly more open to other suggestions. Some buyers ask for estate agents to add ‘STC’ to a listing once their offer is accepted so that “rivals” are discouraged. Many agents will also stop viewings on an under offer or STC property, but it’s not necessarily off the market and it’s not illegal to make an offer, with or without a viewing.

Gazumping

Gazumping is when a new buyer comes along with a better offer than the existing one and the vendor accepts it. It used to be a bit of a plague, but it’s not as common now and many estate agents have policies to help to prevent it. When you see a property that’s under offer or STC, however, it’s essentially still on the market until contracts have been exchanged.

It’s not “fair”, but it can happen to the best of us, so if you’re thinking about gazumping, find out whether the buyers have asked for the property to be taken off the market and whether the vendors are open to other offers. If you make an offer, the agent is legally obliged to pass it on to the vendor and from then on, it’s up to them. Some vendors won’t want to let down the people whose offer they’ve already accepted, while some will be happy to accept a higher offer.

Reducing your risk of being gazumped

If you’ve made an offer on a property, you can reduce the risk of being gazumped by asking the vendor to take the property off the market, as well as by forging a good relationship with them. Making rapid progress with the sale is also really helpful, as vendors can get nervous and may be more likely to accept a higher or more “proceedable” offer if it’s all taking a while.

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