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What does 'under offer' mean?

Updated: Jul 2

"Under Offer" typically means a buyer has shown interest in a property and made an offer, often below the asking price. The seller is now mulling this over. Sometimes, real estate agents might also use this term when an offer has been accepted but the final paperwork isn't finished yet.


Buying a house throws up a lot of jargon that can be baffling if you're new to it. Two of the most common terms you'll see are 'under offer' and 'sold subject to contract (STC)'.  Understanding these phrases is key to the whole house-hunting process. Let's break them down so you're in the know when searching for your dream home.


Understanding Property Statuses


What does 'under offer' mean on a house listing?

A property listed as 'under offer' means the seller has received an offer from a potential buyer and is considering it. This stage doesn't mean the sale is final. Estate agents use this term to show that an offer exists, but the house isn't off the market entirely.  Sellers can still accept other offers, and things can fall through before any agreement becomes official.


The difference between 'under offer' and 'sold STC'

'Sold STC' (subject to contract) implies a step further.  The seller has accepted an offer, but the deal isn't legally binding yet.  Things depend on contracts being drawn up and the conveyancing process going smoothly. Until contracts are exchanged there's still a chance of the sale not completing, whether that's due to another buyer swooping in or unforeseen problems arising.

Understanding these terms helps you navigate the early stages of buying a property. The market can be changeable, so being informed is your best bet for a smooth experience.


The Conveyancing Process Explained


Conveyancing is the legal work needed to transfer property ownership from the seller to the buyer. It starts after your offer on a house is accepted. Conveyancing solicitors or licensed conveyancers handle the process, which has several key steps. 


First, everyone involved shares information and searches are done on the property to reveal any legal quirks or potential problems that could impact the sale.  

Then, contracts are drawn up laying out all the terms of the sale. Once both sides are happy, contracts are formally exchanged. 


Completion is the final step:  money changes hands, ownership is transferred, and you get the keys to your new home!  It's helpful to understand each stage of conveyancing, as this lets you know what's coming next and can help keep things moving along.


The Conveyancing Process: A Quick Overview

  1. Instructing a Conveyancer: Choose a solicitor or conveyancer as soon as your offer is accepted.

  2. Searches and Information: Your conveyancer does searches for things like flooding risk and checks the property's legal title.

  3. Mortgage Arrangements: Your mortgage lender will finalise the loan details.

  4. Reviewing the Contract: Your conveyancer will go over the contract, raise any questions, and report back to you.

  5. Exchange of Contracts: Once both sides are happy, contracts are legally exchanged making the sale binding.

  6. Completion: The remaining money is transferred, the Land Registry updates ownership records, and you move in!


Property Status: Know Your Region


It's important to realise that terminology and the buying process have some differences across the UK, especially between England, Wales, and Scotland. 


For example, in Scotland, 'under offer' takes on a stronger meaning. It signifies that the buyer's solicitor has submitted an offer which the seller has formally accepted in writing.  This moves the sale a big step closer to the finish line. Also, Scotland uses the term 'STCM' (Sold Subject to Conclusion of Missives) rather than 'STC'. The focus here is on finalising the legal 'missives' – the letters exchanged between lawyers to make the sale official.


Understanding these regional variations is vital for buyers and sellers alike. It ensures everyone is on the same page, setting realistic expectations about how quickly the sale might progress and how secure the deal is at any given stage. Knowing the rules in your specific region smooths out the whole process, helping everyone involved make informed decisions and get ready for the next steps.


England & Wales

  • For Sale: The property is actively on the market and available for viewings.

  • Under Offer: An offer has been made by a potential buyer and the seller is considering it, but the sale is not yet final.

  • Sold Subject to Contract (STC): A seller has accepted an offer, but the sale is not legally binding and is subject to the successful completion of contracts and conveyancing.

  • Exchanged: Contracts have been exchanged, making the sale legally binding.

  • Completed: The transaction is finalised, funds have been transferred, and ownership has changed hands.

Scotland

  • For Sale: The property is actively on the market and available for viewings.

  • Under Offer: A buyer's solicitor has submitted a formal offer, and the seller has accepted it in writing. This stage is generally considered more secure than "under offer" in England and Wales.

  • Sold Subject to Conclusion of Missives (STCM): A seller has accepted an offer, but the sale is subject to the finalisation of 'missives' (the legal documents exchanged between solicitors).

  • Concluded: The missives have been concluded (finalised), making the sale legally binding.

  • Completed: The transaction is finalised, funds have been transferred, and ownership has changed hands.


Please Note: There can be subtle variations and nuances within these regions, so it's always a good idea to double-check with a local estate agent or conveyancer for the most accurate and up-to-date information.


Strategies for Buyers


Buying a house takes more than just falling in love with a place. To boost your chances of success, get strategic about how and when you make that offer.  First, do your prep work: know your absolute maximum budget, thoroughly research the property and neighbourhood, and have a mortgage agreed in principle. This makes you look like a serious buyer and means things can move quickly once your offer is accepted.


If you see a place you like that's 'under offer' or even 'sold STC', don't despair. You can still put in an offer, but it's a good idea to proceed with some caution and be respectful of the situation. If you need to sell your current place before you can buy, timing is everything.  Being a chain-free buyer (either already having sold or being a first-time buyer) can make you very attractive to sellers.


Key Points:

  • Preparation is key: Know your budget and have your finances sorted beforehand.

  • Don't be afraid of 'under offer': You can still try, especially if you have something attractive to offer the seller (like being chain-free).

  • Timing matters: If you need to sell, consider how this fits into the buying process.


Gazumping: What It Is and How to Protect Yourself


Gazumping is the dreaded scenario where a seller accepts your offer on a house, only to back out and go with a higher offer from someone else. It's less common these days, but still something to be aware of.  The best way to minimise the risk is to move quickly after your offer is accepted.  Choose a good conveyancing solicitor who'll work efficiently, and keep in touch with the estate agent to show the seller you're serious. 


You can also ask about a 'lock-in agreement' where the seller agrees not to take other offers for a set period, though these aren't always an option.  Ultimately, being prepared and staying on top of the process helps protect you from most nasty surprises, including gazumping.


The Role of Property Surveys


Don't buy a house without getting a property survey done. It's like buying a car without checking under the bonnet. A survey is done by a qualified professional and gives you a clear picture of the property's condition. This uncovers any nasty surprises that could cost you dearly later on or even change your mind about buying altogether.


There are different levels of survey, from a basic check-up to a really in-depth inspection. The right one for you depends on the age and type of property. A proper survey gives you peace of mind, could save you a fortune in unexpected repairs, and might even help you negotiate a better price if problems are found.  Always use a qualified surveyor to make sure the job is done right.


Financing Your Property Purchase


Getting the right mortgage sorted is absolutely key to buying a house. Start by shopping around to compare rates and get a 'mortgage in principle'. This is basically a lender saying "yes, we'd probably lend you this much", based on your financial situation.  It helps you know your budget and makes you a  more attractive buyer to sellers.


Remember, if a house is already 'under offer' or 'sold STC',  this might change the kind of mortgage you need, or how quickly it needs to be arranged.  Also, don't forget that buying a house costs more than just the price tag – there's stamp duty, legal fees, surveys, and so on.  Taking advice from a mortgage advisor can really help you get the best deal and make the whole process less stressful.


Moving Tips and Timing for Buyers


a couple packing moving boxes

Moving house is stressful enough without the added pressure of tight deadlines.  Here's how to make it go smoothly:

  • Schedule for completion day: Aim to have your movers booked so everything arrives at your new place the day you get the keys.

  • Choose wisely: Spend time finding a good removals company in London. Check online reviews and make sure they offer the services you need.

  • Pack smart: Start early with non-essentials, and label boxes super clearly (room + what's inside).

  • Storage solutions: If there's a gap between moving out and moving in, look into temporary storage options.

  • Communication is key: Keep your removal company updated on the situation so they can adjust if needed.


Expert Advice


Buying a house is a big deal, so don't feel like you have to figure it all out yourself.  Here's who can help:

  • Conveyancers: Handle the legal side of buying, making sure everything's in order.

  • Mortgage Advisors:  Find you the best mortgage for your situation, saving you money and hassle.

  • Estate Agents:  Know the market inside-out and can make your offer stand out against others.

  • Removals experts: Can help you understand the logistics of moving you, your family and all your belongings, whether it's two doors down the street, or a longer distance move from London to say Edinburgh.

  • Get tailored advice: Everyone's situation is different – seek out professionals who can guide you based on your specific needs.


Buying Your Dream Home: A Journey of Knowledge and Preparation


The world of 'under offer', 'sold STC', and legal jargon can feel overwhelming when you're buying a house. But by taking the time to understand these terms, the conveyancing process, and the importance of things like surveys and mortgages, you empower yourself. 

 

Seek out advice from professionals, do your own research, and don't be afraid to ask questions. View each step of buying – from the initial house hunt to moving day –  as a chance to learn and make the smartest possible choices. With the right approach, the journey to finding and buying your perfect home can be smooth, informed, and incredibly exciting.


Moving to Your New Home? Let Us Help

Excitement for your new home shouldn't be overshadowed by moving stress. That's where we come in.  We're experts in removals across London, from Camden to Richmond offering personalised moving and storage solutions to ensure a smooth and stress-free transition. Get in touch for a free quote and discover how we can make settling into your new place a breeze.

"I recently used Denix moving for our Camden move, and they were superb. From start to finish, they were professional, efficient and helpful." Izi, Camden



Q: What does 'under offer' mean when a house is marked as such?

A: When a house is marked as 'under offer,' it means that a buyer has made an offer on the property, and the seller is considering it. This status is commonly used by estate agents to indicate that the property is not currently available for new offers pending the seller's decision.

Q: How long does a house stay under offer?

A: The duration a house stays under offer can vary significantly. Typically, it can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the property's specifics, the buyer's circumstances, and the efficiency of the real estate agent handling the sale.

Q: Can I still bid on a property that is already under offer?

A: Generally, you can still make an offer on a property that is under offer. However, the seller might prioritise the current offer unless your offer is significantly better or the initial offer falls through.

Q: What happens when a seller accepts the offer on a property?

A: When a seller accepts an offer, the property is marked as under offer, and both parties move towards finalising the sale. This typically involves due diligence, such as home inspections and securing financing, followed by the exchange of contracts.

Q: Does 'under offer' mean that the sale is guaranteed to go through?

A: No, 'under offer' does not guarantee that the sale will go through. It simply indicates that an offer has been received and accepted in principle. Until contracts are exchanged and the deal is legally binding, the sale could fall through due to various reasons, such as financing issues or changes in circumstances.

Q: What should I do if my house is under offer but I receive a better offer?

A: If your house is under offer and you receive a better offer, you should consult with your real estate agent and consider the terms and timing of both offers. However, be mindful that pulling out of an accepted offer can have legal or financial implications.

Q: Can I withdraw my offer on a house that is under offer if I change my mind?

A: Yes, as a buyer, you can withdraw your offer on a house that is under offer until contracts are exchanged. It is imperative to communicate promptly with the real estate agent and the seller to avoid unnecessary complications.

Q: What does it mean for the property market if many houses are under offer?

A: A high number of houses marked as 'under offer' often indicates a competitive property market with high demand. It suggests that buyers are actively making offers, and properties are moving quickly through the sales process.

Q: How does a cash offer affect a property's under offer status?

A: A cash offer can significantly strengthen a buyer's position, often speeding up the process and potentially influencing the seller's decision. If a cash offer is made on a property that is already under offer, it could prompt the seller to reconsider the terms, depending on the offer's attractiveness.

Q: Does 'under offer' status take the property off the market?

A: While 'under offer' status indicates that an offer has been made and accepted in principle, it does not always take the property completely off the market. Some sellers and real estate agents may continue to show the property to other potential buyers until the sale is finalised.

 

Q: What does under offer mean?

A: When a property is under offer, it means the seller has accepted an offer but the sale has not yet been finalised. The property is no longer available for viewings.

Q: How long can a house stay under offer?

A: The length of time a house can stay under offer varies depending on the terms agreed upon by the buyer and seller. It can range from a few weeks to several months.

Q: What is the difference between an offer and an exchange?

A: An offer is when a potential buyer expresses their interest in purchasing a property at a certain price, while an exchange refers to the legal process of transferring ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer.

Q: How does a property go under offer?

A: A property goes under offer when a buyer makes a formal offer to buy the property and the seller accepts it. Once the offer is accepted, the property is considered to be under offer.

Q: What does it mean when a property is already under offer?

A: When a property is already under offer, it indicates that a buyer has made a reasonable offer that the seller has accepted. The property is in the process of being sold, but the sale has not yet been completed.

Q: Can a property stay under offer indefinitely?

A: While a property could be described as being under offer for an extended period of time, sellers typically aim to finalise the sale within a reasonable timeframe to avoid complications with the property chain.

Q: Can a seller accept a lower offer if the property is already under offer?

A: In some cases, a seller may consider accepting a lower offer if the current offer is not proceeding smoothly or if the new offer is more favourable to them. However, this decision may depend on various factors and negotiations between the parties involved.


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