What does Sold Subject to Contract (SSTC) mean for buyers and sellers?

There are a few potentially confusing terms you may come across in the world of estate agency. However, this is one that whether you are buying or selling – you should take the time to understand. ‘Subject to contract’ may be seen online when browsing through new properties or even on signs outside of homes. But what does Sold STC mean for you? 

Well, when you’re scrolling through the latest property listings and finally find one that catches your eye it can be heartbreaking when you see that red sold banner across the top. But when it is accompanied by the words subject to contract, it might give buyers a glimmer of hope. However, it can be precarious for sellers. 

When an offer is made and accepted on a house, it may initially just be a verbal agreement. Where no paperwork has been signed and no money exchanged – the purchase has not been settled. The same applies to ‘under offer’ or ‘offer accepted’. It displays the movement of purchase but lets people know that nothing is set in stone yet. Theoretically, it could all fall through and result in the property being put back on the market.




Why do Estate Agents list properties as under offer or SSTC?

You will often see it on websites and in brochures, but why? Unfortunately, when a house is under offer it does mean that other parties could try and counter whatever is already on the table. While this is seen as unethical and unfair, there are no laws or legislation stopping someone from doing so. 

Similarly, if the offer was to fall through and the property goes back on the market, whoever showed interest during the period where it was subject to contract could be at an advantage by being the first to know. They would be kept on file with their estate agent and be made aware as soon as the property was available again. 

When this happens, buyers will likely be asked to make a counteroffer that will help the sellers exchange and get the house off of the market quickly. In summary, the agents list this to make potential buyers aware should the offer fall through, which may help out the sellers at the same time as they have people who are next in line and keen to buy!


What does SSTC mean for buyers?

It’s a huge moment in your journey when an offer gets accepted by the homeowners. You are one step closer to your dream property, but need to make sure you follow the next steps carefully. 

The next part of your job is to finalise your mortgage. Without this, your contract won’t be able to be taken any further. The average wait time for this is around 2 weeks but can sometimes happen much more quickly. If you know it might take a little longer to get the paperwork together, you don’t want to waste any time in getting the process started. Remember, all the time the house is under offer – it is not contractually yours!

As well as your mortgage, it will be time to organise surveys. Your solicitor will arrange for property surveyors to make all of the relevant checks and last minute discoveries on your behalf. It is during this time that you may wish to retract your offer and pull out entirely. Occasionally, property searches uncover imperfections and can cause uncertainty for buyers. Luckily, you are still able to decide not to buy and it will be easier to break the chain while it is not legally binding. 

Just ensure you have organised all of the checks you need to make an entirely informed decision. You don’t want to make any nasty discoveries on moving day!


What does SSTC mean for sellers?

When you accept a reasonable offer on your property, it is now considered to be under offer. As a result, it will effectively be removed from the market. Now, we say ‘effectively’ because instead of disappearing entirely, it will usually be listed as STC. 

So, instead of removing the listing, people can still view it but are now aware that once a contract has been signed and everything agreed upon, it will no longer be available for new offers. 

Once this happens, conveyancing can take place and you will be well on your way to securing a buyer and making the next step towards moving out. When the solicitors have worked together to transfer ownership, it will be listed as ‘sold’ and removed from online or print listings. Congratulations!

Read More – How to manage a property chain.

Read More – What can hold up an exchange of contracts.

Read More – Can I sell my home without the deeds.

If a house is SSTC can I make a counter offer?

Yes! Just because you see a Sold STC sign, doesn’t mean you should give up hope. If your heart is set on this beautiful property and you think you could make an offer the seller can’t refuse – you are legally allowed to do so.

Usually, this is done by people who can offer more money or even just complete the sale quicker. When a seller is in a hurry to close on another property and have the money secured, they could be swayed by a fast buyer. However, there are people that see this as unethical and would prefer to wait it out.

Even if you didn’t want to submit a counteroffer with empathy to the original buyer, you could still contact your estate agent and register interest. This way you are in the best position to put that offer on the table if the sale falls through. Many people prefer to do this as they see it as a fairer option for all parties.


How long does it take to complete a sale?

Remember, the option to change your mind or pull out of a sale is a two-way street. This puts both parties at risk and so you should be looking to close as quickly as possible. However, the risk of being beaten by a higher offer – also known as gazumping is low so you just need to make sure you’re providing the correct documentation and carrying out the right checks to get everything moving.

On average, you can expect to complete a sale in 12 weeks, all the while having the property remain listed as SSTC. This time will obviously vary greatly depending on your estate agents, solicitors and the situation surrounding each party. If there is a long chain, you could be looking at a rather lengthy process. Whereas, entering a short chain or with none at all, it could take half the average time.


What happens if it falls through?

While we don’t like to see it, unfortunately, this does happen from time to time. It can be for a number of reasons including:

  • A change in finances from the buyer
  • A complicated chain
  • A mortgage isn’t finalised
  • The seller decides they do not want to sell
  • A buyer is gazumped
  • Medical reasoning to pull out by either party
  • Other situations in personal life

There are a few things both buyers and sellers can do to avoid this happening. For example, once your offer has been accepted you can request that the property be taken off the market. This would be the best option to avoid gazumping, provided everyone is in a comfortable situation to complete the sale.

This will benefit the buyer due to the fact that estate agents have a legal obligation to inform sellers of every offer being made. However, having a mortgage in principle and good solicitors/surveyors will help keep the journey smooth. 

If you are selling your property and the chain breaks or sale falls through for other reasons, it is imperative you discuss with your estate agents and get the property back on the market right away. This should be fairly straightforward as it will likely not have been removed entirely. 

If you are the buyer, as frustrating as it may be – you now have the opportunity to look for alternative properties. Should the one that fell through come back on the market – you can register interest to be first in line for information. But if you need to move on, don’t forget to keep in close contact with your estate agents, and read our blog about buying a new home!

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