What does 'Under Offer' mean when buying a property?

Find out what Under Offer means when you are buying a property. 'What does Under Offer mean?' plus over 150 other property related terms and jargon in plain English

Under Offer

What do we mean when we say a property is under offer?

Basically its the time between when the seller has agreed to sell and that agreement has become legally binding ... which can take weeks or even months.

Sounds odd? I mean when I buy a car I go round to look at it, kick some tires to pretend I know what I'm doing and then make an offer. If the seller of the car agrees I hand over the cash or make an online bank transfer and the seller gives me the keys and the ownership documents.

Property sales in England and Wales move way slower. Just the ownership papers (or as they are called in property lingo, "The Title Deeds") can take time to turn up.

If the property has a mortgage on it they'll usually be with the bank so someone needs to ask the bank to dig around their files, find them and send them out. If there is no mortgage the seller needs to try and remember where the hell he put them even though it was a really safe and sensible place. If he can't someone needs to get a copy (known as an Office Copy Entry) from the relevant authorities.

As a buyer you might need to persuade a lender to give you a mortgage and they're going to want to know all about the property, perhaps even certain parts of the history of the property like the service charge payments from the last three years, before their going to hand over the cash to you.

This literally skims the surface of all the paperwork which needs to be bought together before anyone is going to hand over keys to anyone else.

Because many of these things are fundamental as to whether or not you actually want to buy the property - yes you thought it looked fine until you found out the service charge was £5,000 per month - no one is legally obliged to go through with the deal until everything is known.

When everything has been answered to everyone's satisfaction contracts are exchanged and the deal becomes legally binding with a stated date and time that the property will become yours.

Up until then anyone can walk away, buyer or seller, so a property where a price has been agreed is one of two things:

  • Under offer - people and solicitors are running around collecting documents and putting them into order but anyone can change their mind and back out.
  • Exchanged - the sale has been legally agreed and the date and time at which the property changes hands has been set in a contract signed by both buyer and vendor. No one can back out without facing legal (and sometimes financial) consequences.

Confusingly both are referred to as Sold Subject to Contract or its shorthand Sold STC.

This is because while you a property is under offer it has been sold subject to a contract being agreed and when the property has exchanged it has been sold subject to the terms of that contract which usually just means the date of completion when the balance of cash should be handed over.

Under offer is also often used interchangeably with Sale agreed.

To find out all the lingo you need to purchase a property the right way pick up a copy of my ebook How to Really Buy a Property.

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How to Really Buy a Property

"... weeks previously the people who owned the flat upstairs from the property in question had approached the vendor and offered him the full £205,000 so that they could change the building back into one whole house. The vendor had done the honourable thing by telling them that he was already under offer and would not back out of an agreement he had already..."

"... agent may have different applicants - If you have instructed at least two good agents the chances of a third agent actually having someone different are pretty remote. Many vendors change agent simply for peace of mind that they are actually doing something. In reality if you go under offer quickly this is more luck than anything..."

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