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Contingent vs Pending

Contingent vs Pending

What is Contingent vs Pending?

Very often we will see listings online that are marked either contingent or pending, and many people don’t have a clear idea of the distinction. There are also those marked as ‘backup,’ which certainly can confuse folks trying to understand what all this means to them as buyers. Let’s take a better look at what the differences are between contingent vs pending Real Estate contracts. 

When you are looking for a home to purchase, your Realtor studies the MLS to see what homes fit into your budget and have the basics that you require.  The agent will then send you listings to review, based on the information you shared with him or her about what you are looking for and hope to find.

Your Realtor will then schedule showings for the homes in which you have expressed interest.  After touring the homes, you select one that you have fallen in love with and want to call home.  You and your agent will review similar homes that have sold in the same area over the past 3 months, as well as those listed for sale. Based on that review, together you will then determine an offer price to submit to the seller’s agent.  At this point, you will have your Realtor prepare a sales contract and an offer to submit to the seller’s agent.

What is the Difference Between Pending and Contingent Contracts?

Once a sales price is agreed upon between you and the seller through skilled negotiations between the two respective agents, then the seller’s agent will mark the listing, as it appears on the MLS, as contingent, which means that a contract has been accepted and a price agreed upon; the listing is no longer active for sale.  

There are certain instances when the agent might mark it as ‘backup,’ however.  Let’s say the buyer, for example, is submitting a low down payment or has asked for contingencies or concessions.  The seller’s agent might want to mark the listing as ‘backup’, and allow more showings and offers on the property until after the inspection and appraisal, just in case the first buyer pulls out of the contract.  This way, the seller’s agent has one or more backup offers to consider if the first buyer falls through.

Now that there is a signed contract between the buyer and the seller, the buyer’s next step is to schedule an inspection with a licensed home inspector to be sure that everything in the home is in working order, including all appliances, plumbing, the electrical system, the roof and the construction of the home.  The buyer will discuss the results of the inspection with their Realtor who will work out the details with the seller’s Realtor of what needs attention and/or repair. Once the details are discussed and an agreement is reached, the next step is for the buyer’s lender to schedule the appraisal.

Following the appraisal by a licensed appraiser, assuming the home value is either the same or higher than the sales price, the seller’s Realtor can mark the listing as pending, which means they are all on the last leg towards the closing.  Unless the buyer’s financing is denied at this or at a later point in the transaction, all indications signify that the closing will take place as planned. Pending, in other words, means that the closing is imminent. As you can see there is a big difference between contingent vs pending contracts that can mean your deal will close, or not.


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