What Does Contingent Mean In Real Estate

What does contingent mean in real estate

13 Jan 2020

Contingency denotes the agreement of sale that has not been made for the transaction to close. It shows the seller has accepted the bid from the interested party/parties, which is predisposed to one or more than one type of unforeseen limitations. The purchaser may try to resolve it while other buyers continue to view the property in the listing.

They also submit offers, which can be accepted by the owners' who have given preference for multiple bids. 

In the US, when a buyer makes an offer on a home, the real estate agent fills out the Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) that identifies the parties (buyers/sellers / their agents), the property, selling price, the closing date, and other specifics and the PSA mentions several "contingencies" related to the financing company, the inspection and others, whereas, in the UK the buyer tells the estate agent that their offer is "subject to contract and survey", where there may be conditions allowing the buyer to renegotiate prices at any stage or they can even withdraw the offer before the contracts are exchanged as such an offer is not legally binding in England and Wales until contracts are exchanged.

Here in the article below, we will discuss What does contingent mean in real estate and what are the common contingencies mentioned in PSA ( the contract), which should meet for the contract to be legally binding and try to find out if there are any mortgage contingency for the terms (on the amount, interest rates and other fees) to secure loan approvals?

What Does Contingent Mean?

It means the landlord (or his agent) agrees to the bid made by the purchaser, but certain clauses remain unsettled. In general, such criteria in the sales contract may fall under categories like mortgage approval, inspection, appraisal or general contingent. The seller must resolve certain issues to prevent the purchaser from backing out of the deal.

A proprietor may consider the bid even after the rejection from the purchaser. Still, in most cases, when such clauses lead to impediments in closing, the proprietor tries to resolve the issue to avoid delays in the next one.

What Is An Active Contingent?

A landlord can illustrate the status of "active" to sell the house. Active status indicates the property is "on sale." In addition, it indicates the buyer's offer has been acknowledged, and the home is in escrow, which means the purchaser and the seller are both working towards getting the deal.

The Difference Between Contingent And Pending In Real Estate

The property owner acknowledges the bid, but the listing remains active as the seller must meet some requirements before closing the bidding process. In such a case, one can put up an application to accept the bid, and both parties move forward towards resolving the issues to bring it to a close finally.

It means the inspection phase is over, and the involved parties are waiting for financing and paperwork. It is also described as the period from when the purchaser and landlord (or their agents) start the discussion.

Types Of Contingencies In Real Estate

There can be financing contingencies with a deadline( like ten days), and if the buyer fails to arrange the money, they may lose the bid to another buyer (after the deadline). In addition, if the shopper has deposited the earnest money, they may lose it as well in conditions when the deal is cancelled. 

The status can be of different types.

Continue To Show  

In the listing, the type shows the property holder was paying attention to the proposal, but it hinges on certain criteria, and the customer is working to settle the issue. At the same time, other buyers continue to view and submit offers for the property.

No Show 

It is the method where the landlord accepts the bid with the status, and they no longer accept other offers or show the house.


If the purchaser cannot meet the deadline, the property holder may still show the home and accept bids from other buyers.

Home Inspection

It is the condition where the buyer can inspect the property, but it does not mean they can get out of the deal if they find problems. They need to get orders to scrutinise and review the property within the predefined duration. An advanced inspection limits the seller's responsibility to do the maintenance.

In such conditions, the property owner gets the option to pull out of the transaction without any penalty if the cost of repairs is higher than 2-3% of the sale price.


It is the option where the title to the property is the evidence of the ownership. It provides a legal document that shows who owned it in the past and depicts the legalities or issues involved in the deal. In such properties, the attorney reviews the title of the new property before closing.

What is a Contingent Offer?

It is common to find offers that have standardised contingencies. But there can be certain offers with undisclosed conditions; for example –


The offer where one states the inspection should be satisfactory, but it does not indicate what terms are included in the condition to make it satisfactory.


It refers to the buyers' position where they assume to get a mortgage with a small down payment and a low internet rate without getting a pre-approval. 


There can be an appraisal contingency offer where the purchase of the property can happen only in the condition when the third party does the appraisal successfully – which helps the landlord know the fair market value of the house. It means the appraisal can tell if the property holder's asking price is equal to or greater than the home's actual value.

Buyers use this method to ensure the property is worth the money spent. If the appraisal value is less, the purchaser can renegotiate on price with the seller, or they can even terminate the purchase without losing the earnest money.

Sale And Settlement 

A sale and settlement clause means the person has no offers and should sell or settle the home to purchase another. Before buying a new property, they need to advertise their old homes, and they can amend the sale and settle clause to meet their specific criteria. 

The bid means the buyer's house is under contract, and they need to wait till the closing of the first one. Once it is done, they can purchase the next one. In some such conditions, the seller removes the property from the list and waits for the purchaser to sell the existing one.

What Are Contingent Vs Pending?

Pending refers to the offer that has been acknowledged where the contingencies have been met. The homes can be in pending status if they are no more active. One can get the final transaction, but several stages are involved in getting the contract. First, the proprietor can withdraw if the deal falls through and may pay an earnest money deposit and an option fee with other offers.

Secondly, the proprietor can get a superior bid from other buyers' where they may be presented with more money for waiving it. 

It refers to the status where the bid has been accepted. Still, the official procedures and the documentation has been left before the final closing, and the status remains the same until the formalities are concluded.

Pending can be of different types; for example –


The landlord or the negotiator agent can take backup offers for the proposal.

Continue To Show

The prospective buyer can accept the bid, but if the issues are not met, there can be some release or kick-out clause for the parties involved, and in such cases, the seller can show the property and accept offers from other buyers.

Do Not Show 

The sale can be hindered when the house owner is not showing or accepting new bids. The home can be in the sale process for over a quarter of a year, but if the status is in anticipation of completion for more than four months, it should show a tentative closing date, or it is measured as "turned down."

Alternatively, in contingent bids, a pre-approved purchaser may not accept a "turned down" offer where there are problems due to a spike in mortgage rates. A radical change in the financial status or delays in the documentation when the property does not meet the lender's requirement can lead to rejection even in the later stages.

Can You Avoid Real Estate Contingencies?

The sellers can get multiple offers, and they can opt only for the non-contingent contract, but there can be other ways to lower the risks; for example –

  • All-cash bid has a low risk. In such cases, the seller may ask for a deposit. The best way to avoid it is to carefully review the offer and ensure the buyer has extra cash to close the deal. Also, one can ask for copies of bank statements.

  • Some conditions/clauses are very complex and difficult to resolve. The purchaser and the seller should carefully review all the details associated with the deal and communicate with the brokers to get detailed information. The buyer or the seller can contact a local attorney specialising in real estate to know more.

What Does Contingent Mean In Reality?

It is a provision in a contract that requires the closing of an act or the happening of an event before a new contract is made.

What Does Contingent Mean In Real Estate Listing?

With such listings, the contract depends on the buyer's ability to sell the existing home, and if the purchaser does not sell the home, he can back out of the contract.

Pending listing contracts can be based on temporary loans, inspections or appraisals. 

Home listed as MLS indicates a rare specific contract for the buyer's home sale.

What Does Active Contingent Mean In Real Estate?

It shows the purchaser is motivated to buy and is interested in the property. In addition, all the needed logistics related to the transaction are in place, and the logistics and paperwork can help close the deal.

In the case of active status, the inspection, repairs, loan underwriting, and appraisals might have already been done. It may indicate the involved parties are waiting to get approval from the mortgage servicer of the seller.

What Does Contingent Mean For A Realtor?

For a realtor, it refers to the state of the Sale Agreement required to ensure the transaction keeps moving forward. It indicates a collection of unforeseen events where one can choose to include the agreement offered by the buyer. 

What Does A Contingent House Mean?

It means the purchaser has accepted the offer, but the parties involved are waiting for the deal to conclude as it undergoes the phase of inspection, financing, and acceptance of the legal contract. The period typically lasts 30 to 60 days when the purchaser cannot get a mortgage. The seller can cancel the contract anytime and find another purchaser if the deal takes more time to finalise.

One can remove the form of the bid if they are confident that the purchaser they are talking to is interested in the closing on your home. Likewise, the purchaser can remove the clause if they are sure that the seller is committed and is interested in closing the deal with you.

What Does Contingent Mean In Real Estate Terms?

If a homebuyer makes such an offer, the sale is delayed and may close only when certain conditions are met. If the buyer finds something wrong, they can back out without losing the earnest money deposited in the account. There are different types of such bids -

Financing Contingency

It is the most common type of bid where the buyer faces issues in getting a mortgage for the home, and they can drop out of the contract with no penalty.

Home Sale 

It allows the homeowners to make an offer on a new home after selling their previous one. It helps the homeowners reduce the risk of overlapping payments to maximise the chance of getting approved for a new mortgage.


The home's appraised value can be less than the purchase price, creating delays where the purchaser wishes to renegotiate the purchase price or is thinking of refusing the contract.


It gives the purchaser the right to a home inspection by a professional before closing. If the inspector finds any issue, they can request the seller to fix it or cancel the deal.

What Does Contingent Mean On A Home For Sale?

Once an offer for the home is made and accepted, a closing date is set, but it can get late from the time the agent shows the home to get the financing. Unless the deal is finalised, the agent has no legal obligation to stop showing the property.

As long as the buyer has accepted the offer and the contract to buy the home, the buyer has no worries, even if the seller gets a better offer. Unfortunately, the property owner cannot back out once they accept and may have to wait until the closing date.

What Does Contingent Mean In Real Estate Sales? 

For real estate, it refers to the situation in which the buyer has accepted the proposition. Still, the deal is conditional, and many things happen before the final closing occurs. Therefore, it also indicates that the transaction may be declined if the deal is not closed within the set period.

Should I Accept A Contingent Offer On My House?

There are many pros and cons to accepting such a bid. Such bids help buyers who want to sell and buy simultaneously. There can be multiple ways the bids are made; for example – 

  • It can happen if the landlord keeps the property on the market but accepts the offer, which provides the buyer with a 72-hour negotiable duration with the first right of refusal notice where the house owner refuses the deal if they get a better one.

  • Sometimes, the landlord takes the property off the market and waits for the buyer to sell the existing home.

  • The proprietors can accept the second option if there are no other ways the buyers can make an offer to purchase. They may not wait forever and may stipulate a date for the deal to close.

Pros and Cons of Whether You Choose Pending or Contingent

The real estate professionals keep a tab on the index related to pending home sales. Such homes are considered a key indicator of market activity. A pending home sale occurs once the seller has accepted the bid and an agreement is made. If the home sale remains pending, it is no longer considered active on the listing services exchanged by the local agents.

  • A pending property means the sale may happen when both parties try to close the deal. Still, issues or delays can be created by the financing contingency, paperwork, or situations like signing off on the title.  

  • The best way a buyer can prepare for such sales is to have the necessary pre-approval for the mortgage, or they can contact experts in the legal and insurance sectors to know about other necessary paperwork.

For example - a licensed broker may advise on how to ask questions related to the pending issues. Once everything is checked, both parties can negotiate or agree to waive the contingencies related to the appraisal or inspection.

  • The landlord should contact the mortgage lender to ensure the documents are provided without issues with the mortgage underwriting. Delays in mortgage underwriting can delay the closing dates and create delays or disagreements for both parties involved.

  • The seller's role in pending status is to wait once the buyer prepares all the documents. After that, the listing agent may schedule the inspection or appraisals, but the seller should be present to allow people in.

  • The landlord should know all the details of the deal before finalising it, and they should be ready to back out any time when the buyer can legally cancel the deal without any reason.

  • A landlord can refuse to settle the price if the property appraises for a lower value or when the seller declines to make the needed repair as a part of the inspection.

Can You Put An Offer On A House That Is Contingent?

A listing agent may continue to show homes to the buyers depending on the agreement the listing agent has with the person selling the home. 

Risk Involved In Contingent Sale Real Estate Offer

There are certain contingencies in every real estate transaction. However, most of these contingencies are normal. Sellers are not worried about it- if they get the offer where the buyer wants to inspect the property or view the title report before finalising, in that case, the seller must depend on the buyer's timeline, which can have one or two clauses in the contract related to the settlement or sale clause.

The settlement clause refers to the condition where the individual already has a buyer and is waiting to close the deal so that one can purchase their new home.

In a Sale and Settle clause, the purchaser agrees to buy the home, but the deal depends on their existing home's sale. In such situations, one may have to wait until the buyer accomplishes the sale before the contract moves forward. It means one may be unable to move fast and may end up waiting for weeks or months before the completion of the sale.

Some buyers may allow the seller to market their properties even when they are under contract. It makes it easy to move forward with a new buyer if it falls through. 

It allows the buyer to nullify the deal and walk away, which raises the risk of the sale falling through and may also result in losing marketing effort and time. 

Can A Realtor Show A House That Is Contingent?

It is legally permissible to show the property in case things fall through where the owners and the sellers allow the agent to show the property to prospective buyers.

What Does Backup Status Mean In Real Estate?

The stage, when the property owner signs a contract for sale and has entered the legal agreement with the buyer, is the beginning of the process, which can go off the rails anytime later. Contingencies like mortgage appraisal, inspection report approval, and financing can result in fall through of the deal.

On the other hand, when one writes a proposal to the buyer for a seller's home, the offer can turn into a contract when both the parties have agreed and have signed the deal.

In the US state of California, entering multiple deals is considered illegal, but there are many such contracts where the property owner may hold multiple backups but sign only one. These backups can be at the escrow end, and contracted buyers may assume the property-owner seller accepts the offer.

Since no notice is needed as the original buyer has no obligation to perform as per the original contract's terms, e.g. to renegotiate or terminate the escrow in case the reason for delays in the contract is not resolved.

During the phase, sellers may collect backup offers from prospective buyers, or they can move ahead with a new offer if the current contract falls out.

There are certain benefits of backups where the buyer may feel the house is under contract with the most preferred offer; nevertheless, there is no loss in having a backup. There are plenty of properties from which the buyer can choose, so it is not unusual to have multiple offers for the well-priced residences.

As the seller cannot enter a new contract with another property owner at one time when the residence is in escrow with the original purchases, the backup works as a placeholder where one can show interest.

Sellers may provide the priority position of the offer in case they have received multiple bids, and they may collect multiple back-ups or give priority based on the time they received the bid or other factors.

Is A Contingent-Sale Real Estate Offer Worth The Risk? 

Selling can be challenging as there are many risks involved in contingent sales. Accepting such offers restricts the ability to promote the house to other interested parties. The MLS boards may ask the seller to change the listing to pending, restricting the property from showing up on the home search sites.

It also means that you won't be able to get the backup, who can take up the deal if the current one fails to close.

If a seller gets a bid where the purchaser is interested, they can ask the buyer to remove the sale contingency and substitute it with the longer escrow. It makes the proprietor hold the buyer's earnest money deposit that can compensate for the lost time.

If the seller declines the offer, they can encourage the purchaser to follow up once they have cleared their backlogs, like they have sold their own home. Then, when the market is hot, the buyer can sell their home quickly and still get the opportunity to strike the deal.

What Contingent Mean In Real Estate? Is There Any Benefit? 

Such offers can be worth considering if the buyer's offer is better than any other bid and the homeowner has considered accepting it. When the price offered by the purchaser is good, and the market conditions are good where one may not get a similar offer immediately, one can consider such deals.

Also, the seller should be careful when finalising and closing the contract. Since one does not understand the risks and stipulations associated with the bid, one must make an informed decision before accepting it.

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