If you’re currently in the midst of a house hunt, it’s highly likely you’ve come across the term ‘Sold STC’. But what does Sold STC actually mean? And can I still make an offer on a property that’s Sold STC?
In this article, we go through what Sold STC means for buyers and sellers — and how to react when Sold STC falls through.
Sold STC stands for sold subject to contract. In simple terms, it’s the period when an offer has been verbally accepted on a property, but the sale isn’t complete yet, because the paperwork, legal processes, and financial agreements are still ongoing. This stage is also known as ‘sale agreed’.
So what can buyers and sellers expect when a property is Sold STC?
When sellers accept an offer on their property, it immediately becomes Sold STC and effectively removed from the market. In most cases, the listing for the property will stay online but will be updated with a Sold STC label. The ‘for sale’ sign outside the property will also be changed to say Sold STC. Because ‘Sold STC’ is more of a status update than a done deal, sellers can sometimes still get enquiries or other offers on the property from prospective buyers.
At this point, both the seller and the buyer’s solicitors will begin the legal and conveyancing process, and set a timeline for the transfer of ownership. The timeframe between Sold STC and legally sold can differ wildly, but is usually around 8-12 weeks.
For buyers, Sold STC is a slightly more nerve wracking phase. Until the legal processes have gone through without a hitch, the buyer shouldn’t consider the property ‘theirs’ yet. Typically, this phase can take a long time while solicitors gather necessary information, carry out surveys and searches, and shoot questions back and forth to ensure the transfer of ownership goes smoothly. Any problems on either side will also come to light during this phase.
Though this phase can be frustrating, this is also a chance for both the buyer and the seller to pull out if they change their minds. An exchange of contracts is legally binding, so it’s an opportunity for the buyer to address any doubts about their investment before having to sign on the dotted line.
You might have heard the terms ‘Sold STC’ and ‘Under Offer’ used interchangeably, but there’s a key distinction between the two processes.
Under offer is when the seller is considering an offer made by a prospective buyer, but hasn’t actually accepted it yet. Once the seller has accepted the offer, the property then progresses to being Sold STC. While ‘Under Offer’ can slow down viewings or deter unserious enquiries, buyers can still make an offer on a property that’s Under Offer or Sold STC.
The Under Offer stage can sometimes last longer while the buyer and seller are negotiating on price.
The short answer? Yes, it can — and it’s unfortunately very common.
As the sale isn’t yet legally binding, the buyer is technically free to pull out of the sale at any point. The buyer can also lower their offer at the last minute, forcing the seller to either accept the low offer or lose the sale altogether. This process is called gazundering.
Gazundering can happen for multiple reasons, including
- The buyer getting cold feet, especially if the property is an expensive or risky investment.
- The buyer getting a bad survey back that highlights more significant issues with the property that could be expensive to address down the line.
- There are too many delays coming from the seller.
- The buyer finds a better, more affordable property that ticks all of their boxes.
- The buyers own property sale has fallen through, meaning they no longer have the funds to make their onward purchase.
The seller can also cause a house sale to fall through. Most commonly, this is due to the seller accepting a higher offer from another prospective buyer. They might even have another offer that’s completely identical, but decide to go with another buyer because the current buyer is causing too many delays.
Unfortunately, many house sales fail to reach completion. As long as both parties are proactive, responsive and communicative, and the seller is transparent and upfront about any issues that might come up in the survey, any delays in conveyancing should be kept to a minimum.
Sold STC can be a draining and anxiety-inducing period for both buyers and sellers — but ultimately, it’s there for good reason. From a sellers perspective, Sold STC allows you to quickly change tack if the buyer you’re moving forward with is proving unreliable or slow. It also means that if you have a feeling they’ll lower their offer at the last minute, you can get ahead of the curve and accept a competing offer for more money. Just be sure to put ‘buyer background check’ on your house selling checklist.
For buyers, the Sold STC phase is vital. Properties are a big investment, and sometimes it’s not until you get the keys and discover unseen issues that you may come to regret your decision. During the Sold STC phase, you can ask all your burning questions and carry out the necessary checks you need to feel confident in your decision. If you don’t feel confident in the seller’s commitment to you, you can continue exploring other options and house hunting while you move things forward.
For both parties, it’s also important not to force a sale — especially if it means being unhappy with the result. Once the contracts are exchanged there’s no going back, so even a gut feeling about it not being right is worth taking into consideration.
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