Contingent? What’s that mean?

So, you’re looking online for a house. There are so many great resources these days –, Zillow, and among others. The photos and details are enticing and it’s easy to get excited that maybe, just maybe you’ve found The One. You send it off to your Realtor to see if you can take a look and you get the message back: it’s contingent.

As a listing goes through the sales process it could have a number of “statuses.” The first status is “active.” These are homes that are available to be sold; no one else has written an offer on them that has been accepted by the seller(s).

However, once a home gets an accepted offer (this could also be referred to as being “under contract”) its status changes to “contingent.*” This refers to the agreed upon purchase being subject to, or contingent upon some factors, most likely financing and inspections. These contingencies have deadlines associated with them that have to be met.

Could a home that is contingent still be looked at? Potentially, yes. That’s a discussion you should have with your Realtor to determine if it is worth your time. However, there is one contingency where you may very well want to still take a look at the home. This is when the contingency is “subject to sale.” In this case the home has an accepted offer but that offer is subject to the sale of the buyer’s current home. Typically there is a clause that states that if the seller receives another acceptable offer the buyer with the subject to sale contingency has an agreed upon time frame in which to determine whether or not he/she can proceed with the purchase. Again, whether you want to pursue a home with a subject to sale clause is a conversation you should have with your Realtor.

Once the contingencies are met and both buyer(s) and seller(s) are satisfied the listing then goes into “pending” status. Pending essentially means that everyone is waiting for the closing date to come. There’s work being done in the background, but the home is very firmly expected to sell.

After closing occurs (and the closing is where money and title changes hands) the property then goes into “sold” status, which makes everyone very happy!

*So what’s with that asterisk up there when you were talking about contingent properties? Here’s the tricky thing about looking for property online: major online sources like and Zillow do not automatically filter out contingent properties when visitors do their searches. This is why it’s always best to contact your Realtor to have her check a home’s availability. Just jot down the MLS number or the address and send her an email to check.

Share this:

You Might Also Like

Become a Local Real Estate Market Insider

Want exclusive market insights, buying and selling tips, and updates on the latest community events? Sign up for our newsletter!
We promise we won’t blow up your inbox, and we’ll keep our communications short and useful.