What Does 'Pending' Mean in Real Estate?

If you've ever browsed real estate listing sites, then you have probably seen homes that say 'Pending' or 'Sale Pending', but it's not always obvious what that means, and whether the home is totally off the market.

Wondering what 'pending' really means? Well, then keep on reading...

pending in real estate
Example of home with a 'Sale Pending' status on ZeroDown.com

What does it mean in real estate when a home goes 'pending'?

When it comes to homes on the market, there are actually several statuses that they enter during the sale process:

what does pending mean in real estate
Pending, Pending Close, and Contingent statuses on ZeroDown's Status Feed

These statuses are entered into the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) by the listing agent to reflect the stage of the home. Other agents (and websites such as Redfin, Zillow, or ZeroDown) are able to access this information through their own subscriptions to MLS feeds.

The easiest two statuses to understand are 'Active' or 'Closed/Sold' which indicate that a home is on the market and accepting offers, or off the market having been sold, respectively.

Statuses such as 'Contingent-Show', or 'Contingent-No Show' indicate that the seller has accepted an offer, but the offer is still waiting to clear an inspection, financing, or other contingency. (See our post: 'What is a Contingency in Real Estate?' for more information). In the case of a 'Contingent-Show' status, the listing agent is indicating that while the seller has accepted an offer, it is not a done deal, and they are still willing to show the home to prospective buyers, in case that offer falls through. 'Contingent-No Show' naturally means then that while the offer the seller accepted is not a done deal, they are not willing to show the home any further.

That leaves us with 'Pending'. It is the general practice for most listing agents to wait until all contingencies to clear before they update the status of a home on the MLS to 'Pending' or 'Sale Pending'. At this point, since all contingencies have been cleared, the sale between the seller and the buyer now is merely pending final steps to closing, and the home is no longer considered as being on the market.

Why does a home say contingent on one website and pending on another?

Different MLS' use different terms to indicate the stages of home listed, and there may be differences between regions in how/when statuses are updated by agents. Because of this lack of consistency, many listing websites will normalize homes that have accepted an offer to show 'Sale Pending', regardless of the exact status.

What does this mean for you, if your dream home just went pending?

The December 2020 Realtors® Confidence Index Survey found that only 6% of members' contracts ended up falling through. This means that while you should not get your hopes up, if you are serious about the home, you should still let your agent know.

A good agent will be able to clarify whether a home is contingent and/or still accepting showings and will let the listing agent know of your interest should the existing offer fail to clear contingencies, or the contract falls through for another reason. If the seller is taking backup offers, you'll also be able to put your offer in the mix.

READ NEXT: What Does 'Contingent' Mean in Real Estate?

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