How Long Does a House Stay Pending?

By Chris Wilson


Buying and selling a house is a momentous occasion in almost everyone’s lives. It can be overwhelming on various levels to everyone involved in this transaction. However, there can be some unforeseen circumstances that result in the delay of the transfer of the house. But first, what exactly is the pending sale situation – 

From what I understand of pending sale is that even though there is an agreement between the buyer and the seller along with the contract been signed and the token money provided, the actual move or the transition of the sellers into owners have been stalled. The reason for this stall can be anything like finances or repairs, or other issues.

Ideally, if it is a cash sale, then it would conclude almost immediately. But if it is a contingency sale upon financial assistance from a bank or by mortgage assistance, then it could be between 30 – 60 days depending on the banking procedures. In an ideal situation, within 60 days, there should be a complete transfer of the house, but there are cases when it remains in pending sale situations, some of them are – 

Financial Assistance 

If the buyer requires a loan, provided his documents are accurate, then the pending sale would be extended up to 30–60 days. If there are any concerns with the bank, nevertheless that would impact the pending sale duration for the house. 

But sometimes, there would be an issue with one of the many bank requirements, and the seller might have to look elsewhere, so this would further delay the sale completion. 

Mortgage 

If in some scenarios the buyer has to mortgage property and then purchase the new house, then it could be delayed due to various reasons. It could be the credit-worthiness of the buyer might be hindering the mortgage along with other aspects of surety, other liens, or judgments filed against the buyer. 

Inspection 

This is usually conducted to check for any issues with the house physically. If there is an issue with various aspects of the house such as the heating system, central AC, plumbing, electrical systems, roof, mold, attic, insulation, walls, ceilings, floor, windows, doors, foundation, basement, structural components, it could raise a possible concern. 

If there are any red flags during this inspection, then there would be an obvious delay in the complete transfer of ownership from the seller to the buyer. Things could get nasty in case the buyer wishes to sue for negligence or willful non-disclosure of facts from the seller, which would result in tedious lengthy litigations. But this situation can be averted by hiring a credible realtor and an inspector to inspect the property before the agreement is signed.

Public Records Check 

The paperwork of the house such as the chain of the title (various ownership transfers of the house), taxes search (if the property tax is paid and is up to date or not), dimensions of the property, the assessed value of the house, selling price of the house, any changes in the square footage of the property, any tax liens, if applicable, will be documented and checked. 

Upon completion of a thorough check of all the relevant documents, the pending sale can be considered closed. These public records check can be time-consuming because it needs to be procured from either government offices or real estate sites (if it has been provided to them). In either of the places, procuring this data would take up a considerable amount of time. 

Repairs 

Repairs can take a long time to resolve if the buyer and the seller agree to the repairs identified. Repairs can be any of the following but not limited to – roof repair, water damage repairs, septic system repairs, termite damage, plumbing repairs, water heater repairs, heating or AC repairs, foundation, electrical, and so on. 

However, if any disagreements were to occur, between the buyer and seller, then it would cause a prolonged wait for a pending sale. Ideally, it is advised to put all the details of every repair in the agreement to avoid litigation on a later date, but sometimes it would be missed. 

Missing Documents in the Transfer of Ownership 

Instances wherein the required signatures or documents for the ownership transfer from the seller to the buyer may be missing, in such cases, the pending sale situation arises. 

For instance – If the property is jointly held by an estranged couple and the signature of both of the owners is missing then there would be a delay. Another example could be, one of the owners is deceased but the death certificate is not provided and the ownership agreement still reflects both the owner’s name, then on a technicality, there might be a delay. 

These kinds of incidents can be overcome if due diligence is followed. In some scenarios, the aforementioned situations cannot be overcome, and that results in the pending sale falling apart. There are plenty of reasons for a pending sale to fall apart as well, some of them are – 

i) Buyer’s Remorse 

If a buyer wishes to back out due to buyer’s remorse, he/she can do so but he/she may also lose their earnest money if there is no good reason for their backing out. (Earnest money refers to the deposit paid by a buyer 

to a seller, which shows the good faith of a buyer in purchasing the house.) 

But this concern of the buyer may be met with legal notices from the seller to contest backing out of the agreement. To avoid the legal turn of events, it would be better if the buyer and the seller agreed upon settlement terms outside the court with legal counsel. 

Ideally, before signing the agreement, it is advised to the buyer to be completely sure about this decision as backing out will only turn out to be either long litigation and a huge drain of resources. 

ii) Buyer’s Loan Denied 

If the house is being purchased with the assistance of a loan from a financial institution, then there can be multiple reasons for the failure of approval of the loan. The credit score of the buyer may not be good because of impulsive financial commitments, or there could be some other liens against them of which they would be unaware. 

iii) Lien Issues of the Seller 

Due to unpaid property taxes or because of an estranged couple fighting over the ownership of the property, or to submit the house as a mortgage assurance for another requirement of the buyer, there could be undeclared liens on the house which can hinder the sale completion. It can be resolved amicably if the seller fulfills his commitments to the building. Else it could also result in litigation. 

iv) Seller’s Remorse 

The home was put on the market, an offer was made, and it was accepted. But now the seller is having second thoughts about selling. Similar to the buyer’s remorse, the seller cannot break the contract without the possible legal consequences. The buyer might sue the seller attempting to force the seller to sell the home, or for seeking recovery of any monetary losses he/she has suffered because of not being able to buy the home. 

In such situations, it is advisable if the sellers could evaluate their original reasons for selling their home and check to see if those reasons are still valid. Transfer of the ownership of one’s home is an emotional event, and with memories associated with one’s home, it can be hard to let go. 

v) Contingent Offers of the Buyer 

A buyer can lose the pending sale if it is dependent on the sale of the existing house, and that sale hasn’t happened within the purchase time of the new place. 

A small number of buyers can afford to own two houses at the same time financially. If there is a dependency on the sale of another property for the purchase of a new house, then there is a tendency of it resulting in a 

the domino effect, because if one sale doesn’t happen, the next purchase will also fail. 

vi) Survey Disputes 

Sometimes, different surveys might show different boundaries, which may result in a different party claiming the portion of the property misrepresented in these surveys. Now, there would be probabilities of land use, fences, boundary lines, and any kind of resources from that litigation land. If this issue is not resolved by the owner immediately, during the sale of the property, this can be a critical issue for the sale to fall through. 

Buying or selling a house is a tedious process, agreed, but with the right kind of realtor, it can be a smooth sailing process. And if due diligence is 

conducted with the utmost care, then there could be nothing to make this 

process a smooth sailing one. 

Both sellers and buyers need to respect each other’s time and money to 

make this transfer of the property a comfortable and memorable one. 

Having contingency plans prevents long litigations and completes the sale pending phase as soon as possible.

Chris Wilson

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