Both indicate that the seller has accepted an offer. But until that offer has not been formally and officially processed, they may still accept another offer on the property.
“Contingent” means that the accepted offer is pending due to certain contingencies. In other words, until specific conditions have met (like confirming the buyer’s available finances or waiting until the buyer has completed the sale of their own home) you still have a chance to purchase.
Different contingent phases refer to how likely the current offer will go through and be finalized. Some phrases you’ll notice when shopping for a home include:
Contingent—Continue to Show: The seller has accepted an offer with contingencies. But no deadline has (yet) been set for the prospective buyer. While those contingencies are being hashed out and finalized, other buyers can submit offers and visit the property. Even at this stage, your offer has a pretty good chance of succeeding (especially if you bid above the asking price).
Contingent—Release or Kick-Out: The current prospective buyer has a deadline by which to meet their contingencies. Until the deadline, the seller will keep showing the home and accept additional offers. At this point, whether or not your offer is accepted depends on whether the current prospective buyer can meet their contingencies by the deadline.
Contingent—No Show or Without Kick-Out: An offer with contingencies has been accepted. And the seller has chosen not to continue showing the home and won’t be accepting additional offers. This is essentially telling other prospective buyers that the seller is committed to the current offer. And as soon as the contingencies are met, the property will move to “pending” status.
“Pending” means that an offer has been accepted AND all the contingencies (if any) attached to that offer have been addressed. The home will remain “pending” until all the paperwork is finalized and the listing is technically no longer active. But depending on the circumstances, you may still be able to place an offer for consideration.
Different pending phases alert buyers about the remaining formalities required before the deal is officially closed. These phases include:
Pending—Taking Back-Ups: Some error or complication occurred during the final stages and the current offer might fall through. Just in case, the seller is accepting backup offers. You can technically still bid for the property but keep in mind that you are a backup. And your offer will only be considered if the current deal falls apart.
Pending—Release or Continue to Show: The current offer has met all contingencies but the formal deal includes some kind of release or “kick-out” clause for one or both parties. This means that the seller will continue to accept offers right up until the current offer is formally and officially closed. If you submit an offer above the asking price or without contingencies, you have a fairly good chance of persuading the seller to switch buyers.
Pending—Short Sale or Do Not Show: The sale is just about finalized. There may a delay in processing but essentially, it’s a done deal. The seller won’t be showing the property nor accepting any new offers.
Should I make an offer on a contingent or pending property?
The vast majority of a contingent or pending sales do close. In other words, while there is a chance your bid will be accepted over the current offer, it is a small chance. And the seller will typically stick with the current offer through all the contingencies and paperwork.
If you are completely and hopelessly smitten with a contingent or pending home, you could try to make your offer more enticing by bidding well over the asking price. This might require you to shop around for a larger mortgage loan. And a larger mortgage loan might require you to add a co-borrower/co-signer, opt for lender credits, or substantially improve your credit score. You could also try waiving contingencies but know that doing so can be very risky. If all else fails, you could always try sending a personal plea to the current seller or homeowner explaining your situation and why you deserve to purchase the house.
To summarize, you can place an offer on a property even if it’s contingent or pending but the chances of being accepted are much lower. Unless you have no other option (or you’re willing to pay much more than the current offer), it’s often best to keep searching.