What does sold STC (subject to contract) mean?

Sold STC (subject to contract) is when a seller has accepted an offer to buy their property, but before exchange of contracts. The estate agent should take the property off the market, put up a ‘Sold: STC’ sign outside the property and describe the property in online listings as ‘Sold STC’.

There is, however, nothing legally binding about ‘Sold STC’ in England and Wales. It is an informal acceptance. Buyer and seller can both change their minds. If higher offers come in, an estate agent is legally obliged to pass them on to the seller. The buyer can also renegotiate the price or withdraw their interest in buying the property. It is only when contracts are exchanged that the purchase becomes legally binding.

What is the difference between ‘under offer’ and ‘sold STC’’?

When a property that is up for sale is described as being ‘under offer’, it means that an offer has been made by a prospective buyer. The sellers are considering it but not yet decided whether to accept it. Buyers can still make other offers. ‘Sold STC’ means that an offer has been accepted but contracts have yet to be exchanged. 

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How long does sold STC take?

There are no hard and fast rules for the length of time the sold (subject to contract) stage takes in the buying process. It will take as long as the financial and administrative aspects of the conveyancing process take to be put in place – such as the survey, the searches, the mortgage application, itemising the fixtures and fittings in the property. This might take anything between 6-12 weeks depending on the complexity of any issues found.

Could the sale of a property sold STC fall through?

Yes. There is nothing guaranteed about a property completing after it has sold STC. In fact 25% of all prospective purchases that reach under offer or Sold STC fall through. ‘Gazumping is a very real practice and there is nothing illegal about it. Sellers can still consider higher offers than the one they have accepted. Buyers can withdraw their original offer if the survey reveals a major problem with the building or a legal search has revealed planning issues about the area.

Can you still live in a house sold STC?

No, you can’t move into a house while it is still at the Sold STC stage. Contracts must have been exchanged and completed. When contracts are exchanged deposits are paid and there are major legal and financial implications in either buyer or seller pulling out.

Protection from sold STC issues

Because there is nothing legally binding about the ‘Sold (subject to contract)’ status, buyers and sellers have the freedom to do whatever they want up to the point when contracts are exchanged. Neither has more legal protection than the other while the property is still only Sold STC.

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