Buyers and Sellers: What does Sold Subject to Contract (SSTC) mean?

Sold Subject to Contract (SSTC) is a common term used in the United Kingdom real estate market. It describes a property in the process of being sold, but where the contracts have not yet been exchanged. This means the sale is not yet legally binding and either the buyer or the seller can back out without facing serious penalties. However, backing out at this stage can still lead to some financial loss as well as waste of time and effort.

From a buyer’s perspective, seeing a property labelled as SSTC might initially be disappointing. It suggests someone else has already had an offer accepted on the property. However, the buyer should keep in mind that the sale is not yet legally binding. There’s still a chance the sale may fall through due to various reasons such as a failed survey, a change of heart, or difficulty in securing a mortgage. Therefore, interested buyers can make their interest known to the estate agent and ask to be informed should the property return to the market. While it is typically not advisable to “gazump” another buyer by putting in a higher offer to try and win the property, it is legally possible in the UK. However, this can potentially lead to a bidding war.

For a seller, having a property that is SSTC can be both a relief and a source of anxiety. It’s a relief because it means they’ve found a potential buyer who is willing to pay an acceptable price for the property. The process of marketing and showing the property is over, and they can focus on the next steps in their journey, whether that’s finding a new home or finalising the details of their move. However, it can also be a source of anxiety, as the sale is not yet legally binding. The buyer can still back out, and if they do, the seller will need to start the process of marketing and showing the property all over again.

It’s also worth noting that while the property is SSTC, the seller typically agrees to take the property off the market and not entertain other offers. However, in some instances, the seller might choose to keep the property on the market in case the current deal falls through. This can be a wise move, but it might also dissuade some potential buyers, as they might not want to invest time and resources into a property that may not be available.

While SSTC is a key step in the buying and selling process, both buyers and sellers should understand that it’s not the final step. The period between accepting an offer and exchanging contracts can take several weeks or even months, during which time a lot can change. It’s important to maintain open and regular communication during this time to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Finally, it’s crucial to have a competent and proactive solicitor or conveyancer to handle the legalities. They can provide guidance, answer questions, and take the necessary steps to move the process along as efficiently as possible. Ultimately, understanding the meaning and implications of Sold Subject to Contract can help both buyers and sellers navigate the UK property market more effectively.

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