Understanding Pending Status for homes listed in the Northwest MLS

If you live in Western Washington and are looking to buy a home, chances are that it is listed in the Northwest MLS which covers most of the western part of the state. When a home seller accepts a contract from a buyer, that home enters a variety of pending statuses, and it is important to understand each of the statuses to determine the likelihood of still being able to buy the property. Let’s take a look at each one.

  • ACTIVE – The property is actively listed for sale and available for offers. Agents are supposed to change the status within a day when they accept an offer, but occasionally a house may be pending before the status is changed from ACTIVE.
  • CONTINGENT – The home has accepted an offer from a buyer that is contingent upon the sale of their home. Because it is not a sure thing, the home remains actively listed and available for offers, as other buyers can submit an offer and potentially bump the first offer if they can’t waive their sale contingency.
  • PENDING INSPECTION – The seller has accepted an offer from a buyer and that buyer is still in the “inspection contingency” phase of the process where they are inspecting the house for defects. Inspection results and negotiations do fail on a fairly regular basis, so there is still a reasonable chance that the buyer may back out.
  • PENDING – The buyer has cleared the inspection contingency and is proceeding towards sale. There is still a chance that the sale will fail on some other contingency like the buyer’s financing or a review of the HOA, but the percentage of homes that fail once they are pending is fairly low.
  • PENDING FEASIBILITY – Similar to Pending Inspection, but most often used for properties that require extensive feasibility studies for future construction. Feasibility studies can take weeks or a year, depending on the scope and complexity of the property. Failure rates for this status are mixed, and you have to have a long attention span to continue watching the property.
  • PENDING BACKUP REQUESTED – The seller has an accepted offer for purchase, but is nervous that the current buyer may not follow through. This indicates that the seller would like to have backup offers in hand in case the first buyer backs out. Definitely worth paying attention to these and submit a backup offer when the seller doesn’t believe that the initial buyer will perform.
  • PENDING SHORT SALE – A new status that is very similar to Pending Backup Requested, but specifically for short sales. Short sale approval times are quite long, and the failure rate of offers is very high, so this is an indication that the seller is encouraging backup offers in case the current one backs out.

Many of the publicly available websites do show homes in “pending” status, but sometimes the description is more generic than the statuses above. Your agent can help you identify the exact status in the MLS if you are watching a particular property and are interested in being a backup bidder.

Also remember that accepted real estate offers are binding contracts which means that you cannot purchase a home in pending status until the initial buyer backs out for some reason.