What does Sold STC (subject to contract) mean?

Sold STC sign

Sold STC and the House Buying Process

The house buying process is full of unfamiliar terms to the novice house buyer. There’s no need to do homework exactly, but it does help to understand each term as it crops up in the process. The terms will crop up as used by estate agents and conveyancing solicitors and they should explain as they go, but some understanding beforehand will not let you down. One of the most significant terms with consequences is Sold STC. Before we get into the meaning, it will help to see where it fits into the house buying process.


The House Buying Process

This process refers to England and Wales as Scotland has its own system which is quite different.

Set your budget

Buying a house with a mortgage still vastly outstrips cash buying, so the first step for most people is to work out how much mortgage repayment you can afford each month and how much a bank is willing to lend. Once you have a “decision in principle” from a lender you’re set to go.

Look for a property

There are various ways to look for a house to buy. You can search online or visit a local estate agent to find properties you would like to view. If you still receive a local free newspaper, there are usually pages of houses for sale adverts. If you register with a website, they will inform you of properties that meet your criteria as soon as they come onto the market.

View properties

Viewing a property is the only way you can know if the house is right for you. You’ll find plenty of advice online on viewing potential properties if you want a guiding hand. You can arrange a viewing in person but also, online property platforms and many estate agents now offer virtual viewings. This is one point in the process where you might encounter Sold STC which this article will go into in depth further down.

Make an Offer

If the house you wish to buy is within the value of the mortgage decision in principle, you can confidently make an offer. If not, you will need to consult with your bank/lender.

Agree the Sale

This is an agreement between buyer and seller, and it is also the point at which solicitors enter the process. You need the services of a conveyancing solicitor to proceed with the legal aspects of buying a house and closing the deal. There’s a number of steps your solicitor will go through to complete the legal requirements which includes conveyancing, land searches and drawing up the contracts. This is the other time you will encounter Sold STC. The advert or literature for the house you are buying will be updated with the tagline “Sold STC.” This will remain until the deal is closed and the deeds of the property are transferred to the new owner.

Complete the Sale

When all the relevant searches have been made, the conveyancing complete, the mortgage agreed and signed, the sale documents can be completed and exchanged. The deposit is transferred, and the house is no longer Sold STC but simply sold and is off the market.

All that remains is for the owner and buyer to agree on moving out and moving in dates.


As you can see, there is some quite considerable significance to the term and fact of Sold STC.


The Meaning of Sold STC

The term means Sold Subject to Contract. It simply means that a buyer and seller have agreed a price for a house. The buyer has made an offer which the seller has accepted.

At this point, no contracts have been exchanged and no funds (deposit) have been transferred. From the point of the Sold STC kicking in, solicitors can be engaged to start working through the legal process to complete the sale.

Although Sold STC is a standard term across the property industry, some estate agents may use different terminology. It pays to know what these are and how they might differ to Sold STC. These include:

Sale Agreed – this is exactly the same as Sold STC

Under/Subject to Offer – this is a slightly different term. The seller has received an offer from a prospective buyer but has not yet accepted it.

What Does Sold STC Mean for the buyer and seller?

The implications of Sold STC are different for the seller and the buyer.

What Sold STC Means for the Seller?

As a seller, when you give your property Sold STC status, it is effectively taking it off the market. It can only be said to be effectively because at this point, it has not been sold explicitly.

It is a change of status – forgive the pun. The listing is not removed from the estate agent’s window or the property portal but instead is marked as Sold STC or Sale Agreed. The board outside your house will also be updated. The listing remains for all to see.

This status update is also the cue for the conveyancing process and transfer of ownership to begin.

What Sold STC Means for the Buyer?

The main implication of the change to Sold STC for the buyer is that the process begins to conclude the purchase. This phase is incredibly important because a house is usually the biggest investment you ever make.

You need the legal process to ensure a safe purchase, to identify any issues and help them get rectified and to give you a complete picture of the property you are buying. All this needs to happen before the sale becomes legally binding.


Sold STC and Gazumping

Although it is an unfortunate experience for a buyer, there is nothing illegal about gazumping. Gazumping is when another buyer makes an offer to a seller who has already agreed a price with a buyer.

Most of the time gazumping happens when a property has been Sold STC. The status has no legal standing – it is merely an indicator of where a property is in the timeline of the buying/selling process. Without doing anything illegal, a seller is perfectly at liberty to pull out of an agreed sale for a better offer. The gazumped buyer has no legal recourse.

As a buyer, you need to be very circumspect when you are looking at properties that are marked Sold STC. To gazump or not to gazump?


Is Sold STC Meaningless?

It might seem that as gazumping is an acceptable practice that Sold STC has no point. While it has no legal status, it is still the catalyst for the legal formalities to begin.

There is also the moral issue and on principle, some sellers will ignore offers received after Sold STC and there’s also the issue that a sale, even one at the point of Sold STC, can fall through for any number of reasons.

The best way to avoid gazumping is for the seller to request that the house be removed from listings when an offer is made.


If you are in the process of buying or selling a property and need help with the conveyancing or property management processes, check out the services that MovingSorted.com have to offer.