Agents should use Under Offer and not SSTC, says ombudsman

The Property Ombudsman has said that estate agents should use the term Under Offer, rather than Sold Subject to Contract.

Christopher Hamer said that, for consumer purposes, Under Offer is a more accurate description.

Hamer said: “My own opinion is that the term Under Offer is a fair and informative description that lets interested potential buyers know that the property currently has an offer accepted on it.

“SSTC, however, could wrongly imply that it has been sold and the transaction is complete, when in reality there has been no exchange of contracts.

“Agents appear to use Under Offer and SSTC as meaning the same thing.

“I think Under Offer is a better description of the status. Sold Subject to Contract could be misleading, as no property is ‘sold’ until contracts have been exchanged.”

The TPO’s new Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents, which came into force on August 1, does not go so far as to say which term – Under Offer or SSTC – should be used, and yesterday Hamer stressed that he is not a regulator.

On Rightmove, properties appear as both Under Offer and SSTC.

We asked the portal whether it thought there was any difference.

A spokesperson told us: “We provide agents with the chance to use either status, as it could depend on what terminology they are most used to.

“Some agents would say there is a difference but to the majority it means the same, and the majority of buyers and sellers would take it to mean the same thing.

“For some, Under Offer could mean there is an offer but the conveyancers are not yet instructed and it has not been totally checked out, and once instructed then it is all agreed and becomes Sold Subject to Contract.”

However, Strutt & Parker use only Under Offer as policy across their entire network – and for CPRs-related reasons.

A spokesperson said yesterday afternoon: “We use the term Under Offer, as it is clearer to the consumer than the term Sold Subject to Contract, which implies that a property has been contracted.

“Under Offer is more transparent and explains the scenario better to a purchaser.”


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  1. surrey1

    As discussed on a previous thread, they'd do better to clamp down on agents falsely advertising under offer/sstc properties as available to improve their profile than quibbling about the semantics of under offer/sstc.

  2. clarky46

    It seems like only 5 minutes ago the 'powers that be' were saying we shouldn't use the term 'Under Offer' precisely because it gave the impression that someone could still try to buy the property, effectively encouraging a gazump. Do these people have shares in board manufacturers? We'll all rush out now to change our For Sale/Sold stc slips! Mine say 'SOLD IT! stc' so what sort of demon must I be 😉

  3. Robert May

    Shows how old I am getting, I remember the system that went For Sale, Sale agreed, Sold [no stc required]. I remember the expense of throwing away all the Sale agreed and Sold slips and replacing them with Sold ((subject to contract) in 8pt font so it was hardly visible) All because the Town and Planning act decided we were advertising our services rather than informing the public the status of the property.
    When did the legislation change putting things back to how they were?

  4. theonlyone

    In our part of Hampshire two of the local agents ud the trem : 'SUCCESS stc' on their boards I wonder what the ombudsman or trading standards have to say about the use of this term as it applies to properties that were either For Sale or To Let so the public have no idea what the actual status of the property is or whether or not it was/is For Sale, Under Offer, Sold stc, Sold, To Let or Let. This in my mind is just advertising their company and not informing the public to the status of the property concerned.

    1. Richard Copus

      Doesn't really make a lot of difference, does it, "under offer" or "sstc"? What about "sale agreed"? I find Strutt's comment strange. Contracts are sent out once a sale has been agreed, they just haven't been exchanged.
      The legislation says that "sold" on its own should not be put on boards. I have spoken to numerous solicitors over the years about this ruling and all have said that a prosecution would not stand up in court under the rules relating to interpretation of statutes because a property IS sold once contracts have been exchanged. Indeed, it has been suggested that leaving sstc on boards after exchange is a breach of CPRs as it misleads prospective purchasers and the person who has bought the house. "Sold" on its own, after exchange, is understandably becoming more common. Changing "under offer" or "sale agreed" to "sold sstc after exchange, which many of us do, is a nonsense in practice.


    For the past 25 years I have used the logo "Spoken For" with a silhouetted couple dressed in Victorian clothes holding hands-indicating the origin of the phrase.Will I now be prosecuted ?

  6. JungleProperty

    TPOS quite often get things wrong but it is only an opinion and not regulation. The regulation suggests only two things to be added to boards a) Sale Agreed b) Sold Subject to Contract. Until somebody brings a case against an agent that proves they were mislead by the wording or the wording is not consistent with the regulations then this opinion means nothing from an organisation that has no regulatory powers

  7. Woodentop

    SSTC was supposed to be used if a contract had been issued! Often viewed as the vendor did not want to consider any further offers (surprising many vendors do and instruct their agents to this effect). While under offer was as it says, but no contract issued or the vendor was willing to gazump and all the hassle that ensued, agggh. Both comply with the OPO Code of Practice.

  8. Deequealy

    I have been taking this up with Rightmove recently given the CPR regulations. The public/consumer, for whom CPR are designed to protect, is more likely to understand Under Offer rather than Sold Subject To Contract but I accept its a moot point. However, what is very different is the status once contracts have exchanged. If an agent continues to advertise a property after exchange they should make the public aware that the cost of buying the property will include the cost of the vendor having to buy his way out of the contract to which he has committed. In the same way the ASA has recently ruled that auctioneers should not use a wide variation between their guide and reserve prices. I am not sure Rightmove fully understood the technical details of this and did not seem to be concerned that their current arrangements enable agents to advertise their properties as under offer/ sold STC not only after exchange but long after completion

  9. Jaimie Rice

    This is getting silly – can we not just get on with doing our job selling properties! The status 'Under offer' to buyers gives the impression that a sale has not been agreed and the offer is still being negotiated, or the sellers is open to more offers. SSTC is exactly what it says – sold subject to contract i.e. solicitors are instructing on a transaction and working on approving a sale contract. The general public most widely understand what sstc means so it is the most appropriate status to use. It should be a no brainer. If a property has a sale proceeding through an agent, yes the selling agent should have sstc on it or under offer – either way it shows the property is not 'for sale'. I don't agree with other agents marketing the same property having under offer or sstc on their advertising – as that is very misleading, as it gives the impression they have sold it when they haven't – they could falsely win business by doing that. They would do better to clamp down on agents still advertising properties when the sale has gone through/completed, or agents putting sstc on a property they haven't sold themselves – as they are the biggest issues with false or misleading advertising in the industry.

  10. Millstreet

    Everyone commenting is existing in a tunnel. First, a property is never SOLD until a contract is exchanged and the money changes hands.  Under Offer is meaningless because anyone can still make an offer, however most agents will not even show a property Under Offer – so essentially the Seller is “on hold” until he/she is paid, and if the chain falls apart the Seller has lost months of being off the market. I say the Seller is being Held Hostage (illegal) while everyone else fritters around doing their own things. Power to the Seller and stop estate agents for playing in both camps (illegal).

    It’s the 21st Century, not Upstairs Downstairs People!


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