Question: Should agents say Sale Agreed, Under Offer, or Sold Subject to Contract?

All estate agents use different terminology to define the status of a property, and The Property Ombudsman’s Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents does not define which term agents should use.

In the Ombudsman’s view, ‘Sale Agreed’, ‘Under Offer’ and ‘Sold Subject to Contract’ all propose the same: that the seller has accepted an offer on the property, that is, a sale has been agreed, but contracts are not yet exchanged.

‘Sold’ should only be used once contracts have been exchanged.

Now, taking into consideration Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs), NTS Guidance and TPOs Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents, the following primary authority advice has been issued to clarify three ambiguous points:-

  1. Can properties be shown with a ‘SOLD’ or ‘SALE COMPLETED’ sticker rather than ‘Sold subject to contract’ following exchange or completion of a sale?

This question refers to advertisements inside estate agents’ physical premises rather than For Sale boards at a property.

The NTS Guidance (National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team) on property sales states that the term ‘Sold’ can be used only after contracts have been exchanged.

Therefore, if a property is ‘Sold Subject To Contract’, it should not be advertised as ‘Sold’ or ‘Sale Completed’, as this would not be true and could be misleading.

‘Sale Completed’ should only be used for properties where completion has taken place.

  1. Does an agent need the new owner’s permission to use a recently sold property when creating a ‘Sold in your road’ flyer to send to neighbouring properties?

As far as the CPRs are concerned, there is no barrier to identifying a recently sold property in marketing material, provided the house shown as having been sold was indeed recently sold by the agent using it in their advertising.

Whilst the copyright in the photograph image will likely belong to the agency via its agreement with the photographer, it is a requirement in paragraph 3b of TPOS Codes of Practice that agents seek the new owner’s permission in any canvassing material.

If permission is obtained, we would consider properties to be ‘recently sold’ for a period not exceeding one calendar month from the date of completion.

  1. Can previously sold properties be used on a wall display in the office on a long-term basis, or is there a time limit for this?

Previously sold properties can only be used on a wall display or any other canvassing material if the new owner’s permission has been obtained in line with paragraph 3b of the TPOS Codes of Practice.

The NTS Guidance suggests that “Leaving details of properties that an agent has sold on their website or in their office window for a long period of time (to the extent that it creates a false impression that the agent is selling more properties than they actually are)” could be a breach of professional diligence.

Our guidance is that a ‘long period of time’ would be more than one calendar month, starting from the date of completion for properties advertised as ‘Sold’.

However, if property marketing material is clearly and boldly marked with the actual date of completion, leaving consumers in no doubt when it was sold, it would then not create a false impression of selling more properties than are being at that specific time.

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  1. JonnyBanana43

    When you do the deal it is “under offer” when contracts exchange it is “sold” SIMPLE.

    Rightmove have got it wrong. Pushy spiv agents love SSTC as the “SOLD” element make them sound better!

  2. C.E.Owen

    Under Offer and then Sold.

    Using SSTC is misleading, it’s not sold until exchange and there should be a clear definition between the two.

    I’ve heard lots of agents talk about how they’ve ‘Sold loads of houses this week’ when, no they haven’t, they’ve just agreed deals which, if they don’t pay attention, could fall through.

  3. Property Paddy

    sold subject to contract or under offer means the same.

    I would be more concerned if agents continued marketing and booking appointments after the event.  Yes I know you have to work to the clients wishes but so long as the buyer supports this decision otherwise nose – face comes to mind.


    1. C.E.Owen

      It does mean the same thing, and we know that, but not all consumers do. The wording is misleading and gives buyers / sellers false comfort when, as we all know, agreeing a deal is just the start of the hard work. Using Under Offer consistently would give a clear distinction.

  4. Dom_P

    This makes me think of PB’s terrible boards which say ‘SOLD’ in huge writing and then ‘subject to contract’ in the smallest font they can get away with; very sharp practice in my opinion.

  5. AgencyInsider

    It is time that TPO and NAEA outlawed the use of boards ‘SOLD’ with tiny ‘subject to contract’.

    Should be ‘UNDER OFFER’ then ‘SOLD’.

    Who agrees?

    1. surrey1

      Think we’re out thinking this. The public generally say they’ve “sold theirs” when they have a buyer, so not particularly disingenuous to say sold sttc in my view. Not sure I could be fagged to change board slips for a fortnight from under offer to sold either, aside from the additional cost. I’ve had a few people over the years ask what does under offer mean and can they still view it, assuming nothing had been agreed just that there had been an offer.

  6. jeremy1960

    According to reviews of Burple *ricks everyone has sold their house within 30 seconds of it going on the market!

    We only do lettings but we are astonished at how many enquiries we get from folk who have sold their house only to admit under further questioning that they had an offer last week that they have accepted. The public at the outset may think that they have “sold” but ask them again in 6 – 8 weeks time by which time according to their agent/solicitor they will be exchanging on Friday!

  7. Mark Walker

    My original schooling in Estate Agency was that “Under Offer” should be broadcast from the moment someone makes an offer, as an indication that it is time to get your skates on if you are interested in the property.

    Once buyer and seller have shaken hands on a deal, then change the advertising to Sold Subject To Contract.

  8. PeeBee

    This is pretty much a regurgitation of another article by @TPOmb published last May:

    I’m still of the same opinion – that the “opinion”… “view”… or whatever word best describes the personal thoughts of The Ombudsman on the matter means Jack.

    I collected half a dozed thumbs down last time – let’s see how many friends & family are reading this time…

    1. Ostrich17

      Think you might be safe – it appears that the recent PIE server update is limiting the gladiatorial approval/disapproval rating to a maximum count of one.

      Unless it’s just my ****** computer !



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