The Meaning & Purpose of “Contingent” in Real Estate

If you’re planning to purchase a home, chances are you’ve seen the word “contingent” pop up during your real estate search. Real estate contingencies offer unique protection for prospective homebuyers during the early stages of making an offer. Given the tremendous uncertainty of real estate transactions, it’s important for hopeful house-hunters to have a way to back out of a bad deal if something goes wrong.

Understanding when and how to make a contingent real estate offer will help you more easily navigate the homebuying process. By broadening your knowledge, you’ll also be better prepared when it comes time to negotiate and make an offer!

What Does Contingent Mean in Real Estate?

The word “contingent” means “reliant on specific circumstances.” For the real estate realm, any homes listed as “contingent” on the MLS means that an offer has been submitted and accepted by the seller; however, there are steps that still need to be completed before the sale is final.

One of the most common contingencies made during a real estate transaction is one that depends on a positive home inspection report. For instance, if you and the seller agree upon a price provided that the home inspection comes back clean, this would be a contingent contract in which the sale of the home is reliant on a positive inspection.

How Does a Contingent Offer Work?

Contingent offers work rather simply: In order for the transaction to be finalized, the actions stipulated in the contract must first be executed. If your conditions for the offer have not been met, the contract becomes void and the seller can move on to another offer.

For instance, if you made an offer contingent upon a positive home inspection, but the report shows a failure in the septic that you feel is unacceptable, this would be lawful grounds to rescind the offer. From this point, the seller can either choose to have the issue fixed or negotiate with you on the price. Alternatively, both parties may decide to go their separate ways and pursue other options.

What Types of Contingencies Exist in Real Estate?

Aside from making an offer contingent upon home inspection, the following types of contingencies can also be made when submitting a real estate offer:

  • Mortgage contingency: This type of contingency gives the buyer a specific period of time during which they must secure financing for the home.
  • Appraisal contingency: If you’re taking out a mortgage, an appraisal contingency helps protect you from overpaying for the true value of the property you plan to purchase.
  • Title contingency: A title contingency is an offer made wherein the buyer’s attorney must inspect the house’s title to ensure it is cleared of all possible liens from previous owners.
  • Home sale contingency: You might make a home sale contingency if your ability to purchase the property depends on your ability to sell your current home.

While it might be disappointing to have an offer fall through due to unmet conditions, it’s better to have these protections in place so you know exactly what you’re getting into before making such a significant investment.

Why Do Contingencies Matter?

As any homeowner will tell you, buying a home is a stressful, enduring process — and it’s likely one of the biggest purchasing decisions you will ever make in your lifetime. Taking that next step can be scary, especially if there aren’t any protections in place to keep you from ending up with a Money Pit situation. The best way to ensure you don’t end up with buyer’s remorse is by working with a knowledgeable real estate agent who’s able to listen to your specific needs.

Tidewater Realty Group: Your Partners in Making Contingent Offers


At Tidewater Realty Group, our team has offered the superior real estate brokerage services that Maryland house-hunters need to make informed investment decisions. Our team will help guide you through every step of the homebuying process, including making a contingent offer on your dream home! Contact our team to get started with making a contingent offer on a Maryland property today.