If you're in the market for a new home, you've probably come across the term "contingency" in the context of real estate transactions. In particular, a "mortgage contingency" is a crucial concept to grasp before you embark on the journey of purchasing a property.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of what mortgage contingency means and its significance in the home-buying process.

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What Does Contingent Mean in Real Estate?

In the realm of real estate, the term "contingent" refers to a condition or requirement that must be met for a real estate transaction to proceed as planned. These contingencies are safeguards for both buyers and sellers, ensuring that the deal can only move forward when specific conditions are satisfied. Without meeting these conditions, the contract can be canceled, and the parties involved can back out without any legal consequences.

In the context of real estate, the most common contingencies include inspection, appraisal, and mortgage contingencies. Mortgage contingency, in particular, is fundamental for buyers who require financing to purchase a property.

Contingent House for Sale: What Does It Mean?

A "contingent house for sale" is a property that is listed as available for purchase but has a contingency attached to it. In this context, a "contingent" status typically means that the seller has accepted an offer from a potential buyer, but the sale is not final until certain conditions are met. The most common contingency associated with houses for sale is the mortgage contingency.

When a house is listed as "contingent," it implies that the seller has accepted an offer from a buyer, but the sale is dependent on specific conditions being satisfied. The most common condition for a contingent sale is securing a mortgage.

The Significance of Mortgage Contingency

Mortgage contingency is one of the most crucial elements of a real estate transaction, particularly for buyers who rely on financing to purchase a property. Here's why it's so significant:

1. Protects the Buyer
A mortgage contingency provides protection for the buyer. It allows the buyer to back out of the deal without any financial repercussions if they are unable to secure the necessary financing. Without this contingency, a buyer may be at risk of losing their earnest money or being legally obligated to purchase the property, even if they can't secure a mortgage.

2. Ensures Financing Approval
For the seller, a mortgage contingency helps ensure that the buyer is financially capable of completing the purchase. When buyers include mortgage contingencies in their offers it means they can only proceed with the purchase if they secure a mortgage loan. This requirement helps filter out potential buyers who may not be able to secure financing, reducing the risk for the seller.

3. Provides a Timeline
A mortgage contingency typically has a timeframe attached to it. This timeframe sets a deadline for the buyer to secure financing. This ensures that the buyer doesn't unnecessarily delay the closing process, as they are motivated to secure their mortgage within the specified timeframe.

How Does Mortgage Contingency Work?

Now that we understand the importance of mortgage contingency let's delve into how it works in a real estate transaction:

1. Making an Offer
The process begins with the buyer making an offer on a property. In their offer, they may include a mortgage contingency clause, which outlines the conditions under which they can withdraw from the contract without losing their earnest money.

2. Seller's Acceptance
If the seller accepts the offer, the property is considered "under contract." This means both parties have agreed to the terms of the contract, including the mortgage contingency.

3. Securing Financing
The buyer then has a specific period, as outlined in the mortgage contingency clause, to secure financing for the purchase. During this time, the buyer works with their lender to complete the mortgage application process.

4. Home Appraisal and Inspection
Simultaneously, other contingencies, such as the home appraisal and inspection, may also be taking place. These are distinct from the mortgage contingency but are equally important.

5. Meeting the Conditions
If the buyer successfully secures a mortgage within the specified timeframe and the property passes inspections and appraisals, the conditions of the contract are met.

6. Closing the Deal
Once all conditions are met, the sale can proceed to closing. At this point, the mortgage contingency is no longer in effect, and the buyer is committed to purchasing the property.

7. Withdrawal with Cause
If the buyer is unable to secure financing within the specified timeframe or encounters any other issues outlined in the contingency clause, they can withdraw from the contract with their earnest money intact.

Key Components of a Mortgage Contingency Clause

A mortgage contingency clause is a critical component of the purchase contract. It outlines the specific conditions and terms under which the buyer can withdraw from the contract. Some key components of a mortgage contingency clause include:

1. Financing Terms
This section specifies the type of mortgage the buyer is seeking, including the loan amount, interest rate, and down payment. It may also include any specific terms or conditions related to the mortgage.

2. Mortgage Application Deadline
The clause will stipulate the deadline by which the buyer must submit a complete mortgage application to their lender. This deadline is typically a specific number of days from the contract date.

3. Mortgage Commitment Deadline
The mortgage commitment deadline is the date by which the buyer must obtain a written commitment from their lender stating that they are approved for the loan. This deadline is usually set a few weeks after the mortgage application deadline.

4. Notification Process
The contingency clause will detail the process by which the buyer must notify the seller if they are unable to secure financing. It typically involves providing written notice to the seller within a specified time frame.

5. Earnest Money
The clause will also specify the disposition of the earnest money in the event the buyer needs to withdraw due to mortgage contingency. Typically, the earnest money is returned to the buyer in full if they meet the conditions outlined in the contingency clause.

Risks and Considerations for Buyers

While a mortgage contingency provides essential protection for buyers, there are some risks and considerations to keep in mind:

1. Strict Deadlines
Buyers must adhere to the strict deadlines outlined in the mortgage contingency clause. Failure to do so may result in the loss of earnest money or the deal falling through.

2. Seller's Perspective
Sellers may prefer offers without a mortgage contingency because they involve fewer uncertainties. A contingency may make your offer less appealing to a seller in a competitive market.

3. Financing Challenges
Buyers should be aware that even with a mortgage contingency, there's a possibility that they may not secure the necessary financing. To mitigate this risk, it's crucial to work with a reputable lender and have a strong financial profile.

When you’re going into a real estate transaction, it's crucial for both buyers and sellers to understand the intricacies of mortgage contingencies. While they provide important safeguards, they also come with specific responsibilities and potential risks for all parties involved.


In the world of real estate, the term "contingent" plays a vital role in the buying and selling of properties. Understanding what a "contingent house for sale" means, especially in the context of a mortgage contingency, is essential for both buyers and sellers.

Mortgage contingencies offer protection for buyers, ensuring they can back out of a deal if they are unable to secure financing within the specified timeframe. They also help sellers by filtering out potential buyers who may not have the means to complete the purchase.

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