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Sale vs. Agreement to Sell: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 20, 2024
A sale is a transaction where ownership of goods is immediately transferred, while an agreement to sell is a future promise to transfer goods.

Key Differences

A sale is a legal transaction where the ownership of goods is transferred from the seller to the buyer immediately upon the agreement. In contrast, an agreement to sell is a contractual arrangement where the transfer of goods is to occur at a future date or upon fulfilling certain conditions.
In a sale, the buyer gets the right to use the goods immediately, and the risk associated with the goods also transfers to the buyer. An agreement to sell, however, signifies a future transaction, and the risk remains with the seller until the sale is actualized.
A sale is considered a completed contract as all the terms are final and executed. On the other hand, an agreement to sell is an executory contract, where terms are set to be completed in the future.
In a sale, if the goods are destroyed, the loss is borne by the buyer since the ownership has already been transferred. In an agreement to sell, if the goods are destroyed before the sale is executed, the loss is borne by the seller.
A sale is immediately binding and enforceable by law, whereas an agreement to sell becomes binding and enforceable on the predetermined future date or once the set conditions are fulfilled.

Comparison Chart

Ownership Transfer

Immediate upon agreement.
Future date or upon meeting certain conditions.

Risk Transfer

Immediately to the buyer.
Remains with the seller until actual sale.

Contract Nature

Completed contract.
Executory contract.

Effect of Goods Destruction

Loss borne by buyer.
Loss borne by seller (if before execution).

Legal Binding

Immediately binding and enforceable.
Binding and enforceable in the future or upon conditions.

Sale and Agreement to Sell Definitions


A sale is the transfer of ownership of goods from seller to buyer for a price.
The sale of the car was completed with the payment and handover of keys.

Agreement to Sell

It's a legal arrangement where the sale is to be completed at a later date.
They entered into an agreement to sell the car after its lease period.


Sale refers to a transaction resulting in the immediate exchange of goods for payment.
The bookshop recorded the sale of several novels over the weekend.

Agreement to Sell

It refers to a future commitment to transfer goods upon certain conditions.
The agreement to sell the painting is contingent on the buyer's approval.


A sale is a legal contract where the seller transfers goods to the buyer instantly.
The sale of the antique vase was finalized at the auction house.

Agreement to Sell

An agreement to sell is a preparatory contract setting terms for a future sale.
The agreement to sell the business hinges on passing the regulatory checks.


Sale signifies the act of selling something in exchange for money.
The furniture store announced a significant sale of its inventory.

Agreement to Sell

An agreement to sell is a contract promising the future sale of goods.
The agreement to sell the property will be executed next month.


A sale is the process of transferring goods to a purchaser in a commercial transaction.
The sale of the company’s latest product exceeded expectations.

Agreement to Sell

An agreement to sell outlines the terms under which a future sale will occur.
The agreement to sell the vintage watch includes a condition for authenticity verification.


The exchange of goods or services for an amount of money or its equivalent; the act of selling
The sale of such a nice house should be easy.


A selling of property to the highest bidder; an auction.


What is a sale?

A sale is the immediate transfer of goods from seller to buyer for a price.

What is an agreement to sell?

It’s a future promise to transfer goods under specified conditions.

Who bears the risk in an agreement to sell?

The seller bears the risk until the actual sale occurs.

Is an agreement to sell binding immediately?

No, it becomes binding at a future date or upon meeting conditions.

When does the risk transfer to the buyer in a sale?

Risk transfers to the buyer immediately in a sale.

What happens if goods are destroyed after a sale?

The loss is borne by the buyer.

Can an agreement to sell be canceled?

Yes, depending on the terms of the agreement.

How does ownership transfer differ in a sale and an agreement to sell?

Ownership transfers immediately in a sale but at a future date in an agreement to sell.

What legal protections exist for buyers in a sale?

Consumer rights and contract law typically protect buyers.

How are disputes in an agreement to sell resolved?

Through legal action based on contract terms.

Is a down payment required in an agreement to sell?

It depends on the agreement’s terms.

Can either party back out of a sale?

Once completed, backing out of a sale is legally complicated.

What type of contract is a sale?

A sale is a completed contract.

Does an agreement to sell require a contract?

Yes, it’s a formal contractual agreement.

What if goods are destroyed before an agreement to sell is executed?

The loss is borne by the seller.

Can a sale be reversed?

Typically, no, as it is a completed transaction.

Are sales always immediate?

Yes, sales involve immediate ownership transfer.

Can a sale be made on credit?

Yes, sales can be made on various payment terms.

Can an agreement to sell involve installment payments?

Yes, it can include various payment terms.

Is a receipt necessary in a sale?

It's advisable for legal proof of the transaction.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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