Put to Seller

What Is Put to Seller?

"Put to seller" describes the process of a put option being exercised. The put writer becomes responsible for receiving the underlying shares from the put buyer at the strike price since being long a put gives the holder the right to sell the underlying asset.

Put to seller usually occurs when the put's strike price is lower than the market value of the underlying security. At this point, the put buyer has the right, but not the obligation, to sell the underlying asset to the option writer at the strike price.

Key Takeaways

  • Put to seller refers to the process of a put option being exercised.
  • A put option gives the holder the right, but not the obligation, to sell an asset at a predetermined price—the strike price—before the option expires.
  • When a put option is exercised, the put writer receives the underlying shares from the long put holder at the strike price.
  • When a put to seller occurs, the short side of the put is said to be assigned.
  • This will most often occur when the put is in-the-money, meaning that the short side of the put will have to purchase shares at a price greater than the current market price.

Understanding Put to Seller

Put to seller occurs when a put buyer holds the contract to expiry or decides to exercise the put option. In both cases, the put writer is obligated to receive the underlying security that the put buyer has effectively sold at the strike price.

The profit on a short put position is limited to the premium received, but the risk can be significant. When writing a put, the writer is required to buy the underlying at the strike price. If the price of the underlying falls below the strike price, the put writer could face a significant loss.

Special Considerations

How a Put Option Works

A put option gives the holder the right, but not the obligation, to sell an asset at the strike price before the option expires. For example, stock XYZ is trading at $26. A trader buys a put option for $25 at a premium—or price—of $1.50. The option expires in three months. If the price of XYZ drops below $25, that option is in the money, and the option holder may choose to exercise the put option they purchased. The put option gives the investor the right to sell stock to the writer at $25, even though the stock may currently be trading at $24, $20, or even $1.

The option cost $1.50; the premium was $1.50. Therefore, the holder's breakeven price is $23.50. If the price of the stock remains above $25—and the three months pass—the option is worthless, and the holder losses $1.50 per share. A single option contract represents 100 shares, so if the trader bought three options, they would lose $450, or 3 x 100 x $1.50 = $450.

On the flip side, the person who wrote (sold) the option must buy shares at $25 if assigned by the long. If the price of the underlying drops to $10, they still need to deliver the put holder short shares at $25 for a $15 loss per contract (less the premium earned). Thus, in exchange for the risk that option writers take on, they get the premium the option buyer pays.

If the option is exercised (often when it is deep in the money) and the writer needs to buy the shares, this will require an additional cash outlay. In this case, for every short put contract, the trader will need to buy $2,500 worth of stock ($25 x 100 shares).

The option's premium is the most that an option writer can make.

Example of Put to Seller

Consider a situation where an investor buys put options to hedge downside risk in their position in stock A, which is currently trading near $36. The investor buys a three-month put on stock A, with a strike price of $35, and pays a premium of $2. The put writer, who earns the premium of $2, assumes the risk of buying stock A from the investor if it falls below $35.

Toward the end of the three-month period, if stock A is trading at $22, the long will exercise the puts and sell stock A to the put writer and receive $35 for each share. In this case, the put option is exercised; in other words, it is put to the seller.

What Does Put Selling Mean?

Put selling refers to selling a put option (the person selling it is also known as the "writer"). Because put options gain value when the underlying asset falls, the put seller seeks to profit from an increase in the underlying's price by collecting the premium associated with a sale in a short put and hoping the option expires out-of-the-money (OTM) and worthless.

What Is a Naked Put?

When somebody sells a put without any other offsetting position, it is said to be uncovered or "naked." This position can result in significant losses if the price of the underlying drops.

Do You Have to Own a Put to Sell It?

No. Unlike selling short stock, which requires borrowing existing shares to sell them, put options are derivatives contracts that are created when a buyer and a seller agree to transact. This is called selling to open a position. Of course, if you are already long a put, you can also sell it to close the position.

Why Sell a Put Instead of Buying a Call?

Both a long call and a short put make money when the underlying security increases in value. However, buying a call involves paying the option's premium, which incurs a cost. On the other hand, selling a put results in immediate income of its premium. Note, however, that a short put has limited upside potential (the premium received) but significant loss potential. A long call, in contrast, has limited loss potential (the premium paid) and unlimited upside potential.

CorrectionOct. 8, 2022: A previous version of this article incorrectly discussed unlimited loss potential when selling a naked put with a corresponding price rise. Additionally, it incorrectly mentioned that a short put has an unlimited loss potential.

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.