When You Sell a Stock Who Buys It? 

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Written By
Contributor Image
Written By
Dan Buckley
Dan Buckley is an US-based trader, consultant, and part-time writer with a background in macroeconomics and mathematical finance. He trades and writes about a variety of asset classes, including equities, fixed income, commodities, currencies, and interest rates. As a writer, his goal is to explain trading and finance concepts in levels of detail that could appeal to a range of audiences, from novice traders to those with more experienced backgrounds.

When you sell a stock, the buyer is typically another individual investor, an institutional investor, or a market maker.

We look further into the topic below on the mechanics of the buying and selling process.


Key Takeaways – When You Sell a Stock Who Buys It? 

  • Anonymity – You don’t necessarily know who specifically purchased your shares. The exchange facilitates the transaction. It could be an institutional investor, individual investor, or market maker.
  • Liquidity – In a liquid market for highly traded stocks, your sell order is likely filled almost instantly. Less frequently traded stocks might take longer.


Buyer Types

Individual Investors

These are everyday people who buy and sell stocks through brokerages.

They might be buying a stock you’re selling based on their trading/investment strategy, whether it’s for long-term holding or short-term trades.

Institutional Investors

These include mutual funds, pension funds, hedge funds, and insurance companies.

They manage large pools of money and buy stocks and other securities/assets in large volumes.

Their buying and selling activities are based on investment strategies developed by professional investment managers.

Market Makers

These are firms or individuals who stand ready to buy and sell stocks throughout the trading day, providing liquidity to the market.

They make a profit through the spread between the buy and sell prices of the stocks.

When you sell a stock, a market maker might buy it to fulfill another order or to maintain inventory.


Stock Exchanges: The Marketplace

The transaction is facilitated through a stock exchange (like the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ in the US) and processed by a network of computers.

The price at which the stock is sold depends on market conditions, including supply and demand dynamics at the time of the sale.

The process of who buys your stock when you sell it is a bit more nuanced than it might seem initially.


How Your Sell Order Gets Filled

When you sell a stock, the buyer on the other side of the trade is determined by the order book and matching engine of the stock exchange or trading platform where the transaction takes place.

Here’s a general overview of what happens:

Centralized Hub

As mentioned, stock exchanges (like the NYSE or NASDAQ) act as a huge marketplace where buyers and sellers come together.

Orders for buying and selling a particular stock are constantly flowing into the exchange.

Order Book

The stock exchange maintains an electronic order book that aggregates all the buy and sell orders from market participants for a particular stock.

Bid and Ask

The order book shows the highest bid price (the maximum price a buyer is willing to pay) and the lowest ask price (the minimum price a seller is willing to accept).

Matching Engine

When you place a sell order, the exchange’s matching engine looks for a corresponding buy order in the order book at the same or better price.

You initiate the sale through your broker.

You’ll choose the type of order (e.g., market order to sell immediately at the best available price, or a limit order to sell only at a specific price or better).

Order Matching

If your sell order is matched with one or more buy orders, your trade is executed.

The buyer(s) on the other side can be individual investors, institutional investors, or market makers.

The order you match with might have been placed manually by a human or (most likely) done by an algorithmic trading system.


The Broker’s Role

Your broker doesn’t buy your shares themselves.

They are the intermediary, routing your order to the exchange and making sure the transaction goes through.



When you sell a stock, the stock exchange’s matching system tries to find a buyer willing to purchase your shares at the price you’re asking (or better, in the case of a market order).

This could be an:

Individual Investor

Someone else on the exchange has placed a buy order that matches your sell order.

Market Maker

In some cases, if there are no matching buy orders in the order book, market makers (firms that provide liquidity by always being ready to buy or sell) may step in and take the other side of your trade.

Institutional Investor

Large funds, hedge funds, etc., are constantly trading and could fill your order.