The Condition of Your Property When You Turn It Over to the Buyer

Mike Cooke December 1, 2016 Seller Insights

How clean does your property need to be when you turn it over to the buyer? There is a legal answer and a practical answer.

Legally, the contract requires that the property be delivered in the condition it was in on the date that the buyer wrote the purchase offer. If anything breaks down between that date and the date of closing, you’ve got to get it fixed. You also have to fix anything agreed to in the inspection resolution. In addition, you are obligated to remove all personal property not specifically mentioned as an inclusion in the purchase contract. This means you cannot leave debris, lumber, old sofas, etc.

Some contracts contain additional provisions that specify the property be “clean” or “broom-clean”. Even without such additional requirements, having the property as clean as possible is in your best interest. This starts to get into the practical considerations. It is good for you that the buyer feels as good as possible about your place when he/she moves in.

There are often a few disappointments when moving into a property. Most properties don’t look as nice when they are vacant as they did when they were furnished. There are little things that don’t quite work as expected. Buyers are more likely to overlook little quirks and disappointments if the house is basically clean. Conversely, if the house is a mess, all the other little problems get magnified and the buyer may call and complain and make life miserable for a while and may even allege there was some breach of the contract. This is why we think it is always best to leave the house as clean as possible with basic kitchen and bathroom cleaning and vacuuming of carpets.

A common problem when you move everything out is that you see all sorts of smudges and marks on the walls in and around where furniture was located. You can often correct this by cleaning the affected area with Formula 409 and a cotton cloth (test this first but we’ve found that even walls with flat paint that are not supposed to be “scrub-able” can be subjected to at least one gentle cleaning). We do not suggest touch-up paint for smudge marks or for nail holes where things were hung on the wall. Even if you have the same paint as used on the walls originally, it never looks the same. The paint on the walls has faded and the mismatched shades stand out like a sore thumb.

Turning the property over to the buyer in good shape is one of those things that can head off potential problems.

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