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Did You Find It That Way?

September 9, 2020 Contracts Real Estate Blog

An unexpected upside of the never-ending pandemic has been the chance to spend lots of quality time at home with loved ones. Dinners around the table, movie nights, hyper-competitive Uno games – occasions to enjoy and celebrate in uncertain times.

So much togetherness also reveals those less appealing habits that can drive you mad when you’re cooped up in your house for days on end. How many times do you really have to ask your 3rd grader to put his Legos away? Or close the refrigerator door?

Just leave it the way you found it, and we’ll all make it out of this lockdown alive.

You could say the same about how sellers leave things for their buyers. While those who patch the nail holes, leave a chilled bottle of champagne, and vacuum their way out the front door are like the unicorns of the real estate world, there is a general sense of pride that comes from leaving the place like you found it, i.e., clean and empty.

But what about those who consider it someone else’s problem to scrape through the layers of oven crust, or bleach the mildew in the fridge, or unload the myriad of “free” tools and furnishings left strewn about in the wake of their hasty departure? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

The FAR/BAR contracts are vague on the subject, specifying only that “at Closing Seller shall have removed all personal items and trash from the Property.” Probably smart of the contract committee not to start down the slippery slope of defining cleanliness standards, making agents arbiters of what’s clean and what’s not.

But, back to the third-grader example, is it really that hard for someone to clean up after themselves? And, how does an agent anticipate, and perhaps head off, the situation of buyers arriving to a frat house, versus a show house?

One possible solution is language in the offer to the effect of the following:

“Seller’s Section 6(a) obligations to remove personal items and trash from the Property include removal of all furniture, fixtures and equipment not otherwise described in the Personal Property that conveys at Closing. The Property will be left in broom swept condition, with all bathroom and kitchen fixtures and equipment left in a clean and sanitary manner.”

Be aware, this does not specify a particular remedy should the property not be left in the required condition. To pre-agree to a credit amount, for instance, could shortchange the buyer depending on how bad things are at closing. Likewise, agreeing upfront that a failure to meet the requirement results in a credit for the cost of remediating is in effect a blank check, and puts the agents in the middle of an argument over what is and isn’t clean and sanitary.

In short, there’s no perfect answer when your seller gets lazy. Rather, the point of this exercise is to make abundantly clear what you would think goes without saying, i.e., the expectation the home will be left clean and empty at closing.