The last thing that my clients do before heading to closing is to go back to the house for a final walk-through. Some sellers find it a matter of pride that they deliver their homes sparkling clean to the next owner. But they don’t have to.
In most Purchase and Sales Agreements, the sellers agree to deliver the house or condo in “broom clean” condition. That means that all the personal things are gone and the floor is swept. It does not mean it is really clean.
It’s not just children who expect a “new” house to be new. New items of clothing and housewares are clean, and they replace the ones that are old and soiled. When we buy a used car, it is usually vacuumed out before it is handed over. When we rent an apartment, we expect to move into a clean space.
Over the years, some problems have shown up during that final walk through the house:
Sellers often underestimate the time and energy required to get everything out of the house. Then, as the deadline arrives, they get sloppy. The result is that the seller leaves a mess behind. Commonly it’s something like a pile of debris left in the basement, or some piece of furniture falls down the stairs and makes a hole in the plaster.
Here are some unusual ones:
- A seller who was a landscaper had some plants that she was fond of. She was entitled to dig them up. But, she was in such a hurry that she left the yard looking like a crazed raccoon had attacked it. We brought pictures to closing. She came back and made it nice for the buyers.
- A seller who coached a hockey team left the team equipment in a window seat. Although it was heavy, we hauled it to closing.
- A seller who was cleaning up put his wallet in the kitchen cabinet. We found it on walk through and brought it to closing (his listing agent was not at walk through.)
- Easy: Washing machine spigots often drip. A homeowner just doesn’t know it until they disconnect the machines. A cap fixes the problem until the next machine is attached.
- Hard: Once, I went to a walk through where there was a washing machine in the kitchen. The kitchen sink had no water at walk through. We found out why: if we turned on the sink, the laundry hook-up ran (they had no shut-off and were on the line with the sink.) The seller got a plumber to solve that.
- Easy: Sometimes drip-leaks start under sinks, or downspouts fall off outside.
- Harder, and scary: Sometimes a gutter tears off the house, or a tree comes down shortly before closing. Gutter repair and any tree that hits a house can be costly. The seller has a lot to do to make this right for a buyer. (Twice, I have had trees come down on properties within a week of closing. Both times, the tree did not hit the house.)
- Easy, but scary: Only once have I seen heating that failed at walk through. It was a condo that had just gotten a new boiler. It was on warranty. The company that installed it fixed it that afternoon.
What is the remedy for a problem at walk through?
Whether it is easy or hard, there is usually a solution that money can buy. Frequently, the attorneys write out a quick agreement to hold some of the seller’s money to pay for correcting whatever the problem is. Sometimes the seller then fixes it and gets the funds released. Sometimes the buyer fixes it and gives the seller the bill and any remaining money. It depends on what it is and who it is.