One of the greatest sources of letdown and conflict in a real estate transaction is the condition of the house after the Sellers move out. Provisions in the purchase contract allow for the buyer to do a walk through inspection prior to closing. I advise my buyers to do this walkthrough as late as possible so as to see the true condition of the property as it will be left. What to look for in a walkthrough could be its own topic but in summary; we are checking to make sure that the inspection items were completed as agreed upon, the inclusions are still at the house, that there has not been any recent damage to the house and finally to check the cleanliness of the house. The first three items are fairly “cut and dry”, either the refrigerator is in the kitchen or it’s not. I have found that cleanliness is very subjective. What may be very clean to one hurried, harried seller may be “filthy” to the buyer. I try to mitigate this by talking about this subjective divide as we write the agreement and make the language in the contract as plain and literal as possible. Instead of saying carpet cleaning (sellers picture the Bissell in their closet, buyers picture the $500 top of the line pro), I would make it clear that the carpets are to be cleaned by a professional with the receipt provided.

No matter what you try to plan for it is an issue. Sometimes it becomes an outlet for buyer frustration after a particularly tough set of negotiations. Sometimes it is a seller with good intentions but not enough time. Sometimes it is a professional hired who does a less than professional job. All I know is that I have hired cleaners, pitched in with the sellers as we did a last minute shine or have cleaned cupboards and closets myself. Small important details in making the closing day go smoothly and making my clients happy.

So some parting advice:
To Sellers:

  • Plan in advance. Closing and moving is a very hectic time and it is not always easy to complete all of those little last minute tasks.
  • Bring in help. Hire a cleaning company or better yet family. It is always very hard to go back to the old house to clean while all of your stuff is at the new house.

To Buyers:

  • Get it in writing. If you are worried about the condition of the house, set forth your expectations in writing.
  • Be realistic. Maybe you have to tidy up a bit when you move in to bring it up to “your” standards. Don’t let it ruin your day.
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