If you’ve ever watched one of those Fixer Upper type of shows or a Flipper show you know that the state of some homes are not always perfect when the buyer purchased the property however, the buyer should have some guarantee that the property will not be in any worse condition when they close. However, just recently watching one of those shows over the weekend where the buyer purchased the home with a quick close and all-cash, with plans of starting the rehab project in less than seven days. After the deal closes they pull up to the home and it has been completely trashed. What was merely cosmetic before is now a major remodel. It appeared that someone had come in and had a party within the last couple of days and completely trashed the home. Holes in the wall, graffiti everywhere, stolen appliances, broken windows and doors etc. What type of recourse does the buyer have at this point?
When buyers purchase a home it is understood that the property should remain in the same condition from beginning to end. But things are not always perfect and some sellers may leave certain items such as paint cans, cleaning supplies or maybe bags of garbage. Now, while this is not that big of deal and most buyers, although irritated, can clean up pretty easily, there are some situations where it’s not a simple cleanup.
This is where the final inspection and final walk-through is so important. This is the last walk-through the buyer should do of the property before final closing. This walk-through should happen within a day or two before escrow calls to find the proper documents. Buyers need to verify that anything requested on the inspection has been taken care of and that the home is in a similar state as when they agreed to purchase it. If for some reason damage happens between this final walk-through and when the buyer moves in, it can leave some very tricky issues between the buyer, the seller and the agents.
In our Northwest Multiple Listing Service we have a form that states: “items left by seller. Any personal property, fixtures or other items remaining on the property when possession is transferred to buyer shall thereupon become the property of buyer and may be retained or disposed of as buyer determines. However, seller agrees to clean the interiors of any structures and remove all trash, debris, and rubbish on the property prior to buyer taking possession.”
If for some reason something was removed that was agreed upon to stay such as a refrigerator or another appliance, it is up to the buyers agent to contact the listing agent to come up with a reasonable negotiation. If the home is trashed, there needs to be some serious communication between the buyer and seller through their own agents. If the seller is unaware of the damage, there will typically be some negotiation on who’s responsible to clean it up.
If no agreement can be made there may be another option. This may be the option to have a nominal amount of money held back in the offer until after closing. If there are any damages or debris then this money can be used to offset those costs. However, some sellers may not be willing to agree to incorporate this in their offer and then it comes down to hearsay. If the home is severely trashed and it will cost a substantial amount of money for repairs to be made, then a lawsuit could ensue. It is legally the seller’s responsibility to maintain the property until it closes. If something was agreed upon to stay or go and that contract has been breached, it is up to the buyer to pursue legal action.
However, there’s always the “buyer beware” caveat in every purchase and sale contract. If a reasonable agreement cannot be made, legal action may have to take place otherwise the buyer is responsible for taking care of the property once the deal closes.
Every situation is unique so it’s best to have good communication between the buyer, seller, and both agents. As long as communication is left wide open, there shouldn’t be any problem with the home but of course, you just never know. If the home was trashed outside of the buyer or the seller’s responsibility, the homeowner can take the proper action through homeowners insurance to have issues repaired just as if they were still owning the property and had a break-in or robbery.
For more information feel free to contact us at any time or to get set up with a quality home inspector throughout western Washington, browse list of contacts today. Thank you to Nikki Malek for her guest post this week. Browse her blog for more buyer and seller information.