Tahoe home-selling tips: What condition should the home be left in? | SierraSun.com

Tahoe home-selling tips: What condition should the home be left in?

Lisa Wetzel and Jim Valentine
Special to the Sun-Bonanza

Residential home sales contracts have a clause that addresses the condition of the property when escrow closes and occupancy is delivered.

It is amazing to see the various misunderstandings of the standard addressed in the offers the parties sign. While it is simply stated in the contracts, there seems to be many interpretations when people move out of their homes.

The two primary residential offer contracts used in Northern Nevada use the following clause or a very close facsimile thereof: "SELLER agrees to deliver the property in a neat and clean condition, and remove all debris and personal belongings."

Neat and clean and remove all debris. Subject to interpretation for sure due to the simplicity of the statement, but clearly does not provide for leaving garbage on the property, nonfunctioning cars in the yard, a dirty oven, etc.

There is a lot of emotion in the Seller's life when an escrow closes and it's time to move. They've been wondering if the escrow was going to close, packing to be out of the home at the close, trying to maintain a normal life at work and school, and cleaning the property up for its new owners.

In some cases it seems as if a breaking point is reached and the proverbial towel is thrown in, Sellers reduce their standard of cleanliness.

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The obligation seems so easy at the beginning of the escrow, but like many things in life that run their course, the perspective changes at the other end. Sellers are tired, stressed, out of time, and ready for their new life.

To stressed-out Sellers ready to finalize their relationship with this house and move on, stay the course. Do the right thing per the terms of your contract. What if the Buyer was too tired to get all of their money in escrow?

Put your Buyer's hat on. Do you want the garbage bags left in the garage? The filthy rugs that you didn't vacuum, or the oven and kitchen cabinets that reflect your time in the home by their accumulated dirt? Of course not. Neither does your Buyer.

Some contracts call for the property to be purchased "as is." If it is a messy bank-owned home, you are probably going to receive an uncleaned house, but in a conventional sale, that clause doesn't actually address the cleanliness of the property.

The "as is" component applies to the home's physical condition, i.e. — if there is a plumbing leak, broken window seal, etc., the Seller is not obligated to make repairs.

A professional carpet cleaning after the Seller vacates may be requested. That can be problematic to time the move-out, closing, move-in, etc.

A Buyer is better served to coordinate their own cleaning after they close escrow. That also minimizes problems related to the subjective assessment of the quality of the carpet cleaning job that was done.

Our Advice: While you aren't selling a new home, it is new to the Buyers. Make it special, clean it to a standard that you would want to see if you were walking through the door as a new Buyer.

The industry standard is "broom clean" unless otherwise called out in the contract. If a professional carpet cleaning, or other special cleaning effort, is requested, it can ultimately be more of a nuisance to a tired Seller trying to move.

It is easier to credit Buyers for the cost and let them be responsible for the risk and results of the work.

Treat unto others as you would wish them to treat unto you. A simple life belief system, but it really makes for a good finish to an escrow when the philosophy is practiced.

The condition you leave the home in is a contractual and moral obligation. Don't try gotcha real estate at this time in the transaction. You won't affect the deal, but you will affect how people remember it and you will experience the karmic results of your decision.

Lisa Wetzel & Jim Valentine, CDPE, SFR, work for RE/MAX Realty Affiliates in the Carson Valley. Visit carsonvalleyland.com or call 775-781-5472 for information.